Hispanic Heritage Month at the K-12 STEM Center

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This Hispanic Heritage Month, the USC Viterbi K-12 STEM Center is dedicated to highlighting Latinx stories. ⁠⁠This year's theme — ESPERANZA: A CELEBRATION OF HISPANIC HERITAGE AND HOPE — invites us to celebrate Hispanic Heritage and to reflect on how great our tomorrow can be if we hold onto our resilience and hope. ⁠

⁠⁠Scroll below to read about our five of our amazing Latinx staff members and how the theme Esperanza relates to their lives and their work.⁠⁠

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Mary Bonaparte-Saller

"I was born in Mexico and immigrated to the U.S. with my family when I was a toddler. My parents did not speak English and had to start from the bottom with low-paying jobs even though they had college degrees from Mexico; they knew the sacrifice would be worth it for a better life for my sisters and me. My parents worked tremendously hard to learn English and to find decent jobs. They taught me what it means to work hard and persevere through struggles, and that the most important thing in life is family. I incorporate these values in my work at the K-12 STEM center, working hard to provide youth and their families with opportunities in STEM they might not have otherwise."

Monica Lopez

"My parents both immigrated here from El Salvador during the Salvadorean Civil War in pursits of a better life. They came to this country not knowing English or having any savings. They taught me to never give up and the value of being adaptive. Being first-generation has had its obstacles and blessings. For instance, I have been able to not only celebrate my heritage but also cultures different from my own. My background has allowed me to see unlimited potenital in all the students I encounter and support them. I use this mindset in my role in the USC K-12 STEM Center to provide resources and opportunites to all students. The reason being I know being a researcher, STEM pioneer or college bound does not fit one mold. Lastly, I am LatinX, a college graduate, first-generation and plan to pave the way for others!"

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Anne Areta

"My father is from Basque Country in Spain and my mother is Jamaican born in Guatemala. Being a part of the Latin/Hispanic community has made me even more proud of my family ancestry. I have experienced first hand how we tend to look for European roots and reject the indigenous and African roots that make up the core of being Latin. To be Latin is to be a mix of everything. I want my community not to be insecure, but rather to adore and take pride in who and what we are because it's a beautiful, complicated, ugly, and unique history that created one of the most diverse groups of people in the Western world. My identity shapes all the work that I do, as I know being a first-generation American, Spanish-speaking biracial Black woman equips me with a lens to the view the world that not too many people possess."

Lauren Guzman

"My father came to the US as a toddler with his parents from Jalisco, Mexico, while my mother was born here but her parents immigrated to the US from Michoacan, Mexico, at a young age. My grandparents worked assiduously to give my parents the opportunities to pursue an education and fulfill their dreams while still reminding them of their roots and the importance of hard work and family. Reflecting on my grandparents’ journeys makes me proud of my heritage and inspires me to serve as a beacon of hope for individuals who aspire to attain their versions of the American Dream. Being in the position that I’m in here at the K-12 STEM Center enables me to support the program managers by guaranteeing that they have the critical tools and resources to educate young minds and create pathways for the students to be successful, future leaders for the next generation. Furthermore, I am grateful to be part of an organization who is dedicated to promoting diversity, equity and inclusion for a greater community."

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Alexandra Gutierrez

"Being part of the Latin(e/x) community has molded me into a strong and educated mujer en ciencia. My grandmother Esperanza or "Hope" provided us with the hope for a better future, one that I now have the pleasure of living. My grandparents marched with Cesar Chavez for "la causa" and worked the grape fields to support our family and build my childhood home. Following their lead, I worked the grape fields shortly before starting college and I was able to understand the hardwork and effort my family put forth to provide me better opportunities in life. I am a first generation college graduate who used those same work ethics through college to earn my biology degree despite at some points lacking housing and any financial support because I knew I could make it regardless of the obstacles. In my role at the K-12 STEM Center I work diligently to provide students and families with STEM guidance and confidence so that they too may have the hope to bring their dreams to life. I also work to intentionally provide support and create equitable resources for all of our families in order to minimize any obstacles preventing students and families from excelling in STEM. I wish to provide hope and support to the surrounding communities so that they may excel without having to experience unnecessary struggles. Por mi Esperanza que me dio esperanza."

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