New Jersey non-profit HISPA one of three organizations honored with presidential STEM award

Princeton, NJ, August 11, 2020 — The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) and the National Science Foundation (NSF) has named 12 individuals and three organizations as recipients of the Presidential Awards for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM). Hispanics Inspiring Students’ Performance and Achievement (HISPA) was one of the three organizations recognized with the highest national mentoring award bestowed by the U.S. government upon mentors who work to expand science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) talent.

Nominations are accepted from all 50 States, the District of Columbia, the Department of Defense Education Activity schools, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and the United States territories which includes American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the United States Virgin Islands.

Presidential award for STEM mentors

Established in 1995, the PAESMEM has honored the hard work and dedication which mentors exhibit in broadening participation in the STEM pipeline.

PAESMEM recognizes the critical role mentors play outside the traditional classroom setting in the academic and professional development of the future STEM workforce. Colleagues, administrators, and students nominate individuals and organizations for exemplary mentoring sustained over a minimum of five years. 

A panel of outstanding scientists, mathematicians, engineers, STEM education researchers, STEM educators, and other STEM or STEM-related professionals review nominations. Recommendations are sent to OSTP for final selection.

Awardees serve as leaders in the national effort to develop fully the nation’s human resources in STEM. Protégés are students and early career STEM and STEM-related professionals from underrepresented racial and ethnic groups, women, persons with disabilities, and persons from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.


HISPA is a non-profit organization founded in 2007. The organization mobilizes Hispanic professionals to serve as role models to inspire Latino students to discover their potential, igniting their desire to embrace education and achieve success. By uniting students with successful role models with whom they share a cultural and/or linguistic background, HISPA’s educational programs aim to establish a college-going culture and expose underserved populations to a range of postsecondary educational and career opportunities—especially in STEM fields, in which Latinos have historically been under-represented.

Established in New Jersey, HISPA expanded to Texas in 2011; to New York in 2013; to Florida in 2016; and to Pennsylvania in 2019. To date, HISPA has grown from 100 to 3,000 HISPA Role Models and have held over 1,500 Role Model Program sessions, 30 Youth Conferences, and many Corporate Visits, reaching over 15,500 students.

“The Presidential Award represents the opportunity for HISPA to recognize the thousands of individuals—our HISPA Role Models—who have stepped into classrooms and, with their stories, inspired Latino students to discover their potential,” said HISPA President and CEO Dr. Ivonne Díaz-Claisse. “This award means HISPA can celebrate and honor the mentors who have invited our youth to their corporations and colleges, leading lab tours and workshops that have ignited students’ desires to embrace STEM education and achieve academic and professional success.”

Dr. Díaz-Claisse was inspired to found HISPA after speaking to students at a New Jersey school. She shared the obstacles she faced growing up in Puerto Rico with a love for math: as a Latina, teachers doubted her ability and discouraged her from pursuing her degree. She found a role model in a Puerto Rican professor who had earned his Ph.D. in math in the U.S. Inspired, she went on to do the same.

After sharing her story, a young Latina approached her and said, “Now I know I can pursue a Ph.D., too.” Her mission became clear: Hispanic youth could not aspire to something they didn’t see. She founded HISPA to address this need, with a special focus on STEM subjects. Today, over 50% of HISPA Role Models hold a degree in a STEM field or applied science, such as medicine or healthcare.

HISPA’s 2019-20 educational programs were made possible by Co-founding Partners and Supporters the PSEG Foundation, Verizon, Wells Fargo, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merck; and Annual Partners and Supporters: Educational Testing Service, UPS, Visa, and Southwest Airlines.