Latin American women also like math

“A lot of things can pass into oblivion without realizing it, but there will always be science, engineering and technology. Above all, there will always, always be mathematics”. The phrase is owned by Katherine Johnson, a famous American mathematician; and that is the gospel of the Black Student Fund.

Since 1960, this not-for-profit organization has put everything on the line to create opportunities for economically vulnerable students, including Latinos. It points in all directions of knowledge, although it would be nice for everyone to have some knowledge of mathematics. This summer, five scholarships were awarded to Latino high school students to study coding and video game development at Marymount University by ID Tech.

LATINS. Natalie Aristondo, Grace Castillo and Camila Rivera were the Latin American teenagers who improved their coding skills with a scholarship from the Black Student Fund. Courtesy Black Student Fund

The plan? Between now and June 2023, these teenagers will be developing video games. To achieve this goal, the Black Student Fund, through Hispanic for STEM, will provide the five students with computers designed for video game production. They will have a teacher to guide them, explained Tyson Toussaint, director of STEM for the Black Student Fund.

“We know by mission, purpose, importance and history that educational opportunity is not for everyone and that inequities transcend racial lines. We are concerned and concerned about this disparity, particularly among black and Latino students,” said Leroy Nesbitt, executive director of the Black Student Fund.

VIDEO GAME. Video games are the gateway to various new professions related to science and technology. Courtesy ID Tech

Inequality is more pronounced in STEM disciplines. “We need to see more of our boys and especially our girls. It should be a matter of national security because we’re losing too much talent,” Nesbitt added.

for all talents

With this idea, they selected Latino girls from different schools. “The goal is to keep them motivated and engaged with what they’ve learned over the summer, have fun and improve their understanding of what STEM is,” said Toussaint, who will be mission accomplished if those kids, in addition to video game development, learn the computer language called C++, which is digitally in high demand.

WOMEN. Women’s participation in STEM programs is critical to the Black Student Fund. Courtesy ID Tech

According to Toussaint, “There are opportunities for all talents. It doesn’t matter if they’re only interested in drawing, telling stories, playing an instrument, video games are multimedia and absorb all skills and it’s easier for them to get into this big house called STEM”.

Nesbitt added, “It’s our job to make sure these opportunities reach Latino boys and girls.”

For Norma Margulies, founder of Hispanics for STEM, “it’s important to remember that only 9% of professionals who work in video game development are Hispanic.” She specified that the video games the students will develop will have educational value to promote peace and social justice.

MUSIC. Grace Castillo attends Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County, enjoys math and playing the drums and piano. Courtesy of Yesenia Castillo

The students who received scholarships and will develop the video games are: Natalie Aristondo, Grace Castillo, Camila Rivera and Christopher Hazel Reyes and Santiago Garcia.

Natalie Aristondo is 12 years old and attends Stuart M. Beville Middle School in Prince Williams. “I’ve always loved technology and using my imagination. In school I do coding and I love math. I get B’s every now and then, but I’m one of those who always go with A. I love to study because I want to be the best. I don’t know if I will be a STEM professional in the future. I think maybe I’ll be a lawyer to defend people. This summer I learned a lot about coding, creating formats, and how to control video game characters. I like science because I can see what’s going to happen before it happens, it’s wonderful.”

Grace Castillo is 15 years old and attends Mount Vernon High School in Fairfax County. “I didn’t know why I was interested in computers. I later realized that if I got better at coding, I could build a car and much more. I love to play fornite but I’m also a good student, I won an award for my grades. Math is easy for me. I was given a set of many questions, if I answered correctly they would give me an A and I did. “When I grow up, I want to be a police officer to protect people.”

NUMBERS. Natalie Aristondo attends Stewart M. Beville Middle School in Prince Williams and is an honors student who is fascinated by numbers.

Camila Rivera is in the tenth grade at Wakefield College in Arlington. “All my grades are very good, I like to pay attention in class and hand in my assignments on time. I think I’m more advanced in coding because I’m drawn to computers and I use a lot of software and 3D. When I realized I could do things in 3D, I was like, “Oh my God, I want to do that more and more.” I would like to be an architect.”

Her mother, Norma Rivera, says that her daughter was training in martial arts even before the pandemic. Now apart from coding, he plays football and basketball. He really likes teaching math to kids.

Santiago Garcia is turning 13 and an eighth grader at Seneca Ridge Middle School in Sterling. “Math seems easy to me and I like finding the answers from numerical programs. My favorite game is Call of Duty, which puts the bad guys in control. “I think I’m going to be a computer engineer until I have to feed myself more knowledge about video games and I want to get to play a lot with my friends.”

His mother, Helen Cobarrubias, is pleased with how hardworking and a good student her son is. “He’s always been like that since he was little, almost every year they give him an honorary degree. We came from Bolivia when Santiago was six years old. He loves the computer, I try to set limits for him so that he doesn’t get addicted and has time to read”.

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