Latino youth lag behind in STEM education, while Hispanics are at the fastest rate growing mobile technology users. A discussion with Amy Hinojosa, President and CEO of MANA, a national Latino Organization
on efforts to bridge the STEM gap with young Latinas through programs that teach web design and coding using the tools that students are familiar with - mobile phones.
Traynham: Studies show that Latina youth lag behind in STEM education. Many lack access to computers and Internet connectivity, which can have long-term implications for their future. Hello, everyone, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I´m Robert Traynham. With me to discuss a new program that could lead these young women on a career path in web coding and design is Amy Hinojosa, the President and CEO of MANA, a national Latino organization. Amy, welcome to the program, and it´s good to see you. Thanks, always, for stopping by.
Hinojosa: Thank you. It´s my pleasure.
Traynham: So this is disturbing, what I just mentioned a few moments ago, that there appears to be an achievement gap in the context of Latinas as well as with coding and with web design. Why, first and foremost?
Hinojosa: Well, I think so much of it is access in terms of where there´s connectivity, where there is access for students, where there are computers available for students to have access, and so, for us, we were just trying to figure out a way, how do we get technology and how do we get students in a path where they can understand the jobs of the future?
Traynham: And where does that start? Does that start in the home, does that start in the classroom, or a combination of both?
Hinojosa: Well, I think it´s a combination of both, but what we know is that Hispanics are at the fastest rate growing mobile technology users, and so what we needed to figure out was how to get education in their hands and in the products that they´re already using.
Traynham: Well, Amy, the reason why I ask about the home specifically is because I know in my home, my parents, they don´t know coding. So there´s no way they could -- and, obviously, I´m not at that age anymore, but there´s no way they could have taught me how to code or even to begin to think about that. So I guess my question is, is where does this truly begin? Is it really in the classroom or is it really in the home, and should it be in the classroom?
Hinojosa: It should absolutely be in the classroom. I think that parents should be attuned to knowing that this is something that their students need to learn about, but I think this is where we, in my organization, MANA, fills the gap, and we provide mentors for young Latinas and help them find -- whether it´s educational opportunities, career paths, and so we fill that gap there to help bridge between families and maybe not knowing even what these technologies are and then looking at how they build that into the future.
Traynham: Are you working with tech companies? Are you working with companies out there that, quite frankly, say, "Look, we have the jobs, but we simply cannot find the right people for these jobs, so we need this pipeline"?
Hinojosa: We are absolutely working with tech companies, entertainment companies, any folks that have these jobs of the future who have the jobs now that they can´t fill and are understanding that the Hispanic workforce is going to be a major part of that, moving forward.
Traynham: Right, and so why did you get interested in this? I mean, as I mentioned before, it seems like the studies are proving these unfortunate truths, but why are you motivated to do this?
Hinojosa: Part of it is that we have to look at where workforce trends are going, and we have to look at what we´re doing as we educate youth to get them on the right path, so for us, that meant looking at, "Where are students? What do they have available to them, and how can we get them to that next level?"
Traynham: And do you think you´re on the right track in order to create that pipeline? And then my next question, Amy, is when does that start? Is that in elementary school? Is that junior high school? Is it high school? Because I´m believing that college is way too late.
Hinojosa: College is absolutely way too late, and I think that when we look at -- So right now, one in five women in the United States is Hispanic. By 2060, that number is going to be one in three. We´re going to be a significant part of that workforce, so we --
Traynham: Already are.
Hinojosa: Already are, and increasingly so, as years pass, so what we have to do is figure out the earlier the better. Coding is going to become a second, third language in our case, right? And so that has to start as soon as absolutely possible, so elementary school is going to be where it needs to start.
Traynham: Amy, if I´m a parent or a loved one that´s watching this program at home or perhaps on their smart device, and they have a young girl that looks like you, but they´re not sure exactly where to channel their energy when it comes to STEM education, science, technology, engineering and math, where should they go?
Hinojosa: I think they should look and see what programs are available in their community. Ask the counselors at school. Ask individuals in the community. Find your YMCA. Find your MANA organization. Find any of those that work directly with students because they´re going to help you find those resources.
Traynham: And you mentioned, "Their MANA organization." Can they go to your website, as well?
Hinojosa: Absolutely. They can come to our website, hermana.org, H-E-R-M-A-N-A dot O-R-G, and they can find links to our chapters and affiliates across the country.
Traynham: Amy Hinojosa, it´s always good to see you. Thank you for stopping by, the President and CEO of MANA, a national Latina organization.
Hinojosa: Thank you.
Traynham: It´s good to see you.
Hinojosa: Good to see you.
Traynham: And, of course, thank you for joining us, as well. For more great conversations with leaders in your community and across the nation, visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I´m Robert Traynham.