WILL HISPANICS BE READY FOR THE STEM FUTURE?

 
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Latinos looking to succeed in America's high-tech society have an uphill climb to make, according to an extensive survey from the Hispanic Association on Corporate Responsibility (HACR). But at least one expert says significant gains have been made to bridge the racially delineated gaps in the so-called STEM sector of the economy, which clumps together those coveted jobs in healthcare, engineering and computing.

Collaborative partnerships between high schools, colleges and corporations are already making a striking difference in achievement levels among Hispanic students, says Antonio R. Flores, president and chief executive officer at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities. Links between Hispanic-serving institutions, especially ones close to Hispanic communities, can create "very, very successful partnerships in achieving high level attainment and entrance to college," said Flores, who also points to "increased family engagement" among Hispanic families as a contributing factor. ' Indeed, recent figures show extraordinary shifts at the high school level. The graduation rate among Latinos climbed sharply in one four-year span, jumping from 61.4 percent in 2006 to 71.4 percent in 2010. The trend has held up in recent years. From 2000 to 2016, dropout rates among Hispanic students plummeted from an embarrassing 27.8 percent to a near-respectable 8.6 percent, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics.

Figures also show that Latinos are now entering college at approximately the same rate as whites, although graduation rates from college show the gaps between races widening again. This may be an ominous sign, according to the HARC report. STEM jobs, which pay 26 percent more than the rest of the employment options, are substantially outpacing job growth elsewhere, the report says. Clearly, staying in college is crucial for future high-tech success. STEM jobs--which stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics--have grown 11.4 percent since the Great Recession of 2008, while all other jobs have grown 4.5 percent.

The problems, says Flores, are familiar: A lack of resources, a lack of mentors and too much soft discrimination. Predominantly, Hispanic school districts at the high school level "don't have the money to attract and maintain the best math and science teachers," he said. This not only diminishes the odds of having STEM-oriented role models in Hispanic schools, but greatly reduces advanced curricula options that wealthier districts offer kids who are trying to impress top-level college admission offices.

The points are illustrated in a recent New York Times article concerning this year's crop of brainiacs at Stuyvesant High School (How the Few Black and Hispanic Students at Stuyvesant High School Feel, March 22,2019).

In New York City, Stuyvesant is where the smart kids go. The highly selective school of 3,300 students had more than 30,000 applicants from the five boroughs last year, making entrance to the school more pressure-cooked than trying to get into Harvard University. However, of the school's 3,300 students, only 29 this year are black. Only 3 percent are Hispanic. Asian students make up 73 percent, while whites make up 20 percent. The Ivy League bastion Harvard, in fact, is more racially balanced--43.5 percent white; 17.1 percent Asian; 10.8 percent Hispanic/Latino and 7.1 percent Black.

Meanwhile, U.S. News & World Report ranks Stuyvesant 21st in the nation among so-called STEM high schools. In so many words, if you call Stuyvesant High School New York City's Nerd Central, not many people will argue with you.

So how do minority students feel at Nerd Central? Some suffer from imposter syndrome, which is defined as that haunting feeling that maybe they don't deserve their own success. "I've been told the only reason I got into Stuyvesant is because I'm black," said one student quoted in the Times. "Not only is that discouraging and alienating, but it makes you feel like maybe you don't deserve your spot," she said.

The corporate world is also loaded with invisible perils that go under the modern buzzword of "soft skills." As opposed to chemistry or physics, soft skills are defined as all those unforeseen cultural nuances that the HARC report...

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