Univision Health Fair

Matthew with his mom (USC Photo/David Sprague)

Univision Health Fair Inspires the Next Generation of Latino Engineers

by Emanuel Marquez

Hundreds of families, locals, and other health-interested people gathered at East Los Angeles College (ELAC) on a sunny, Saturday afternoon in hopes of receiving free health information and learning how biotech is quickly creating new job opportunities. In an effort to promote these topics, I helped represent USC at this Univision-sponsored health fair.

Those who stopped by our USC booth were greeted by myself and other engineering students from the USC chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE). Here to answer any questions, share personal experiences, and give useful advice, my colleagues and I aimed to be positive role models to further SHPE’s goal of inspiring fellow Latinos to pursue STEM as a career choice and a way to better society.

SHPE member Maria speaking to a young event attendee (USC Photo/David Sprague)

Having grown up in South Central Los Angeles, I’m familiar with the backgrounds of the many Latino families present at this fair. Along with several of my K-12 school peers, I am a first-generation college student from a low-income, immigrant family. Despite the lack of education many of our parents experienced, they, like any parent, pushed us to do well in school. Still, outside of our parent’s support, there were hardly any professionals with whom we could exchange stories and ask questions. It wasn’t until my senior year of high school that, thanks to a summer engineering program, I met for the first time a professional Hispanic engineer.

SHPE member Felipe speaking to event attendees

At Saturday’s fair, we aimed to raise exposure and break this lack of mentorship. Prepped with our “Ask Me About My Career” stickers and fluent Spanish, we spoke to families about the importance of STEM and the opportunities in the growing field of biotech. Topics shifted as parents asked questions like “how do I make my son/daughter more interested in this” or “what does my child have to do to get into USC so he can pursue STEM” to discussions about getting into college, developing good study habits in high school, and ways to make higher education more affordable.

One mother was excited to share with us how well her son was doing in his high school math courses, but that she wasn’t sure what career, aside from a mathematician, he could go into. After being bombarded with biotech-related handouts she was glad to know a demanding field awaited her son.

Event attendees receiving stickers and biotech-handouts (USC Photo/David Sprague)

Although the overhead to get into biotech, or even STEM for that matter, is high for the immigrant and low-income community members of Los Angeles, the opportunities it promises hold true for the youth of these communities. The lack of a higher education combined with the difficulty of learning a new language and adjusting to a different country make it challenging for immigrant adults to immerse themselves into STEM fields, yet it doesn’t stop them from pushing their children towards them. Positive mentorship and exposure to the growing biotech field within our city are key factors that will change the lives of the next generation of Latino students, allowing them to become engineers who take advantage of the growing engineering field and later pioneer new ones.

Published on June 27th, 2017

Last updated on March 23rd, 2018