Selena Gomez Surprises Students at Her Texas Middle School: ‘Know That Anything’s Possible
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Selena Gomez hugs a surprised in classroomstudent at her old middle school

Selena Gomez went back to her roots and surprised students at her old middle school in Texas.

On Monday, the award-winning artist went back to where it all began at Danny Jones Middle School in Mansfield, Texas, stopping by her old stomping grounds to encourage current students and reconnect with some of her past teachers.

“Hello, students at Danny Jones Middle School. This is Selena Gomez talking to you,” the 27-year-old said over the intercom, in a video shared by the school on the Mansfield Independent School District’s website.

According to the school, Gomez had returned to her hometown to film for a new documentary about her childhood.

“This trip, I wanted to take my best friend Courtney, and also some of my people from my label, just to show them where I grew up and how proud I am of where I’m from,” Gomez explained. “Some of my teachers I got to see again, and they were part of my life for so long.”

While the former Disney Channel star greeted students in a montage of videos — taking selfies and granting hugs —  her seventh-grade basketball coach recalled the type of student the singer was when she walked the halls.

“As a student, Selena was so humble and she was very kind,” Gray said. “She had a really kind, soft spirit. Hard, hard worker. Real humble. Just a real neat kid.”

Gray also described the day Gomez told her she was withdrawing from school to move to Florida and pursue her acting career. “I remember the day that she was leaving Jones,” Gray recalled. “She said ‘Oh I’m just going to Florida.’”

“And I said ‘How come?’ She said, ‘Oh I’m just going to be in a little Disney film.’” Gray added. “I said, ‘Oh. OK.’ Because sometimes middle school kids kind of exaggerate.”

Continue on to People to read the complete article.

McDonald’s Is Awarding $1 Million In Scholarships To Assist Hispanic Students During Pandemic
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Graduation mortar board cap on one hundred dollar bills concept for the cost of a college and university education loans

McDonald’s is proud to announce the company’s “HACER® More Scholarship,” that is providing 100 additional scholarships for Hispanic students as an extension of the annual HACER® National Scholarship.

Through HACER, McDonald’s is committing $1 million to assist Hispanic students this academic year, by helping alleviate the stress ofhigher education costs.

According to the Pew Research Center, half of Hispanics said they worry daily or nearly every day about financial issues like paying their bills, the amount of debt they carry and the cost of health care, and more 1 . The increased financial strain caused by the pandemic has also created uncertainty as parents and students work to fund and continue higher education. As a result, McDonald’s created the “HACER® More Scholarship” to help more students pursue college degrees despite the pandemic. So, in 2020, 100 additional scholarships will be awarded, bringing the total to 130, versus 30 in 2019. The additional scholarship recipients will be selected from the 2019 HACER National Scholarship pool of applicants that meet the existing criteria for the scholarship and will be enrolled in school for spring of 2021. “HACER® More Scholarship” recipients will be selected in October, allowing them to use the funds for the current academic year.

“Despite the difficulty of this time, students are showing their resiliency by continuing their education ,” said Santiago Negre, HACER® scholarship committee judge and head of McDonald’s National Hispanic Consumer Market Committee. “McDonald’s and our owner/operators are committed to our communities and customers, so we are honored to contribute to the educational pursuits of Hispanic students through the HACER® National Scholarship program, having done so for the last 35 years.”

The McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship is one of the largest programs committed to college scholarships. Since 1985, it has awarded $31.5 million to Hispanic college students pursuing their higher education dreams. This year, in addition toreceiving scholarships, the 30 winners of the 2020 HACER® National Scholarship received a “tech backpack” that included a laptop, wireless mouse, and headphones—some of the tools needed to succeed in a virtual learning environment.

