Hispanic students making strides in STEM field and breaking barriers

Local News

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, Texas (ValleyCentral) — With a growing interest to work in the field of science, technology, engineering and mathematics, Hispanics in the RGV are working to make their mark in the industries.

Antonio Medina, Ilse Perez and Ernesto Hernandez are just some of the students making their mark in the STEM industry. Each of them come from Hispanic households and share that their families are behind their motivation.

“My aunts and stuff they’re also engineers and so I was kind of lucky to be put in a place where I had those influences around me but I do realize that is not the case for everyone,” said Ilse Perez, Manufacturing Engineer Graduate student at the Univerisity of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV).

In the past, STEM wasn’t a common field for the Hispanic community at least not in the way it is now. 

“It’s not until you go someplace else that you realize, that you know, here, we’re the majority but in other places, we are a minority,” said Perez.

While more STEM programs are created in schools and more opportunities arise for Hispanic communities, many share they still face some kind of prejudice from their peers.

“He asks me, what field are you working in? and I’m like I’m pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering, but his intent was what field as in, where am I picking cotton,” said Antonio Medina, a Mechanical Engineering student at UTRGV.

Medina said being Hispanic is a motivational factor to continue pursuing his dreams. He adds that prejudice pushes him to prove them wrong and show them what he’s capable of. As more resources become available, many said a degree in STEM is 100% attainable. 

“The only time you saw Latinos out there, they were helpers, and now little by little you’re seeing more and more Latinos becoming the major roles like linemen and engineers and whatever, awesome because ‘ay’ we are there,” said Ernesto Hernandez, an Electrical Lineman student at Texas State Technical College.

They all add there are benefits in having more Hispanics in the field because of the different points of view each person brings to the table.

“Each of them brings a new perspective to the issues that we face as engineers and so it’s really interesting to see how we take those different approaches to the same problem,” said Perez.

Hispanics are also making waves in the space industry, especially here in our own backyard with SpaceX.

“A lot of them were Hispanic oriented so it definitely makes you feel proud in a way that just because I didn’t go to USC, Texas A&M, that doesn’t mean I don’t have a shot at working for SpaceX,” said Medina.

No matter what field you are looking to get into, Antonio, Ilsa and Ernesto want students to know they can achieve a degree in STEM and encourage students to reach out to those in the industry. 

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