The prize for the worst acronym ever should go to STEM, which refers to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. For many Latinos, it’s what you get at the florist.
But STEM is no laughing matter. Congressman Ruben Hinojosa often cites the figure that just to meet current demand, and to maintain our global competitiveness, America needs to graduate 100,000 more engineers per year. At least a quarter must come from the Latino community, since we comprise 25% of all students in U.S. public schools.
But unfortunately that message hasn’t gotten out to those who need to hear it most. Young Latinos and their parents have all heard of astronauts, but far fewer know that careers in STEM include everything from software design to finance to law enforcement. They are whom we have to convince today.
That’s why we’re convening Nuestro Futuro, the 2012 Latino Education Conference, on September 20 in Washington, DC. Our partners, including ExxonMobil, GM, Microsoft, and Lockheed have a vested interest in encouraging young Latinos to enter the STEM fields. It’s fundamental to their business model, because these are companies that solve problems, and that’s what engineers do. That applies to government agencies like the Department of Energy, NASA and the Department of Defense, as well as organizations like the National Education Association. STEM is mission critical to our economic prosperity, our national security and the future of this great country.
But the case must be made that the Latino community also has a vested interest in STEM. That’s the goal of Latino organizations such as HACU, the Hispanic Heritage Foundation, SHPE, Hispanic College Fund and Great Minds in STEM. These groups are largely ignored in mainstream media, and that’s why you’ll be reading about them in the next issue of LATINO Magazine. Our publication seeks to create a venue, whether in print, online, or at an event like Nuestro Futuro where Latino issues can be identified, debated, and disseminated. In my opinion, that’s the value proposition of Latino media. Education is one such issue, perhaps the most important one for our community, and that’s the challenge we’ll address at Nuestro Futuro.
Please join us! Attendance is free, but to reserve your place, please register by clicking here.
On Thursday, September 20, the editors of LATINO will welcome you at a breakfast buffet at 8:00 AM at the Ronald Reagan Bldg., 1300 Pennsylvania Ave. NW in downtown Washington, DC. At 9:00 AM we’ll hear from our keynote speaker, Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. During the morning and afternoon panels, participants will hear from experts from academia, corparate America, government and Latino nonprofits. From 12:00-2:00 PM there will be a luncheon honoring Congressman Ruben Hinojosa. The conference will end at 3:30 PM. Please pass this information to any friends and colleagues who might be interested in attending.
The growing demand for engineers is a daunting challenge but also a tremendous opportunity for Latinos. If we are to gain political and economic power commensurate with our demographic growth, then we must encourage our young people to enter the STEM fields. We all have a vested interest in spreading the word. It’s the future of America, and it’s Nuestro Futuro as well.
Alfredo Estrada is the publisher of LATINO Magazine.