“It’s a huge relief to know even with the difficulties we’re all facing this year, like adapting to a new way of learning, keeping ourselves and our families safe, and more, that I no longer have to worry about the burden of tuition costs thanks to McDonald’s,” 1. “Coronavirus Economic Downturn Has Hit Latinos Especially Hard.” Pew Re search Center, Washington D.C. (August 4, 2020) https://www.pewresearch.org/hispanic/2020/08/04/coronavirus-economic-downturn-has-hit-latinos-especially-hard/ said Vladimir Rosales, one of the 2020 HACER® National Scholarship winners, awarded $100,000 to attend San Jose State University in California. “I’m thankful that this year McDonald’s is not only supporting me in achieving my higher education goals but is also giving another 100 Hispanic students the same opportunity.”

The McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship is just one of many company initiatives created to educate the next generation of youth. This includes the Black & Positively Golden Scholarships for students attending Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and the McDonald’s/APIA Scholarship program for Asian and Pacific-Islander American students. The Archways to Opportunity program for crew gives eligible employees at participating U.S. restaurants the ability to earn a high school diploma, receive upfront college tuition assistance, access free education/career advising services and learn English as a second language.

Hispanic college-bound high school seniors and their parents are encouraged to visit mcdonalds.com/hacer for additional college resources in English and Spanish and for details on how to apply for the McDonald’s HACER® National Scholarship.

The scholarship application period for the next academic year opens on October 5, 2020 and runs through February 3, 2021.
HACER and McDonald's logo
ABOUT McDONALD’S
McDonald’s USA, LLC, serves a variety of menu options made with quality ingredients to nearly 25 million customers every day. Ninety-five percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by businessmen and women. For more information, visit www.mcdonalds.com, or follow us on Twitter @McDonalds and Facebook. www.facebook.com/mcdonalds .

In ‘Siempre, Luis’ a look at Lin-Manuel Miranda’s biggest inspiration — his father
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Luis and Lin-Manuel Miranda together at a premiere

When Luis Miranda arrived in New York City from Puerto Rico in the 1970s, he looked like many young students of his time, with his jeans and shaggy hair. In the Big Apple, though, he realized that not everyone wanted people like him. Instead of culture shock, he experienced discrimination. “It didn’t matter if you were a janitor or a PhD student,” Miranda recalled, “what they saw was Puerto Rican, some brown person, some brown kid. Not a real American.”

Miranda went on to become an activist, a government official, a political consultant, and a loving father to three children—including his son, Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator of the Broadway smash, “Hamilton.” Now the older Miranda, who has long been a behind-the-scenes player in Democratic politics, is in the spotlight in a new documentary, “Siempre, Luis,” debuting October 6 on HBO and HBO Max.

A camera crew spent a year following Miranda around, capturing his family life, political work, heath issues and humanitarian efforts. Watching the film, Miranda told NBC News, was an emotional experience for him.

“What comes to mind is how many great people I have met and known throughout my life; people who either convinced me that I had to join their fight, or I convinced that they had to join me, and together we have moved forward,” he said. “It was a reminder of how many people have helped me, (and) that I didn’t have time to thank them all.”

Luis A. Miranda Jr., 66, was born in the town of Vega Alta in Puerto Rico. A sharp student, he headed for New York City in the 1970s to continue his graduate work, inspired by—of all things—the character played by Debbie Reynolds in the 1964 movie musical, “The Unsinkable Molly Brown.”

In Nueva York, Miranda became an advocate for the city’s Latino residents, who were then predominantly Puerto Rican. By the 1980s, Miranda was a special advisor to Mayor Ed Koch, eventually becoming the Director of the Mayor’s Office for Hispanic Affairs.

In 1990, Miranda founded the non-profit Hispanic Federation, and has also been a key Democratic political consultant, working on U.S. Senate campaigns including Hillary Clinton’s as well as Rep. Adriano Espaillat’s, D-NY, who became the first Dominican American in the U.S. Congress.

Miranda has been a champion of his son’s ambitions as well. When a young, struggling Lin-Manuel received an offer for a full-time teaching job, his father advised him to follow his dreams instead. He helped promote his son’s off-Broadway musical “In The Heights” until it became successful and transferred to Broadway.

