NCLR Goes to NASA for 2016 STEM Youth Summit

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.

Is This the End of “Immigration Expert” Steve King?

By Janet Murguía, President and CEO, NCLR

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa)

Of course Representative Steve King (R–Iowa) doubled down on the anti-DREAMer remarks he made in a radio interview last week.  This is to be expected when an unreconstructed bigot who craves attention just happens to be a member of Congress.  And, of course, his belief that “there are 100 Mexican immigrants, with calves the size of cantaloupes, smuggling drugs for every DREAMer valedictorian” is wildly offensive, derogatory, and hateful.  This is the same man who believes he can spot an undocumented immigrant by his or her shoes.

An equally important problem, though, with these remarks is not just that they are asinine and wrong, but that he completely made them up.  This man—who hundreds of media outlets have quoted or hosted as an “immigration expert”—simply has no idea what he’s talking about.  It’s the equivalent of having someone who contends that the sun revolves around the earth on a show discussing the future of NASA’s space program.  Our beef has always been more with the media who continue to use King in “debates” about immigration.

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