Though they work in completely different fields, Rhonda Jackson Morris ’83 and Tim Sommer ’04 have found a way to work together to benefit local youth.
Morris, Corporate Vice President for Human Resources at Chevron, and Sommer, a Corporate Account Manager for the Oakland Athletics*, regularly team together on community and education initiatives that encourage exploring science, technology, engineering and math ( STEM) concepts through baseball.
The initiatives include the Science of Baseball Clinic, held annually for Richmond Little League participants, which offers youngsters ages 8-15 an opportunity to rotate through hitting, pitching and fielding stations with current and former A’s players and coaches.
Among those who have participated include A’s pitcher Kendall Graveman, who studied mechanical engineering at Mississippi State and is a big proponent of STEM education.
“Kendall is great. He talks with the kids about the importance of having a degree and how his educational background has set him up to be successful,” Morris said.
Chevron also brings the Chevron STEM Zone to the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum during a weekend A’s game each season. This is an interactive exhibit that explores scientific concepts behind the game of baseball. The goal is to get students and others excited about STEM subjects by showing some of the real world applications- such as basic principles of gravity and aerodynamics – and creating awareness of how STEM is connected to everyday lives.
This is part of the larger “Science of the Game” program, an educational workbook program that gives students in grades 1-8 the opportunity to earn free ticket vouchers to an A’s game by learning about baseball and its relationship to science.
Morris is excited by the opportunity to expose youngsters to STEM curriculum, topics and career paths.
“Chevron supports STEM education initiatives because these skills are essential to the success of our company and the vitality of our communities, particularly here in the Bay Area,” Morris said. “By partnering with the Oakland A’s to host the Chevron STEM Zone, we can help bring science to life and show kids its application in the real world.”
Sommer understands that small moments can make a big difference in the long run. “It’s within the realm of possibilities that one of the kids that comes to a Science of Baseball Clinic or the STEM Zone might become an engineer or pursue a career in technology and change the world,” he said.
Morris and Sommer initially connected by chance, when Morris was seeking tickets for a group of employees.
“We were talking on the phone and within a few minutes I realized she’s probably the biggest A’s fan I know, and that we went to the same high school,” Sommer said.
“I think the cool thing about our partnership is that we achieve more together than individually,” he continued. “Working with Rhonda has been incredible.”
The two also serve on the board of directors for the East Bay Agency for Children, one of the largest providers of mental health and educational and family support services to children and families in Alameda County, serving over 21,000 individuals annually. The non-profit agency’s offerings include after school programs, child assault prevention, grief and illness support services, elementary and middle school counseling programs, and early childhood programs and youth justice services.
Morris has served on the board for a couple of years and when she was asked last summer to help recruit some new, younger board members Sommer immediately came to mind.
“I was appreciative in the vote of confidence.” Sommer said. “It came at a time when I was looking to make more of an impact in my community.”
Adds Sommer, “I’m very thankful I met Rhonda and the O’Dowd connection was the spark.”
*On Monday, Tim let us know that he accepted a new position as Partnerships Director for DonorsChoose.org. He’s excited to learn a new industry and will continue to work with Chevron, a DonorsChoose.org partner.