In fact, the younger Miranda credits his Dad as being part of his inspiration for “Hamilton”—Founding Father Alexander Hamilton also arrived in New York from the Caribbean—he was from the island of Nevis. “When I was playing him, I was just playing my father,” said Lin-Manuel.

“Siempre, Luis” highlights the devastating impact that Hurricane Maria had on Puerto Rico in 2017, and in the documentary, Miranda cries as he recalled the destruction. “For me, Puerto Rico is this untouchable, perfect place,” he says in the film, “that all of a sudden, doesn’t exist anymore.” A central focus of the film is the lengthy process, that was not without controversy, by which Miranda and Lin-Manuel bring a production of “Hamilton” to the island as a way of raising funds for Puerto Rico’s recovery.

Continue on to NBC News to read the complete article. 

Photo by Michael Kovac/Getty Images for Acura

LatinxPitch: The Twelve Authors Creating Diversity in Publishing
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Grid photo of the twelve LatinxPitch authors

According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, about 25% of the United States’ children are a part of the Latinx community, yet they are the most underrepresented ethnic group in children’s books.

In a study by the Cooperative Children’s Book Center, they found that only 5% of the thousands of children’s books available had Latinx main characters. This is not only odd in terms of the importance of representation and racial equality, but economically as Latinx community makes up for about $1.5 trillion of the United States’ buying power.

One of the main beliefs for this underrepresentation appears to come from the publishing industry itself. Over 70% of publishers are Caucasian and as a result, create stories that are more familiar to their own stories or are out of touch with the Latinx community.

To combat this underrepresentation, twelve authors of the Latinx community have come together to form LatinxPitch, an organization dedicated to creating proper Latinx representation in literature and increasing the number of Latinx people in the industry. Beginning on September 15th, the first day of Hispanic Heritage Month, the group invited Latinx authors to use their Twitter platform to pitch ideas for children’s and young adult stories of varying genres. At the same time, LatinxPitch also invited Latinx publishers and agents to browse the pitches in search for new clients to represent. The work being done through LatinxPitch is not only working to create more representation, but is providing Latinx people a place to receive work, network, and make their ideas known.

The LatinxPitch is made up of twelve founding members: Mariana Llanos, Jorge  Lacera, Sara Fajardo, Cynthia Harmony, Ana Siqueira, Mona Alvarado Frazier, Ernesto Cisneros, Nydia Armendia, Darlene  P. Campos, Stephen Briseño, Denise Adusei, and Tatiana Gardel.

To learn more about their work and upcoming projects, visit their website by clicking here.

This Year’s Most Educated Cities in America
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3D illustration of USA and North America from space at night with city lights showing human activity in United States

Cities want to attract highly educated workers to fuel their economic growth and tax revenues. Higher levels of education tend to lead to higher salaries.

Plus, the more that graduates earn, the more tax dollars they contribute over time, according to the Economic Policy Institute. In turn, educated people want to live somewhere where they will get a good return on their educational investment.

People also tend to marry others of the same educational level, which means that cities that already have a large educated population may be more attractive to people with degrees.

Not all highly educated people will flock to the same areas, though. Some may prefer to have many people with similar education levels around them for socializing and career connections. Others may want to be a big fish in a little pond. Not every city will provide the same quality of life to those with higher education, either. In addition, the most educated cities could shift in the near future depending on how well cities deal with the current COVID-19 crisis and its impact on schooling.

To determine where the most educated Americans are putting their degrees to work, WalletHub compared the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas, or MSAs, across 11 key metrics. Our data set ranges from the share of adults aged 25 and older with a bachelor’s degree or higher to the quality of the public-school system to the gender education gap.

