Hispanic Americans, as well as members of other minority groups, are
not participating in the fields of engineering, math, and science in
numbers that are commensurate with their representation in our society.
Presently, Hispanic Americans constitute 12 percent of the population.
Yet Hispanic Americans represent less than three percent of the engineering
and scientific community in the United States. In spite of this under-representation,
Hispanic American students are not receiving sufficient educational
opportunities and resources, nor the academic stimuli necessary for
their advancement in the fields of engineering, science and mathematics.
Only 60% of the Hispanic American students graduate from high school.
Of these, only 45% enroll as freshman in institutions of higher education.
One third of the Latino freshman class enters four-year institutions.
Only 35% percent of Latinos entering four-year institutions select science
and engineering majors. That is, only 3.15% of college-freshman-age
Hispanic Americans enters science and engineering programs at four-year
This percentage disparity denies our nation of an important pool of
human talent in fields that are key to our global competitiveness, national
security, and the overall well being of our nation.
for Hispanic Americans in Science and Technology Achievement
Some of the factors contributing to the low representation of
Hispanics, as well as other under-represented minorities, in the fields
of science and engineering are:
Poor science and mathematics
preparation from the early levels through high school
Frequently, schools with the highest concentration of Hispanics
lack the faculty and material resources for strong science and mathematics
programs. The necessary stimuli and mentoring are also generally absent
in high schools at the critical time when students start developing
the scientific and mathematical knowledge base and confidence required
to enter a college program in a science related field. Furthermore,
very few colleges and universities have programs to alleviate this situation.
Many Latinos entering institutions of higher education have an academic
handicap and are often placed in non-stimulating remedial math and science
courses with a sink-or-swim philosophy, which effectively discourages
many students from pursuing science, engineering and technical degrees.
CAHSEE academically prepares students to successfully compete for entrance
into four-year institutions. STEM Institute students are counseled to
enroll in science, math and technology classes at their schools. As
a result, all CAHSEE students graduate from high school having completed
advanced math, science and, often, English courses.
Lack of academically
intensive summer programs
Most summer programs geared toward Latino and other under-represented
groups are of re-medial nature or stay-off-the-street focus. Those geared
towards science and technology focus on 'hands-on' motivational activities.
While such activities motivate students to pursue college careers in
science and engineering, they do not prepare them to enter and succeed
in four-year institutions. Motivated students often begin their undergraduate
studies with inadequate preparation for required university coursework
in mathematics and science. As a result, there is a very high level
of attrition among Hispanic Americans enrolled in science and engineering
programs and universities in general.
CAHSEE excels in providing academically intensive courses during the
summer. Starting in the sixth grade, students are exposed to college
level courses in math, science and engineering. By the time CAHSEE students
graduate from high school, they have the maturity and academic capacity
of college sophomores, facilitating success in college and allowing
them to take leadership positions at their universities.
In general, there is a very high level of attrition of minority students
and females—of all ethnic backgrounds—from science and engineering
programs. This situation does not apply to CAHSEE students, both male
Lack of access to summer
internships for high school students
Experience has demonstrated that participation in summer internships
is critical to fully prepare students to enter science and engineering
careers. Yet, internship opportunities are limited, and generally, Latino
students are either unaware or unprepared to participate in science
and engineering summer internship programs. Thus, the de-facto exclusion
of these students from challenging and exciting technical and research
experience in real world applications undermines their chances of selecting
science and engineering majors.
CAHSEE has yet to develop an internship program. However, several of
our alumni have participated in research at National Institutes of Health,
the federally funded David Taylor Research Center, and other institutions.
These students are often at the top of their college class and hold
leadership roles in student organizations. All intend to continue or
have continued toward advanced degrees.
Predominantly low economic
status of Hispanics
Traditionally, intense pressures to abandon the pursuit of a higher
education for gainful employment prior to or immediately after graduation
from high school are associated with the low socio-economic status of
Hispanics. Some students who eventually pursue a higher education often
must work to support themselves and their families. This situation is
very pernicious for students seeking science and engineering degrees,
which demand total commitment and concentration, prolonging the time
necessary to complete their studies and raising the probability of withdrawal
from school before degree completion.
Latino students with a strong academic background entering science
and engineering schools at four-year universities are often better prepared
to cope with economic handicaps. All CAHSEE alumni attend four-year
higher education institutions. Parents and students are counseled how
to best cope with economic disadvantages. Students are assisted in the
financial aid and merit scholarships process.
CAHSEE emphasizes the value and rewards of a science or engineering
education from the first moment students come in contact with the organization.
By the time a student enters college, his/her academic success has become
a family endeavor. Excelling and completing college in four to five
years constitute a personal commitment and a civic duty of the student,
and the student becomes a source of pride for the family.
Cultural patterns vs.
Cultural patterns and academic goals are frequently in conflict. Hispanic
students enrolled in science programs represent, for the most part,
the first generation in their family to attend a college or university.
Hispanic parents are more likely to have lower education levels and
may not fully understand the amount of emotional, academic, and financial
support their daughter or son requires from them. Many students who
attend college or university continue to live at home in crowded environments
that are not conducive to the levels of concentration required to study
for university courses, much less engineering and science subjects.
Many continue to shoulder family and job responsibilities in addition
to studying for classes.
Many parents do not allow their daughters to go away to college. This
gender-based sheltering often inhibits them from attending colleges
and universities outside their local community or from living on-campus.
While at home, females are often not allowed to remain on college campuses
into the late evening hours even if it is for studying or participating
in enrichment activities. Often, they continue to assist their mothers
with domestic chores.
CAHSEE starts preparing the parents early in their student's educational
pipeline. Their awareness of educational opportunities beyond their
immediate environs has contributed to increase the number of students,
including females, moving away to attend college. One student, for example,
has entered the West Point Military Academy this fall—with the
full support of her family.
Hispanic professors, academic counselors and other university staff
Given the small number of Hispanic science and engineering faculty
and staff in higher education, students do not have access to individuals
who have experienced and overcome similar barriers to achieve science
based degrees, nor do they interact with individuals of similar backgrounds
who can serve as role models and advisors who can share experiences
and strategies to overcome socio-cultural-economic handicaps, and provide
advice on how to best utilize the resources at universities.
Often students pursue their college education without proper involvement
with the science or engineering department and its faculty. Thus, their
awareness and access to on campus teaching assistantships and research
opportunities during the academic year, and off and on campus internships
during the summer are limited.
CAHSEE advises and prepares the students to become involved with their
departments and faculty. CAHSEE's Executive Director, Charles Vela,
its Vice President, Joseph Barba, and its Associate Director, Ivan Favila,
all accomplished academics and research engineers, often take the role
of mentors for the STEM Institute alumni and YEP/YESP Fellows.
Individually, these factors are strong deterrents to the attainment
of science or technology based degrees. Together, they constitute a
powerful force that keeps many Hispanic students and other underrepresented
minorities out of challenging engineering and science-based undergraduate
or graduate programs. CAHSEE’s mission is to effectively assist
the students in overcoming all of such obstacles. To achieve this goal
CAHSEE has had the long-term commitment of NASA, The George Washington
University, The City University of New York, The University of Illinois
at Chicago, as well as other Federal Agencies and academic institutions.