You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.


  • ePAPER

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks


Welcome to

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on

Nonprofit program builds bridges to industry, other countries

During a recent lesson at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, a girl stood up in front of her classroom full of fellow seniors and gave an update on the project for the semester: How to provide a reliable source of energy for a school in Africa that often experiences blackouts.

Over spring break, she said, the team had made significant progress and brought up important questions. They were trying to decide where their 28 solar panels should be best placed for optimal energy production and had discussed the cost of shipping those panels to the school in Senegal, and how to prevent them from being stolen once they were installed on the campus.

“We’re on a good roll right now,” she concluded.

The girl was one of 20 students at the Ann Richards School working on a project organized by Skillpoint Alliance, a nonprofit that builds partnerships between industry, education and the community to steer people into higher education and career success. The program at the school is part of the group’s “Velocity” program, which aims to expose high school students to hands-on experiences in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

This year’s program, which is a collaboration with the nonprofit Helping Other People Everywhere (HOPE) Campaign, is the first time Skillpoint Alliance has tried an international project.

Since the beginning of the winter semester, the students, who are part of a capstone program at the school, have been hard at work trying to devise an alternative and affordable energy source for a co-ed school of 4,000 in Thies, the third-largest city in Senegal. And the task is not taken lightly. The class is considered a “startup consulting firm” and the Senegalese school is considered a “client” to whom they’ll present their project at the end of the semester.

It’s a good way to expose students to the opportunities and challenges of fields that are in high demand in Austin’s growing tech hub, said Leah Grossman, who is in charge of the program.

“There’s basically a huge gap between the jobs that are going to be available now and into the future, and the folks that are interested in studying and getting the skills to fill those jobs,” she said. “We see it from a workforce development and economic development standpoint and say, ‘Can we fill those jobs with folks who live here already and may not know those jobs exist?’”

Not all the girls want to go into those fields, but they see the project as a valuable experience to learn about science and how people live in other countries.

“I’ve learned that I took a lot of my schooling for granted,” said Andrea Gomez, 18. “Not everyone has what you have.”

It’s also a good resumé booster that may help her later in life, said Gomez, who is interested in studying forensic sciences. And it’s something she doesn’t think would be available to her without the program.

“The unique thing about coming to this school for me is that I know other schools don’t do this, and if they do it’s not part of their curriculum,” she said. “It’s a big opportunity me because I can help someone from across the world and have that on my resumé. … Then, maybe if I change my mind for what I want to study in college, I could probably move into what I did with this project … and that’s a little seed planted and I could go from there.”

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says
BREAKING: Search crews looking for missing swimmer in McKinney Falls Park now in recovery mode, EMS says

Search crews looking for a male swimmer that was reported missing at McKinney Falls Park on Friday evening have ceased rescue operations and are now in recovery mode, Austin-Travis County EMS officials said. Emergency responders received a call about 6:30 p.m. from the 5800 block of McKinney Falls Parkway, officials said. One of the swimmer’s...
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman
Dallas officer charged with assault in shooting death of woman

A grand jury has recommended an aggravated assault charge against a Dallas police officer who shot and killed a pregnant woman in a January confrontation involving a stolen car. The Dallas County district attorney announced Friday that Christopher Hess was indicted on a charge of aggravated assault. The charge is related to the January shooting death...
Officials ID woman who died trapped under vehicle in Jonestown

JONESTOWN Woman who died trapped under vehicle ID’d The Travis County sheriff’s office has identified the woman who died trapped under a vehicle in Jonestown on Thursday evening as 62-year-old Denise Lynn Coonrod, of Jonestown. Authorities responded at about 7 p.m. to a call from the 10000 block of Deer Canyon Drive, officials said. &ldquo...
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas
Businesses fear more fallout may follow California travel ban to Texas

California’s decision to ban its state employees from traveling to Texas on their taxpayers’ dime after Texas lawmakers passed new limits on gay parents adopting and fostering children set off a new round of recriminations Friday between the nation’s two largest states. But with the usual exchange of barbs came a new set of warnings...
GREG KELLEY CASE: Rangers’ report finds ‘previously undetected’ crimes

A Texas Rangers report looking into new allegations in the case involving Greg Kelley, who was convicted in the sexual assault of a 4-year-old boy in 2014, is soon to be finalized and hints at a finding of newly discovered criminal activity, Williamson County court documents show. However, the document will not be immediately released to the public...
More Stories