February 14, 2024

The OC STEM Initiative in Partnership With Cox Communications Celebrates Outstanding STEM Educators

The OC STEM Initiative in partnership with Cox Communications honored 12 of Orange County’s most outstanding STEM educators for their unique contributions to STEM Education and the Orange County community.

This celebration was hosted at The Cove at the University of California, Irvine (UCI) Beall Applied Innovation on February 12, 2024.

Exemplars of best practice in the delivery of inquiry-based STEM learning opportunities, these practitioners stand out for their ability to innovate, engage, motivate, and inspire learners.  Each awardee was presented with a gift of $500, and their respective organizations will receive an additional $1,500 grant to support STEM activities.

“We’re incredibly grateful for the investments Cox Communications continues to make in the lives of all scholars. Thank you to Cox for empowering educators to bring new and innovative teaching methods to their classrooms wherever they may be,” said Dr. Leyla Riley, Ed.D., Executive Director of OC STEM Initiative.

 The 12 awardees were nominated for the following categories: 

Early Childhood               Elizabeth Moth                Orange Unified School District – Early Learning Center

K12 Education                  Karin Barone                    La Veta Elementary School

K12 Education                  Norma Lomeli                  McFadden Institute of Technology

K12 Education                  Nino Polizzi                      Samueli Academy

K12 Education                  Ed Hernandez                  Tustin High School – T-Tech Engineering Academy

Career Awareness           Edwin Vazquez                Santa Ana Unified School District – Career Technical Education

Post Secondary                Matt Wolken                      Irvine Valley College

Expanded Learning         Yarib Dheming                 Orange County Department of Education - Inside the Outdoors

Virtual Innovation           Juan Pablo Larios            Villa Park High School

Leadership                         Jon Ruffridge                    Jordan Academy of Language and Computer Science

Leadership                       Karen Gauthier                 Capistrano Unified School District

Community Advocate   Sara Ludovise                   Orange County Department of Education – Inside the Outdoors


The new partnership between Cox Communications and the OC STEM Initiative is part of the larger investment and commitment Cox has made to innovation in education since its founding more than 125 years ago. Support of the OC STEM Initiative and its Outstanding Educator Awards give Cox the opportunity to support STEM education not just for K-12 learners, but for a diverse population that includes those in secondary education, adult learners, learners with different abilities, as well as veterans, and those from historically marginalized communities.

“We’re committed to supporting STEM opportunities for anyone who wants to learn, grow, and pursue careers in our increasingly digital world and highly technological world,” said Colleen Dillaway, Orange County Market Vice President for Cox Communications. “The program provides us the opportunity to bring innovative technology and skills development into many educational arenas throughout Orange County, and these grants allow educators to enhance their knowledge and innovative teaching strategies for the betterment of their students who are the workforce of tomorrow.

Through our community partnerships with organizations like the OC STEM Initiative, Cox continues to support education and ensure more people, of any age, have access to learning and technology.

About Cox Communications

Cox Communications is committed to creating meaningful moments of human connection through technology. As the largest private broadband company in America, we operate fiber-powered networks in more than 30 states, providing connections and advanced managed IT and cloud services for nearly seven million homes and businesses nationwide. We're dedicated to empowering others to build a better future and celebrate diverse products, people, suppliers, communities and the characteristics that make each one unique. Cox Communications is the largest division of Cox Enterprises, a family-owned business founded in 1898 by Governor James M. Cox.

The commercial division of Cox Communications, Cox Business, provides a broad commercial solutions portfolio, including advanced managed IT and fiber-based network solutions that support connected environments, unique hospitality experiences and diverse applications for nearly 370,000 businesses nationwide. For more information, please visit www.coxbusiness.com.  


About OC STEM Initiative

The OC STEM Initiative exists to foster Orange County’s economic competitiveness and sustainability by promoting STEM competencies across the educational continuum through the creation of strategic partnerships between community stakeholders, including but not limited to families, education, business, government, and philanthropy.

To ensure the future supply of a technical and highly skilled workforce, cross-sector collaborations between K-12 schools, universities, community-based organizations and industry have formed in order to scale effective science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) learning opportunities.

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