News Coverage

25 May 2024

NBC CONNECTICUT: Pathways to Science talks introduce Latino youth to opportunities in STEM

Category: News Coverage

A new program is engaging Latino youth in STEM and health. Called Senderos a la Ciencia, or Pathways to Science, it is a monthly series that lets kids hear directly from working experts and connects them to mentors.

Organizers say it’s crucial to set these teens up for future success and they say it also helps address a lack of Hispanic representation in STEM fields.

Imagine a pathway to a career in science, technology, engineering or math. It is a road many of the students are eager to take.   

“Specifically, computer science. I want to be a software in general,” Fabian Aponte Flores, and 11th grader from Groton, said.

Now they are getting a glimpse into that kind of future directly from role models in these fields.

“Really interesting to learn about what other people in STEM are doing. How Hispanics like me were able to get into really influential colleges,” Kyana Rentas Miranda, an 8th Grader from Norwich, said.

Senderos a la Ciencia is specifically catered to Latino youth.

“Our target is Latino high schoolers. It very important, because we have seen that many of our professionals, we are lacking many Latinos,” Rev. Jesus Garcia, Church of the City Pastor, said.

Reverend Garcia is organizing the talks with STEM experts. They happen once a month at Church of the City in New London.

So far there have been three talks, but the new program will run for two years.

“We have found out that when you see a familiar face, someone that talks like you, that speaks like you, maybe they have the same challenges, you can identify, and maybe it's a way that you can say, I can do it,” Rev. Garcia said.

This week, Dr. Jorge Moreno described his personal path from undocumented immigrant to medical school faculty. He also discussed obesity since the series highlights health issues impacting Hispanic communities. It’s something the students take interest in.

“For me, it would be like mental health and being able to help the people in my community and the people of my age,” Rentas Miranda said.

Each chat features live translation online, either in Spanish or English, ensuring a bilingual experience and even letting some parents join in.

It is part of the larger engagement that Senderos a la Ciencia promotes, like including families in the pathway conversation and connecting teens with mentors in their areas of interest.

It is all funded by the Hispanic Access Foundation, which obtained a grant through the National Institutes of Health.

“Latinos are underrepresented in the STEM field,” Amaris Alanis-Ribeiro, Hispanic Access Foundation Director of Forestry and STEM, said. “When we're trying to research and solve problems for Latinos, what better way to do that than by having Latinos in the field themselves? Both to speak Spanish, but also to be culturally relevant to the health issues of their communities.”

The teens have attended multiple talks and look forward to more to come.

“It's always good to learn about different things,” Rentas Miranda said.

They see the program as a way to open the door to possibilities.

“It'll expose me to more people and just more opportunities that I might have that I might have not been aware of,” Aponte Flores said.

Next month’s talk is on Sunday, June 9th from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Church of the City, 250 State St., New London.

Written by Jane Caffrey for NBC Connecticut.

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