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STEM-Focused Educational and Occupational Opportunities are Important for Latino Youth: Here's Why

First Posted: Aug 17, 2014 12:30 AM EDT

STEM-focused educational and occupational opportunities are vital for Latinos, who traditionally lag behind whites and Asians when it comes to science, technology, engineering and mathematical excellence.

There's a pressing need to drastically transform educational trends for Hispanics, as the group is disproportionately on the wrong side of the educational gap. Only 63 percent of Latinos graduate from high school, compared to 84 percent of African Americans and 88 percent of whites. And while numbers are on the rise, just a mere 14 percent of Latinos obtain a college degree.

To counter those statistics, whole communities must work toward eradicating obstacles standing in the way of young Latinos, and communities must encourage Latino youth to complete high school and college, as well as pursue internships, externships, graduate programs and entrepreneurship. suggests three basic missions in order to help young Latinos reach the nation's degree attainment goal: mend the college completion gap, increase the number of degrees attained and enhance initiatives and programs that assist and track Latino students on their roads to graduation.

With parental engagement, scholastic guidance and in-school counseling, Latino students are likely to perform better in the classroom and on standardized tests. They're likely to exhibit improved dedication to their education, engage their peers in conversations about post-graduation plans and self-inform regarding the social and economic benefits of higher education, particularly where STEM fields are concerned.

The effectiveness of STEM education is immeasurable, which was stated by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology in 2010. And with Latinos being the youngest and fastest growing segment in the U.S., Latinos should work to flood those fields.

Minority Engineering Programs (MEP), TRIO and a slew of philanthropic foundations, corporation and nonprofit organizations have helped to finance and support low-income and minority students, including Latinos, who otherwise would not be afforded such opportunities. These programs also provide resources, teach networking skills, offer professional development tools, show students how to assess their career paths and educate students on how to request and prepare for interviews. But, nationwide, there aren't nearly enough programs offering tips, suggestions or information that will facilitate growth.

STEM-focused programs can and will lead many Latinos directly toward the mecca for all things technological, creative and business-like, Silicon Valley. Home to thousands of startups, technology corporations and influential creative entities, Silicon Valley holds countless opportunities for well-equipped students looking for futures in technology. Likewise, introducing STEM-centric programs into the lives of Latino youth will better position them to access careers in medicine, biotechnology, construction, financial services, transportation, health care, information technology, engineering, and advanced manufacturing -- inarguably increasing personal wealth and making them key players in the maturation and stabilization of the U.S. economy. 

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