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Tuesday, Apr 23, 2024

Execs Launch Diversity-Focused Nonprofit

San Diego Squared (SD2), a nonprofit focused on increasing the number of minorities in the life science and technology industries, is seeking to partner with local organizations to expand its reach in San Diego.

Launched earlier this year, by biotech veteran William (Bill) Rastetter and tech executive H. Puentes. The duo decided to team up after meeting in the summer of 2020, through a shared belief that incredible talent can be found anywhere.
The nonprofit’s mission is to increase diversity in STEM careers for underrepresented students and their educators through programming, mentorship, and scholarships.
“SD2 wants to empower underrepresented students, educate them, build their confidence and enable them to bring their whole selves into an industry that needs them,” said Rastetter, chairman and co-founder of SD2. “The long-term vision for us is to help Black and Latinx students — who grew up knowing very little about the STEM field — graduate, find success in their careers, and return to their communities to become role models for the next generation.”

Programming and Mentorships
Through its Squared Fellows program, the nonprofit will provide high school students in San Diego with connections to scientists and other STEM-related professionals, as well as one-on-one mentorship.

To apply and be accepted for the Squared Fellows program, the student must be a high school junior, interested in STEM, comes from an underrepresented background, and can commit to a five-week mentorship program.
Participants accepted into the Squared Fellows will be provided the opportunity to tour four local innovation companies and gain access to a mentor for an entire year, among other resources. The deadline to apply is June 1 and the inaugural program will kick off this Fall.
“In addition to launching our Square Fellows program, we’ve also formed two important alliances with local organizations Reality Changers and UC San Diego to help us further our mission on the high school and collegiate level,” said H. Puentes, executive director and co-founder of SD2. “We also plan to roll out a paid internship program within the next year to help students gain exposure to STEM-related careers.”

Tamara Craver, president and CEO of Reality Changers, said the organization is proud to partner with the diversity-focused nonprofit as it will help their students build their network and gain access to mentors in STEM.
“Our students need to see STEM, feel STEM and engage with STEM in real ways as they grow in their academic and professional careers,” said Craver. “SD2 will demystify STEM careers and opportunities for our students and highlight that their brilliance is not only welcome but needed in these companies.”

Seeking Corporate Partnerships
In the first year, SD2 seeks corporate partnerships with 30 organizations ranging from life sciences to high-tech companies.
Local companies involved include San Diego-based TRACON Pharmaceuticals, Neurocrine Biosciences, and Illumina Corporate Foundation. Two of San Diego’s largest law firms Cooley and Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman, are also partnering with the nonprofit.
To ensure sustainability and scalability SD2 is actively raising a $4 million fund, said Rastetter, adding that roughly $2.5 million has been already committed.
“In the next year we would like to see 30 companies join us in supporting our mission both with human capital (mentors) as well as financially,” he said. “We invite companies like Viasat and Qualcomm, and others to join us in this endeavor.”

Industry Veterans
Rastetter, is a well-known biotech veteran in San Diego, most recently the chief executive of GRAIL, acquired by Illumina for $8 billion. He was also a co-founder of Receptos Inc., acquired by Celgene Corp. for $7.2 billion.
Over his career, Rastetter has served in several biotech leadership roles, including top positions at Biogen, and Genentech. He is also an advisor to Illumina Ventures.
Puentes served as an executive at Connect w/ San Diego Venture Group, where he founded the CONNECT ALL program and raised nearly $5 million to increase diversity in the technology industry.
Prior to Connect, he led marketing efforts at Fuel Powered, a venture-backed startup. He also worked as a management consultant in London, and served as regional director for an international non-profit.
Looking forward, SD2 aims to connect San Diego’s most innovative companies to the diverse talent that can be found right here, said Puentes, adding that San Diego is the perfect city to launch the nonprofit as it is at the forefront of innovation.


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