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Foundation at Hearst Castle named ‘Nonprofit of the Year’ 

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Pictured (left to right): FHC Board President Abe Marquez, Spanish-language broadcasters Jaime and Jorge Jarrin.

Central Coast nonprofit Recognized for Expanding Efforts in STEAM Education

– The Foundation at Hearst Castle was recently named “Nonprofit of the Year” by the Latin Business Association, the nation’s largest organization representing the issues and concerns of Latino business owners. The announcement was made during the LBA’s 45th Annual Sol Business Awards Gala.

FHC is a nonprofit association affiliated with Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and the San Luis Obispo Coast District of California State Parks. In 2018, the nonprofit launched “STEAM Program at the Castle,” a special program that uses science, technology, engineering, arts, and mathematics to immerse students in the architecture, engineering concepts, and historical art at W.R. Hearst’s former San Simeon estate.

The program was designed to inspire and empower middle school students from under-resourced communities across California — including small agricultural towns like Gonzales, Calif., where longtime Hearst Castle benefactor and current President of the Board Abe Marquez was raised and still calls home.

Social distancing provided an opportunity for Marquez and staff to collaborate with Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument and State Park and expand the STEAM Program at the Castle to a virtual and broader-reaching format in 2020. Students received a “STEAM kit” with activities that pair with the live, customized virtual experience.

The LBA represents the business interests of over 800,000 Latino-owned businesses in California and is the premier and largest Latin business organization in the nation.

“We’re proud to honor an organization that works to ignite possibilities for hundreds of Latino children each year,” said LBA Chairman & CEO Ruben Guerra. “FHC uses the example of this historic house museum and State Park, not to mention the pioneering female architect and engineer Julia Morgan — the first woman to earn an architect’s license in California and who was a prolific designer of hundreds of buildings — to show our kids how what they’re learning in school can be applied to their future professions and to inspire them to think about how their skills and passions might contribute to the larger community.”

FHC continues to support the conservation of Hearst Castle, but the 35-year old nonprofit has shifted focus to expanding education programs for the youth — kids who might not otherwise have the chance to see the views from the Hearst Castle hilltop, learn about female pioneer Julia Morgan who built this historic treasure 100 years ago, tour the accredited museum, and think about how all this might shape the vision they have for their future selves.

“I was one of these kids years ago, so this project is dear to my heart,” Marquez said. “My parents both worked in Ag fields to feed and clothe our family. The castle gave us the opportunity to explore a rich history supported by unrivaled architecture and history.”

The nonprofit foundation president emphasizes the importance of talking to students about the many different STEAM-related jobs it took to build Hearst Castle — from carpenters and cement workers to architects and artists, and now, park rangers and guides. During the live presentations, guides ask the participants about their respective skills and interests.

Marquez — who has also mentored young people as Livestock Superintendent at the Monterey County Fair for 40 years and Junior Fair Board Advisor at the Salinas Valley Fair for more than 30 years — says he wants to use Hearst Castle to help middle schoolers consider a range of potential career paths. The idea is to challenge kids to think about how everything they experience during the multi-day STEAM program might shape the vision they have for their futures.

“My mission is to inspire them to discover a bright future and maybe become a leader one day,” Marquez shared. “Whether they lead the field in engineering, carpentry, gardening, art, teaching, or even media or government — I want them to do great things!”

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The news staff of the Paso Robles Daily News wrote or edited this story from local contributors and press releases. The news staff can be reached at info@pasoroblesdailynews.com.