Most Educated Cities in USA

1          Ann Arbor, MI

2          San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA

3          Washington-Arlington-Alexandria, DC-VA-MD-WV

4          Durham-Chapel Hill, NC

5          San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA

6          Madison, WI

7          Boston-Cambridge-Newton, MA-NH

8          Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA

9          Austin-Round Rock, TX

10        Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT

11        Colorado Springs, CO

12        Raleigh, NC

13        Provo-Orem, UT

14        Denver-Aurora-Lakewood, CO

15        Trenton, NJ

16        Portland-South Portland, ME

17        Tallahassee, FL

18        Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA

19        Minneapolis-St. Paul-Bloomington, MN-WI

20        San Diego-Carlsbad, CA

21        Albany-Schenectady-Troy, NY

22        Baltimore-Columbia-Towson, MD

23        Lansing-East Lansing, MI

24        Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford, CT

25        Lexington-Fayette, KY

Source: wallethub.com

CSU picks 1st Mexican-American to lead the nation’s largest 4-year public university system
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dr joseph castro standing in front of school building smiling arms folded

Dr. Joseph Castro was named Wednesday as the new chancellor of the California State University system, becoming the first Mexican-American and native Californian to lead the nation’s largest four-year public university system.

CSU’s Board of Trustees announced the appointment of Castro, who is currently president of CSU Fresno, on the final day of its meeting Wednesday.

He will replace Chancellor Timothy White, who has held the post since 2012. White had announced he would retire in June but delayed stepping down to help steer the 23-campus system through the coronavirus pandemic.

“I am truly grateful for and excited about this unique and wonderful opportunity, and I look forward to working with the talented faculty, staff and presidents of the 23 campuses as well the Board of Trustees and executives and staff at the Chancellor’s Office to further increase achievement for our 482,000 students,” Castro said in a press release.

Before becoming president of Fresno State, Castro previously served the University of California (UC) in several roles, including the Vice Chancellor of Student Academic Affairs and as a professor of Family and Community Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco.

He attended the University of California, Berkeley, where he received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in political science and then later obtained his Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Castro will begin his new job in January, with an annual salary of $625,000.

Lillian Kimbell, chairwoman of the board of trustees, called Castro a “passionate and effective advocate” for students, the campus and the CSU system.

“He is a leader who inspires greatness in students, faculty and in the broader community. He is the right leader for the California State University in our current circumstance and for our future,” she said in a statement.

Continue on to ABC 7 News to read the complete article.

Study Suggests Business Schools Aren’t Drawing Latinx Students
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Hispanic Business Student Association Group Photo

By Kevin Singer, Matthew J. Mayhew, Alyssa N. Rockenbach, Laura S. Dahl

Michael Resendez is a rising senior at the University of Houston majoring in finance. “The University has a 32 percent Latinx student population overall, but this isn’t true of college of business,” he remarks.

“It’s daunting to go into business,” Michael continues. “You see a lot of investment banks and accounting firms pushing for diversity, but you don’t really see yourself there. When you think of business, you think of Mark Zuckerburg, Jeff Bezos, you know, insert a White person’s name. Then you think about, what does my dad do? What do people in my community do? There’s discomfort [seeking a business degree] in the Latinx community because of a lack of familiarity,” he explains.

What Michael is describing can be confirmed by findings from our study: Business schools aren’t successfully drawing Latinx college students after they’ve started college.

In partnership with the Interfaith Youth Core, North Carolina State, and Ohio State University, our study, IDEALS, followed students from over 120 colleges and universities through four years of college (2015–2019). As part of our focus on how students navigate richly diverse college environments, we asked students at the beginning of their first year of college, and again at the end of their fourth year, about their planned academic major.

A graph showing that 34.5% of Latinx students from 2015 to 2019 entered the science, engineering, and mathematics field while 60.7% go into social science  and education.  Only 1.2% of students went into business.
Where Undecided Latino/a/x Students End Up (2015-2019)

We discovered that of the roughly 50 percent of Latinx students that changed their major during college, none of them changed their major to business. Furthermore, of the 16 percent of Latinx students who entered college undecided about their major, only one student went on to choose a major in business.

