Latino Role Models, Secretary Cardona Inspire Latino Youth to Embrace Education at HISPA Discovery Summit

ELIZABETH, NEW JERSEY, June 2 — We often tell young people to reach for the stars, but for many Latino students in the United States right now, the possibility of achieving one’s dreams seems less like reality and more like, well, a dream. The pandemic has only compounded existing, deep-rooted hardships, exacerbating educational inequity and discouraging even the most devoted students.

Nonprofit organization Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA) tackles this problem head-on by introducing predominantly low-income Latino youth to Latino professional role models. HISPA President and CEO Dr. Ivonne Díaz-Claisse believes that seeing successful role models who share students’ language and culture can give them hope for their own futures; indeed, she credits a childhood role model, a Puerto Rican professor who went to the U.S. to earn his Ph.D. in math, for inspiring her to do the same. 

“HISPA’s mission is to inspire Latino students to discover their potential and ignite their desire to embrace education and achieve success,” said Díaz-Claisse. “I am so in awe of our volunteers, HISPA’s Role Models, who share our vision and have committed to telling their stories, sharing the obstacles they have overcome on their pathways to higher education.”

About 100 HISPA Role Models will encourage 333 6th, 7th, and 8th-graders from Jerome Dunn Academy in Elizabeth, NJ, and 20 9th-graders from Eisenhower Science and Technology Leadership Academy in Norristown, PA, to discover their own potential when they gather virtually for the first-ever HISPA Discovery Summit on June 2.

A number of students were able to participate in the virtual event together at Jerome Dunn Academy in Elizabeth, NJ.

The HISPA Discovery Summit – I to the 4th Power is broken up into four segments, each focusing on one “I” key to a transformative experience: inspiring students to believe in their dreams, imaging what future careers they may have, informing themselves on the steps to take to reach those careers, and igniting their desire to take those steps.

Students will hear from inspirational speakers, including the U.S. Department of Education’s Secretary of Education, Dr. Miguel Cardona; marine biologist and “Mother of Sharks,” Melissa Cristina Márquez; and Rear Admiral Dennis Velez of the Navy Recruiting Command.

They will also engage in problem-solving workshops and information sessions led by the Association of Latino Professionals for America, the Association of Naval Services Officers, AT&T, Bristol Myers Squibb, Cabrini University, Columbia University Chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, Comcast/NBCUniversal, Educational Testing Service, Lockheed Martin, the London Stock Exchange, Merck, Prudential, Tracfone, UPS, and Verizon.

AT&T is not only the event’s IGNITE sponsor, but AT&T employee and long-time HISPA volunteer Mayra Caceres is the Summit’s co-lead, playing a key role in organizing and planning the event.

“It is very exciting for me to be part of making the first HISPA Discovery Summit a reality for students,” said Caceres. “It reminds me of when I helped direct and launch HISPA’s first youth conference 13 years ago. Dr. Diaz-Claisse is a visionary and it is so rewarding to help bring HISPA’s vision to life with the support of AT&T and my HACEMOS familia.”

In addition to AT&T, HISPA’s Discovery Summit is brought to you by IMAGINE Sponsors Comcast and Merck, and INSPIRE Sponsors SOMOS Verizon, CoolSpeak, and AT&T HACEMOS, AT&T’s Hispanic employee group.

HISPA’s educational programs are made possible by Founding Partner Verizon, Co-founding Partners and Supports Bristol Myers Squibb, the PSEG Foundation, and Merck, and Annual Partners Bloomberg, CPC Global Group, Educational Testing Service, and UPS.