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.
With Space City as our backdrop, NCLR recently welcomed Latino students and teachers from our national Escalera network to Houston for the 2016 NCLR STEM Youth Summit, generously supported by Shell and Chevron. Young Latinos had the opportunity to immerse themselves in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through a variety of hands-on activities and educational workshops. The STEM Youth Summit was not just a weekend of science exploration, but of STEM empowerment.
The goal for the NCLR Líderes team was to create a space where Latino youth could freely tap into their potential and see STEM careers as realistic, attainable goals. The team did this through exposure to Mobile Oil field exhibits, a NASA tram tour, as well as a screening of the documentary Underwater Dreams, which included remarks from Oscar Vazquez, a STEM-advocate and U.S. Army veteran who is featured in the film.
During the STEM Life Map workshop, Latino engineers shared their individual journey into STEM and offered participants a chance to learn from their experiences. Their stories shed light on some of the structural and academic barriers that continue to plague the Latino STEM pipeline, as well as the cultural ones that often go unaddressed. One speaker, Stephanie Garza, commented on the lack of support she received at home when she first mentioned wanting to become an engineer. Though her family members doubted her ability to thrive in a male-dominant field, Garza pushed on and went on to become a power solutions engineer. Her story and those of others echoed the power of strength and perseverance.
We rounded off our first night in Houston with a celebratory dinner where we welcomed Vazquez to join us. Before a crowd of more than 120 students and teachers, he recounted his remarkable story of entering—and beating the Massachusetts Institute of Technology—in a national underwater robotics competition with three of his high school friends. He also spoke at length about the tremendous hardship he faced as an undocumented student. Vazquez noted the need to broaden opportunities for all Latinos regardless of their immigration status, and urged Latino students to dream as big as he once did.
The Lone Star State is the setting for NCLR’s 2016 STEM Youth Summit this January at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The STEM Youth Summit, generously supported by Shell Oil, is designed to expose Latino youth to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through hands-on exploratory activities and engagement. At the event, students will have the opportunity to work closely with Latino STEM professionals who seek to increase the number of underrepresented youth in STEM fields. Participants will also have the opportunity to collaborate with other youth from our national Escalera network. As the Summit draws nearer, we’ll be featuring some of the remarkable young people, in their own words, who look forward to attending this year’s event. Today’s spotlight is on Rosa Reyes, a senior at George I Sanchez High School.
Hi, I’m Rosa. I’m 17 years old and both of my parents are from Mexico, but I was born here. I want to major in Nursing and minor in Finance. One of my hobbies is photography.
I got involved in the NCLR Escalera program when I was a junior during my second semester. My teacher, Mr.Carillo, was going into classes and recruiting for the Escalera Class and I signed up. My favorite part of the NCLR Escalera STEM program is that we get to experience college tours that give us better understanding about the university and what they have to offer.
NCLR Escalera STEM has supported me by showing me how to manage my budget, calculate cost of attendance, apply for college, register for ACT/SAT test, and more. I did not know what STEM was before joining this program. I have learned not only what STEM means, but also that my career goals and interests fall within STEM fields.
From participating in the program I had the opportunity to meet professors, industry professionals and gain valuable experience during my accounting internship. Learning how to approach my parents with my plans of attending a university away from home has also given me the confidence that I really can make a difference in the statistical boundaries that Hispanic women face within STEM fields. I will highly recommend this program to my friends.
The Lone Star State is the setting for NCLR’s 2016 STEM Youth Summit this January at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The STEM Youth Summit, generously supported by Shell Oil, is designed to expose Latino youth to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines through hands-on exploratory activities and engagement. At the event, students will have the opportunity to work closely with Latino STEM professionals who seek to increase the number of underrepresented youth in STEM fields. Participants will also have the opportunity to collaborate with other youth from our national Escalera network. As the Summit draws nearer, we’ll be featuring some of the remarkable young people, in their own words, who look forward to attending this year’s event. Today’s spotlight is on Damián Aragonez, a student at West Jefferson High School and Puentes New Orleans in Louisiana.
Hi! My name is Damián Aragonez. I like to be outgoing, positive, and a great friend. I am Mexican, but was born in Galveston, Texas. I love that my culture includes plenty of food and music, not to mention motivation. My hobbies are listening to music, playing sports such as soccer and football, and especially spending time gaming with my little brother.
I originally became involved with NCLR STEM as an official member through my sister, Jessica Aragonez, who was in NCLR STEM last year and is now in college. My favorite part of the program is the communication that goes on in the program and having snacks is fun too. NCLR STEM has supported me by keeping me on track and broadening my vision of responsibility.
I knew about STEM before joining this program because I wanted to be an engineer. However, the NCLR STEM program has given me more knowledge and support in finding opportunities in STEM fields. I would absolutely recommend this program to my friends because it helps you set your goals and sets you on a better path.
Lorenzo Santillan, a student featured in the documentary Underwater Dreams, was a featured guest at NCLR’s Family STEM Day this month. The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) was the setting for the daylong event and provided an opportunity to bring an awareness of the STEM field for parents and their children. More than 300 middle and high school students participated, along with their parents. Dr. Raul Reyna, Executive Director of UTSA’s Prefreshman Engineering Program, opened the event and introduced keynote speaker Santillan.
In his keynote speech, Santillan spoke about the barriers he and his fellow students had to overcome to be successful in school and beyond. He praised his family and teachers who helped him along the way to get to where he is now as an enterprenuer and a speaker.
After the keynote address the students participated in several STEM-related breakout sessions, presented by UTSA students and professors. Many of the presentations featured robotics programs from several local science academies. These hands-on sessions allowed the participants to interact with people directly involved in the STEM field.
After the students participated in two rotations of STEM activities they were treated to a special screening of Underwater Dreams. The screening was followed by a question and answer session with Santillan, which included questions about how he became interested in robotics and other challenges he faced during the competition, which is the subject of the documentary. Afterward, students had an opportunity to meet and speak with Santillan.
We thank Lorenzo Santillan, Dr. Reyna, and the entire UTSA Engineering Department for hosting this wonderful family event!
To learn more about NCLR’s youth STEM work, go to nclr.org/issues/education