The Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Army hosted a STEM Education and Career Opportunities workshop for high school students. Captain Carlos Canales of the United States Army joins us to talk about the event.
Ruelas: Coming up next on Horizonte, we’ll show you what the US army is doing to introduce STEM careers to high school students.
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Ruelas: Plus a fashion line inspired by native American culture. And in sounds of cultura, SOC, an exhibition that shows an alternative future. That’s all straight ahead on Horizonte.
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Ruelas: good evening and welcome to Horizonte. I’m Richard Ruelas in tonight for Jose Cardenas. This week the Hispanic heritage foundation and the US army hosted a STEM career opportunity workshop for high school students. Joining me to talk about this is captain Carlos Canales with the United States army. Thanks for joining us this evening.
Canales: Good afternoon.
Ruelas: so this happened at ASU west. Take us there. What went on this week?
Canales: So, we hosted a two-day workshop with HHF and Loft which is a foundation that supports STEM for college bound students from high school. The two day event took place in one of the silos at the west campus. And one of our goals with this program is to present to high school students the opportunities that the US Army has in the field of STEM. Also to promote the Hispanic kids to be able to represent themselves in a leadership role within the community but also be savvy in the fields of STEM.
Ruelas: So STEM I’m going to make sure that the acronym is correct. If I remember correctly, science, technology, engineering, math.
Ruelas: We hear about what schools need. What does the army need with those STEM fields?
Canales: in order for the army to support our role in defense and in different missions across the world, we need to have the people that are prepared in those fields specifically because we see the future as cyber and medicine advancements will require a higher level of expertise. And we feel that it is important to have representation from the Hispanic community in those fields.
Ruelas: so the army is going to be more technologically positioned, technologically savvy than what maybe we’re used to thinking from platoon soldiers or marching, taking a gun, and going off to war.
Canales: yes, most definitely. I’m a signal officer by trade and in my trade our soldiers used to be able to set up an antenna and talk on FM communications. Now a days, they have to understand basic computer communications are required to satellites and different networks of communication so if they don’t have the background in the computer technology they won’t be able to function and as these other countries take these technological advancements in the STEM fields, we have to not only keep up with them but also be the leaders of these developments so we can stay relevant.
Ruelas: you also mentioned that you’re going after college bound students as apposed to student how may not be sure if they are going to college or may see the military as a way to get there and may not be thinking about college and the military being an option. Is that correct? What is the focus on college bound students and sort of getting them to detour into the military?
Canales: So definitely, we are focused on college bound students but we are also focused on any student that wants to pursue a career in the military because the military will provide you with avenues to reach higher education. So for example with my post we held with the HHF STEM. Some of the students may not be ready to go to college yet because some of them have not figured out what they want to do. But the army provides over 150 career fields for the enlisted soldiers that they can experience those different career paths. While they’re deciding what they want to do the army also provides educational opportunities so they can come back and get a degree in that field and potentially become commissioned officers which for my program, the Arizona State University ROTC program, and that’s what we’re looking for. We’re looking for potential college graduates that are going to become officers, second lieutenant in four years and serve their nation and go on to do bigger and better things for themselves and also for our country.
Ruelas: where did you draw the students from for this event? Where did you go to find the students?
Canales: so the army puts out a call for schools in the area that are interested and they based on availability, dates, and some other logistics, the army selects a number of schools and they commit and they bring up to 120 students and we focus on those students, normally seniors and juniors, and we try to provide a path for them and teach them about leadership not only in potential service with the military but as members of the community.
Ruelas: and because you mentioned, looking for Latino students are you focusing on a certain part of the city or certain high schools that are predominately Latino population?
Canales: yes. The army puts a state wide call for high schools that will focus on predominantly Latino high schools. We had for this particular 2018 loft stem symposium we had Trevor brown, north high school, and a couple of other schools that are predominately Latino high schools.
Ruelas: and what kind of questions are you hearing from the students? And why focus on Latino students for this?
Canales: the army recognizes that diversity brings strength and definitely we are in a business of strength and we want to promote strength. We want to have more representative groups from the Hispanic community and from other demographics and we also want more women in possessions of leadership within the stem field. Why do we focus on Latinos? It is because we know that there is a lot of potential and it is just that a lot of times there is culturally they are not exposed to the opportunities that are available to them and we want to say that the united states army is there if you choose so we can provide you a path that you might be seeking in a stem field.
Ruelas: I guess that I think about a lot of Latino families where there has been a culture of service and serving but you’re also looking for officer material. Is that a different path? Is that something that you have to instill in some Latino families to think about being an officer?
Canales: yes. Actually one of the questions that we got from one of our students today was ‘well how do I leave home because my mom and dad want me to stay close to home. They don’t want me to go too far and if I join the military I’m going to be taken worlds away.’ So, one of the panelists-
Ruelas: do you think that they can do basic training in the back yard? That’s not an option?
Canales: that’s not an option. No, sir. So one of the panelists made a really good point is that at one point you have to break the cycle but not break away from the family. And I think that part of that pride and part of that sense of accomplishment comes when that some or daughter achieves something new. That sets a president for brother, sister, other siblings and just for the community to see people achieving from their demographic.
Ruelas: students today too have pretty much lived their life with us at war. Is the military posture of this country a concern for these students? Are they concerned about what it’s like to be in combat or what can be expected to deploy if they sign up?
Canales: so surprisingly many of the students that come to our program and many of the cadets understand that we are in a posture of war and they might have to defend this nation wherever the call might be at but they are very enthusiastic and I am always impressed by their courage. Because they know that the potential of war is there yet they are willing to commit their time, effort, and service to the nation. We are very proud of our Hispanic cadets and our Hispanic demographic that takes part in our programs and we continue to encourage them to succeed and give them the empowerment to excel in whatever it is that they want to do within the military. And for those that decide that the program is not for them we continue to encourage them to continue to participate and become part of the community and we find them avenues within the university to put them on the right track to be successful community members.
Ruelas: let’s rewind the clock about 20 years to when you were thinking about signing up for the military, what did you envision that your career would be? Did you envision this uniform, those medals? That you would be in the service 23 years later?
Canales: so, I worked for an engineering firm and my passion was engineering and I started to be an aero-space engineer but I switched over and I wanted to study civil engineering. So I found a service from the local area here in phoenix and I don’t know. One day I just had a call and I wanted to give back to the country that had provided me opportunities as a Hispanic individual. And I woke up in boots in fort Jackson south Carolina for four years and 23 years later here I am and I’m not done yet. I want to do more and I want to continue to serve as long as I am capable. So, no, I never envisioned to be in this uniform this many years later but I’m glad that I am and I would not do it any differently.
Ruelas: right, and still serving as a role model this week at ASU west.
Canales: thank you.
Ruelas: thank you for joining us.
Canales: thank you.
Ruelas: coming up later in the show, in our sounds of cultura section, a double agents exhibition that envisions an alternative future.