Latinx students, and especially those who are first in their families to go to college (i.e. first generation), may not feel that majoring in business is a viable option for them. Michael Resendez admitted he was fortunate to be a third-generation college student preceded by his father and grandfather, as well as an aunt who works as an accountant. Their experience familiarized him with the different majors he could pursue before he stepped foot on campus.

First-generation Latinx students, Michael explained, are more likely to remain undecided for as long as they can, or funnel into majors that are more common among their peers like those in the liberal arts or education. Making the jump into business is a risk they may not be comfortable taking, especially if no one in their family can relate to their interests or provide support. Our study confirms that of the Latinx students who entered college undecided, the majority (61

percent) eventually chose to enter the social sciences and education, while the majority of those who changed majors (53 percent) moved to social science, education, or the humanities.

Michael insists that colleges and universities have work to do. “It should be normalized for Latinx students to be introduced to all the majors and schools available to them. It shouldn’t take three generations to see that there are opportunities in college to learn about money management and lucrative career opportunities that would service Latinx students and their communities,” he said.

A bar graph showing where Latinx students transferred to when switching majors. Business has a 40% transfer out rate and a 0% transfer in.
Percent of Latino/a/x Students Who Transferred Out and Transferred Into Majors (2015-2019)

Exposing Latinx students to opportunities to study business is just one part of the equation. An important question remains: Will business schools be welcoming places for them?

One glaring issue that business schools must address is the lack of Latinx representation in their full-time faculty. As of 2016, only 2.6 percent of full-time faculty at America’s business schools were Hispanic, while 75 percent were white. This percentage isn’t growing; from 2013 to 2017, the number of Hispanic tenured faculty only rose by two-thirds of a percent. In June, Harvard Business School Dean Nitin Nohria issued an apology for the lack of minority representation in their faculty.

“Ultimately, proliferating diversity among faculty is another way to generate more diverse student populations, who eventually lead organizations. Exposure to these different backgrounds of teachers opens up the minds of all students,” writes Nunzio Quacquarelli, founder and CEO of Qs, an online resource hub for aspiring business students.

However, even if a business school is perceived to be welcoming, Latinx students may feel more comfortable in other majors where they feel their accomplishments are merit-based, rather than lauded because of their minority status. “I absolutely sympathize with any Latino who treads a fine line between wanting their accomplishments to be 100 percent merit-based with no association as a diversity candidate versus wanting to be proud of their identity and community,” writes Harvard Business School student Karla Mendez. She encourages Latinx students entering business schools to embrace their Latinx identity and understand how it makes them unique in the workforce. She notes that Latinx business school groups are helpful in this regard.

Michael Resendez is part of the Hispanic Business Student Association at the University of Houston, a student organization providing Latinx students with community support and resources to excel in business school and beyond. “Cultivating a familia within a university, a safe space to succeed, ask questions, learn how to do college together, and learn how to network is critical,” Michael explained. “I’ve seen DACA and first-generation Latinx students in our group pass the CPA, get full-time job offers, and gain acceptance into Masters programs.” What is most exciting for Michael, however, is seeing these students come back and reconnect with the group in order to help others succeed.

Still, Michael foresees new hurdles for Latinx students. The COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a slew of business internship offers being rescinded, on top of hiring freezes and massive job losses in the business sector. “The Latinx community is risk averse; they tend to pursue what is safe and what they know will support themselves and their families,” Michael explained, which he believes could make Latinx students apprehensive about pursuing a business major in the short-term. Furthermore, Michael believes that students are less convinced they need a degree in business to reach their goals. “In order to accomplish great feats in business, you don’t have to be a business major, and I think a lot of people are learning that,” he said.

Latinx college students are growing at a rapid pace, reaching a record high in 2017, according to Pew Research. Soon, it is estimated that one-fifth of college students will be Latinx, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Business schools should consider if they are prepared to serve this growing population, and if there are clear pathways available to Latinx

students who entered college undecided on their major, or Latinx students desiring to change their major to business.

Michael sees a bright future for Latinx students in business schools. “Once you educate Latinx students and make them feel comfortable in business school spaces, you’re going to see their attraction toward those spaces increase too. These students come from hard-working families. They are going to be successful and have a long-spanning career.”


