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For Hispanic Americans and Latino Americans, the American dream is more than just a phrase, it is a guiding light and a goal to be achieved based on the belief that if you work hard there isn’t a single thing you can’t accomplish in this country. In celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15), I’ve been reflecting not only on the contributions Hispanic Americans have had on the history, culture, and achievements of the United States, but also on my own experiences and accomplishments as a Hispanic American.
Like many Hispanics and Latinos in America, I’m only a few generations removed from my immigrant ancestors who first arrived in this country. I imagine they would be proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish—graduate from a respected university (shout out to Santa Clara University—go Broncos!), land a job at a tech company that allows me to oversee complex facets of the employee experience, live in the Bay Area where innovation, creativity, and passion are intertwined with the DNA of the region, and so much more.
None of these accomplishments could have been achieved without hard work and dedication. It’s a cultural norm for Hispanics and Latinos to be hard workers and to “Échale ganas (give it your all).” We are a dedicated and loyal group—we are hard workers dedicated to our families, our communities, our responsibilities, and our goals. We put our hearts and souls into everything that we do because we know that hard work pays off. Hispanics and Latinos are proud people—proud of where we come from, proud of who we are, and proud of what we’ve accomplished individually, but also proud of what we have accomplished together as a group.
Throughout American history, Hispanics and Latinos have accomplished great feats such as achieving workers’ rights for farm laborers, occupying a seat on the Supreme Court (left: Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sonia Sotomayor), being active in the federal government, telling our stories on acclaimed television shows and movies, and so many other milestones that we can be proud of.
Just as Latinos and Hispanics were (and continue to be) instrumental in building this country by filling often underappreciated blue collar jobs such as hard labor, construction, agriculture, and culinary work, my hope is that Latinos and Hispanics will also be represented in the highly sought out white collar science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) industries.
A 2018 STEM Study conducted by the Student Research Foundation, found that only 12% of all college graduates who earn STEM degrees are Hispanic Americans, despite the fact that Hispanic Americans make up 21% of the 18- to 24-year-old population in the U.S. According to the Brookings Institute, Hispanics are predicted to make up 24.6% of the US population by the year 2045. My hope is that our representation in booming and essential industries like STEM will also reflect those statistics. Organizations such as the Society for Advancement of Chicanos/Hispanics and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), Society of Mexican American Engineers and Scientists (MAES), and National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering (NACME) help close the racial/ethnic gap in STEM, offering support to people of color in STEM fields through networking, career development, scholarships, and more.
Mexican-born Mario J. Molina, who won the Nobel prize in chemistry for his work in understanding how the ozone is formed and depleted, is just one example showing how capable Hispanics and Latinos can be in the STEM field. American astronaut Ellen Ochoa, who was the first Hispanic woman in to go to space, and Dr. Antonia Novello (right: 14th Surgeon General of the United States), who was the first woman, first person of color, and first Hispanic to serve as Surgeon General for the United States, are two more examples illustrating that Hispanics and Latinos can achieve levels of excellence in these fields. We’ve proven time and again that there is no industry that we can’t contribute meaningfully to and just like with the many other accomplishments of the past, I know that we can make impactful differences in the STEM industry as we continue to occupy those spaces.
I am hopeful and confident that our values of dedication and hard work, as well as our strong commitment to our community, will take us to a greater chapter of equality and success.