The Tejano Center is Training the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

 Guest blog post by Giovanni Escobedo, Youth Advisory Committee Member, NCLR

Our children grow up in a society that demands expertise in everything. Deciding to sit back and rely solely on learning from textbooks is not enough for their overall development. We live in the age of specialization, and children cannot afford to miss out on this window of opportunity and be left behind. The Tejano Center’s Raul Yzaguirre Schools for Success in Brownsville, Texas is working hard to address that problem by providing educational offerings in the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields to the children of South Texas with the help NCLR’s CHISPA initiative.

At the Tejano Center, kids meet twice a week to work on science lessons and to learn what it takes to become scientists. In groups of about six students from various grade levels, they collaborate to perform experiments while simultaneously strengthening their interpersonal and leadership skills. Their conversations across the table are a sign that they understand and enjoy the lesson—and that they have mastered the complex scientific concepts to the point where they can explain them to each other in a way that is easy to understand.

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Aside from science lessons, children learn about the careers available in the STEM fields. Two of the facilitators, Ms. Lopez and Ms. Bernece, who have been with the program since it started, have seen the program grow as children and parents share information with each other about its benefits. In the few months that the program has been in existence, children’s academics have strengthened. However, the program has had another effect—nurturing children’s desire to explore and learn more about different STEM careers. Both Ms. Lopez and Ms. Bernece have describe their experience as CHISPA facilitators as “rewarding.”

In a different room, while children are working on science experiments together, parents sit together for their own STEM-related lesson. As part of Padres Comprometidos con CHISPA, parents learn how important science is for their child’s future, and how to use home foundations and family support to ensure required science standards are met and exceeded. Together, they learn what school and community resources are available to help them support their children’s STEM education.

Parents have created stronger bonds with their children and cultivated a community with other parents at the Tejano Center in Brownsville. Children have discovered new interests in different STEM fields and enjoy sharing what they have learned with family and friends. Children have also been able to improve their grades and class participation in school. Thanks to participating in CHISPA, many at the Tejano Center are confident the children of South Texas can become future scientists, engineers, and mathematicians.

Giovanni Escobedo is the NCLR Texas Representative for the Youth Advisory Committee. For more information about CHISPA, contact Juliana Ospina at czavala@nclr.org.

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