Kevin Singer (@kevinsinger0) is a PhD student in higher education at North Carolina State University and a research associate for IDEALS.

Dr. Matthew J. Mayhew (@MattJMayhewPhD) is the William Ray and Marie Adamson Flesher professor of educational administration at Ohio State University and co-principal investigator of IDEALS.

Dr. Alyssa N. Rockenbach is the alumni distinguished graduate professor of higher education at North Carolina State University and co-principal investigator of IDEALS.

Dr. Laura S. Dahl is an assistant professor of education at North Dakota State University.

Navajo Roots Trailblaze a Path to Mars
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Headshot of Aaron Yazzie

Aaron Yazzie continues to set his sights higher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. With a Diné (Navajo) background, he earned his Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering from Stanford University, and as a Mechanical Engineer with a focus on Sample Acquisition and Handling at NASA, Yazzie designs mechanisms for acquiring geological samples from other planets.

Hispanic Network Magazine had a chance to talk with Yazzie about his Native American background and how it influenced his journey to NASA.

HNM: Can you tell us about your background and journey to becoming a mechanical engineer at NASA?

Yazzie: I was born in Tuba City, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. I was born to parents who were 1st generation college students in their families—families that have had traditional Diné upbringings. Their first language was Dinébizaad (Navajo Language), their first known homes were our traditional Diné Hooghan (Navajo Hogan Houses/Dwellings). They learned the English language in elementary school, where they were the first generation in their family forced to attend school by the US government. From that unique beginning, and from that early-childhood culture shock and trauma, both my mother and father made it through an educational system rigged against them, graduated high school, and went to college—the first in their families. My mother earned her degree in education—she became a high school level math teacher. And my father received a degree in civil engineering—he became an engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. Both of them have been pioneers of Indigenous achievement in higher education and STEM careers. They may not be known and recognized by the larger Native community as STEM pioneers, but they are certainly my inspiration and the trailblazers to my career at NASA.

I grew up in Holbrook, AZ, a small border town to the Navajo Reservation. My brothers and I grew up, and attended school in the Holbrook School District, where we all graduated proud “Holbrook Roadrunners.”
Growing up, I didn’t have any examples or role models who went to prestigious private schools or went on to work at places like NASA. I knew I wanted to transcend the expectations of my family and my hometown, which is why I always strove for the highest grades in school, participated in all the school leadership positions and sought out all the high school summer enrichment programs. These are the programs that ended up transforming me from a self-doubting minority student into a solid college applicant with some awareness of my self-worth. They gave me the confidence to apply to, and to eventually be accepted to, Stanford University—an event that changed the course of my life.

Making the transition from small-town public school to prestigious private college was a big challenge. Nothing about my time at Stanford was easy, whether it was the rigorous academics or the constant financial struggle. Not to mention being separated from a tight-knit home community like the Navajo community for the first time. I was forced to learn quickly how to adapt, persevere, and overcome many challenges during my time at Stanford. Thankfully, there was a supportive community of BIPOC students who were going through the same challenges as I was. We all supported each other and made it through—not only graduating, but each of us moving on to do incredible things.

I was hired by NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory mid-way through my senior year at Stanford. I was heavily involved with the American Indian Science and Engineering Society from the time that I was a high school freshman. I grew from there to be president of my high school AISES chapter, then became the Stanford AISES chapter president, and then National AISES Region 2 Student Representative. Along the way I received a 4-year scholarship from AISES to attend Stanford, and while there, I received 2 NASA internships through AISES. One placed me at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center and one at NASA Glenn Research Center. By the time I was ready to look for a job, AISES had helped give me a college education, 2 NASA internships, and a job opportunity with one of the most prestigious engineering institutions in the world. I met the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory recruiter at the AISES National Conference in 2007. From that interaction, I received an on-lab interview, and was hired soon after. I have been working as a Mechanical Engineer at NASA JPL for 12 years and counting.

