By Clara Galvano Rivera
It is really difficult, actually impossible not to get excited about AALSTEM (American Association of Latinos in STEM), a free program that prepares girls from typically underrepresented populations for STEM studies in college.
Francisco Díaz, President of this recently established organization tells LatinTRENDS that during the launch on April 13, 2016, they were approached by the Director of Community Affairs at Columbia University who informed them that they were starting a new program called COLUMBIA GIRLS IN STEM INITIATIVE. Could they help Columbia find rising junior and senior female students “with the necessary academic background, level of motivation and maturity necessary for the program curriculum?”
Led by Díaz, AALSTEM members mobilized and immediately started canvassing high schools in the New York metro area for Latinas who fit that description.
“The Principals were elated, “Díaz says. “We found seven girls, all from different schools, who were strong in biology, chemistry, mathematics, science, etc. We interviewed them to see what their level of motivation was and were impressed by their desire to learn and succeed. We were really happy that they all jumped at it!”
The Inaugural Season/Summer 2016 session of the rigorous course in collaboration with industry leaders throughout the country, will already be underway when you read this. This was a huge accomplishment for this new organization. Now Díaz has a “reputation” as the guy who gets things done!
Díaz continues with his favorite topic: Education. “We must continue to educate ourselves, in STEM and other careers as well. Plan ahead. Realize the American Dream. We need to raise the awareness that we can do it. That’s what our organization is trying to do – we take kids from 6th grade up to High School and educate them. Motivate them. Jobs in STEM are plentiful. For every 2 job openings in the U.S. there is only one qualified prospect. What that means is that the jobs are there. We just need the people to fill them. The goal is to grow that number. We need to fill that gap. We have people in key positions that can make recommendations and help. The industry is wide open.”
During our talk, Díaz mentions two men he admires. Wilton Cedeno, Director of State Regulatory Affairs at Con Edison, is a mentor. He thinks Cedeno is someone who has gone on to represent Dominicans with honor, integrity and strength. He chose well. Last year, Mayor de Blasio appointed ten new members to the New York City Economic Development Corporation’s Board of Directors and Cedeno was one of them, and the only Latino. Máximo Rosa, a High School friend of Díaz is another one. “Rosa owns a successful proprietary software product that is being consumed by successful U.S. corporations. His software is being installed in three ministries of Dominican Government, creating local jobs.” Díaz says that Rosa has a vision of what he wants to do and does it with a great heart.
He hopes to work with Rosa in the future to help others in the D.R. With AALSTEM, Díaz hopes to create a scholarship to help those in need. “The industry is growing and the jobs are available. I think it’s important to plan. We are a young organization, but look at the progress we have made so far. Others can do the same. It’s time to live the American Dream. This is our chance. Now is the time.
LT: What is your biggest concern about Dominicans on the island and in the U.S.?
FD: “Given that we are probably the largest group of Latinos here, I am concerned that we don’t take full advantage of all that the U.S. has to offer with respect to education.”
LT: Who is your favorite Dominican in any medium and why?
FD: “Wilton Cedeno. He is a mentor and has helped put Dominicans on the map with his excellent work in the Energy Industry.”
LT: Are you connected to the Island and if so, how do you maintain that connection?
FD: “Not at the moment, but it is a future objective of my organization.”
→See for more of this story in this month’s issue of LatinTRENDS Magazine.
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