Funders Education

Last Mile Education Fund reports initial impact of STEM workforce development grants

Written by Mindia Whittier

A first-of-its-kind fund is increasing access to biotech careers for low-income North Texas students.

The Last Mile Education Fund reports that 14 local STEM students have received a total of $14,454 from its North Texas Biotech Workforce Fund, which launched earlier this year.

The grant is available to North Texas students pursuing biotech and STEM degrees in 26 North Texas counties with the hopes of contributing to the emerging biotech workforce in the area. 

Alexis Nguyen, a University of Texas at Arlington biomedical engineering student who recently completed her freshman year at the university, is among the 14 recipients.

Nguyen graduated from Arlington Collegiate High School in 2021 and had concerns about her financial situation ahead of beginning her freshman year last fall. Coming from a single parent household, Nguyen sought financial aid in the forms of scholarships and grants to help support her on her collegiate journey and pursuit of a career in the biotechnology field.

“My mom is a single mother and works hard to provide for our family, I wanted to be independent to alleviate stress about finances,” Nguyen said. “They don’t really teach you how to be an adult in high school as far as managing finances, managing classes, and managing yourself. You end up learning how college works on your own, I struggled at the start of the year and learned a lot about accessing resources and asking for help when I needed it.”

Nguyen applied and received funding via the Last Mile Education Fund for North Texas, which provides students with funds to purchase technology, assist with housing, purchase study materials, food, or any items that will help reach their goal of attaining a degree. 

“Financial aid can be really helpful but sometimes you can be short a few hundred dollars for the little things like extra costs, even parking passes,” Nguyen added. “This grant helped me close the gap without having to jump through hoops that can make accessing financial aid difficult.”

Looking forward to starting her sophomore year this fall, Nguyen is excited about the future despite the challenges it may bring.

“I’ve been interested in (biotech) since learning about CRISPR technology in middle school, and wanted to pursue a degree that combined my interests in math, science, healthcare, and in helping others,” Nguyen said. “My dream now is to be an academic. I want to do research to help cure diseases and eventually be a professor to teach about my passions.”

“I am a member of The Society of Asian Scientists and Engineers (SASE),” Nguyen added. “We attended a recent banquet where my team and I were presenting our findings on data analysis covering the topic of mental health in the tech industry comparing different variables regarding mental health and wellness within tech companies.”

The North Texas Biotech Workforce Fund is the first geographically focused fund offered by Last Mile. To be awarded funds, students must attend an eligible two- or four-year institution in North Texas, pursue a career in biotech and demonstrate financial need. Students can apply for the grant online and applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

The North Texas Biotech Workforce fund is initially supported by a grant from Lyda Hill Philanthropies. Last Mile is currently seeking sponsors to contribute to the fund. publishes every week.
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About the author

Mindia Whittier