Hispanic high-schoolers forge new paths in STEM field

Hispanic Heritage Month

HIGHLANDS RANCH, Colo. (KDVR) — The odds are stacked against any Hispanic student pursuing a career in science, engineering, math and technology, as they are underrepresented in the industry.

Despite this, there are students defying those odds with each progressive step toward a career in those fields.

Students of a Hispanic background often find themselves trailblazing into higher education.

“I’d be the first (to go to college),” said Alexander Cruz, a Northeast Early College senior.

“My mom and my dad are from Mexico,” said Alan Morales-Gonzalez, also a senior at the school.

“My mom’s from Zacatecas and my dad’s from Nuevo Leon,” said Daniel Paredes, a junior there.

The stakes are high — not only for them but for their families as well.

“A lot of pressure, everyone looking up to you. You just want to do the best and make sure everyone’s proud of you,” Paredes said.

The challenge of acquiring a college degree is made even more formidable when they set their sights on the field of science and technology.

“Two of my brothers right now are trying to study physics,” Morales-Gonzalez said.

That’s not stopping these high school students from pursuing careers in STEM fields.

“Civil engineering so I can go into building structures and houses and buildings and stuff,” Cruz said.

“Civil engineer, I want to be an engineer,” Paredes said.

Their goals are lofty, but these students have already set the gears in motion.

“This year I’m trying to graduate with my associates for the high school year and then from there it would be trying to get a bachelor’s in engineering,” Morales-Gonzalez said.

They face daunting odds to reach that goal.

Google and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation teamed up with other groups in 2020 to study Hispanics and STEM programs. The study found that they make up about a quarter of 18-to-24-year-olds in the U.S. but only hold 1 in 10 bachelor’s degrees.

Further, out of all the degrees in STEM fields, they only account for 10% — far behind white and Asian graduates, which the report identified as “overrepresented groups.”

“I can build something personally, on my own, and I could see how it’s going to come out and I could design it the way I want it to,” Cruz said.

The Google and Hispanic Heritage Foundation report found that while Hispanics are 17% of the American workforce they’re only about 8% of the workforce in STEM fields.

It becomes clearer what it means for a Hispanic student to not only pursue an education in this field but also land a job, not just to them, but to the countless others before them who didn’t have that chance.

“My mom has always wanted all of us siblings to get a good career and be set in life,” Morales-Gonzalez said.

“Where they came from they didn’t really have a chance to get an education, and I know they’re working hard for me and my brothers, so that would mean a lot to them,” Paredes said.

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