May 11, 2021

How the TGR Learning Lab helped me explore STEM careers

After participating in the TGR Learning Lab Expanded Learning program for the first time, Matthew Payan’s passion for science was awakened and his participation continued. During the pandemic his interests led him to several classes that allowed him to gain skills that he put to use immediately. He recently reflected on his experience and the benefits of participating in the TGR Learning Lab’s programs as he prepares to start his freshman year of high school in the fall.

TGR Foundation: What are five words that best describe you? 

Matthew Payan: I feel that five words that describe me are smart, useful, helpful, thoughtful, and hardworking.


TGRF: How long have you participated in TGR Learning Lab programs?

MP: I started in 6th grade in 2018. I really enjoyed the marine biology class for many reasons. We got to raise sea monkeys and watch them hatch under a microscope. I also built a robot as a model for a future design. The robot would be built for underwater exploration. It was based on the anglerfish, so it could withstand deep waters. I learned a lot in that class and enjoyed it very much. The teacher, Ms. H, was wonderful and fun.


TGRF: What virtual class(es) stood out most among those you’ve taken?

MP: I took cybersecurity, graphic design, web design, intermediate web design, and Artificial Intelligence (AI). I really enjoyed all of them, but the graphic design really stood out to me. It was fun and exciting and definitely a topic that I wanted to learn about. I learned how to do photoshop and that came in handy. I have made stuff for several classes using the photoshop, and people have asked me to do stuff on it.

Matthew Payan uses photoshop to bring creative projects to life after completing the TGR Learning Lab’s graphic design class.

TGRF: Describe your experience taking the classes virtually?

MP: Even though the classes were virtual, we talked to one another a lot, and are free to share our opinions.


TGRF: Why do you participate in TGR Learning Lab programs?

MP: I like being a TGRF student because all the topics are fun and all the activities are really cool. Also, it helps me decide which job I might be best suited to. I have been introduced to jobs like cybersecurity, a dietitian and a marine biologist.

Matthew Payan collaborates with a classmate in the TGR Learning Lab’s Marine Biology and Technology class to create a habitat for plankton. During the activity students, ensure the plankton hatch and grow through food, oxygen and salinity (salt content)at the ideal level.

TGRF: Have any TGR Learning Lab instructors inspired or mentored you?

MP: Two TGR Learning Lab teachers that have inspired me are Ms. H and Mr. Luong. They are both great teachers and are both very fun.


TGRF: What are your career aspirations?

MP: I would like to do a job regarding science. It is my favorite subject and I think science is really cool.


TGRF: Why should other students participate in TGR Learning Lab programs?

MP: I would recommend the TGR learning Lab because it is fun, free and educational. I really think that TGR Foundation has an amazing program that inspires kids in what job they might want.


Building student success for 25 years.

TGR Learning Lab courses are supported by The Boeing Company, Bank of America, Clyde W. and Joan A. Hampton Foundation, Western Digital Foundation, Anaheim Community Foundation, Pacific Life Foundation and Beckman Coulter. For more information click here or visit

Registration for the TGR Learning Lab’s virtual summer courses is currently open with sessions available for middle school and high school students. During the sessions students can learn about topics from health and fitness to artificial intelligence and more.