HNM: Tell us about your significant milestone – when NASA’s InSight lander touched the surface of Mars. What were you feeling, and how was that experience?

Yazzie: NASA InSight was the first mission I worked on where I was tasked with leading the design and delivery of space flight hardware. Up until this point in my career, I supported missions as a test engineer or support engineer. When InSight successfully launched into space, it was the first time something I designed—something I touched with my own hands—went into space. And when it landed on Mars, it was the first time I sent something to another planet. I was completely thrilled, and overwhelmed with emotions when I saw the first set of pictures of my hardware on Mars. Considering where I came from, this achievement was monumental!
Being an engineer from a remarkably underrepresented community in STEM fields, it is a constant struggle to overcome imposter syndrome. I did not think I was a thriving or even adequate engineer at NASA. It’s a shame that it took an achievement like sending something to Mars to convince me that I belonged in my field, and that I belonged at NASA.

HNM: Can you tell us more about “Mars 2020”? What is the mission? How has the experience been?

Yazzie: Currently, I am the lead engineer for the Mars 2020 Drill Bits. We are sending the Mars 2020 Rover “Perseverance” to drill rock samples and save them in hermetically sealed tubes, so that we can eventually bring those samples back to Earth in future missions to determine if life exists on Mars. Additionally, this mission will study the history of rocky planets and conduct experiments that will pave the way for humans to travel to Mars. It’s really incredible to be part of another historic NASA mission. I’ve grown so much as an engineer—now sending my second flight hardware to Mars, but also being able to lead a team and be a mentor for the first time in my career. I’m very proud to have successfully delivered my parts to the rover, and very excited for the Mars 2020 launch in July 2020.

HNM: How has your Navajo background influenced your career?

Yazzie: Coming from an Indigenous background, I have a deep appreciation for the advancements of my family and ancestors before me. Considering that Native Americans weren’t granted basic civil rights in this country until 1968, it is remarkable that our people have not only overcome this historic oppression, but have been able to thrive and advance. I reflect on my own family, where as recent as one generation ago, my parents spoke no English, but learned in a small amount of time that education was the modern way to advance their people. My own academic achievements and this career I have been fortunate to achieve has all been made possible by the advancements of the Navajo people who have come before me. And it is for them that I use my privilege and platform to continue on.

HNM: What advice would you give to Native Americans wanting to pursue engineering?

Yazzie: Be resilient. It’s almost guaranteed that along your STEM journey, you will look around and not see very many others like you, from backgrounds like your own. But please understand that there are people in all directions of your life that are there to help you. Those before you, who want to help you succeed through mentorship and wisdom. Those beside you, who are on your same journey. And those behind you, who see you as an inspiration and role model. Recognizing that you have a full circle of support and inspiration will help you achieve any and all of your goals.

When it Comes to Advancing Latinos, Adam Rodriguez Gives 100 Percent
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Adam Rodriguez at the "Empire" Series Season 2 New York Premiere

By Sarah Mosqueda

Adam Rodriguez is 100 percent that guy.

That guy can be an actor, writer, director, husband or father; he is always trying to give each role 100 percent.

“The best way to learn is by giving a 100 percent of yourself, whether that is in a relationship you are in, your job or as a parent,” says Rodriguez. “The only way to really learn from something is by committing yourself to it. Because if you are only putting half of yourself in, I am sorry, I know it’s cliché, but that is all you are going to get out of it…”

Rodriguez says dedicating himself fully to his acting career, to the advancement of Latinos in Hollywood and to his family is how he’s allowed himself to learn, grow and find success.

“When I learned to give that same 100 percent of myself, I wanted to give it to everything,” he pauses and then amends, “actually maybe I want to give my family more. Maybe I give them 110 percent,” he laughs.

Where it all Started

Rodriguez was born in Yonkers, New York, to a Puerto Rican/Cuban family. His father, Ramon Rodriguez, serves as an executive at the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and helped him advance his acting career early on.

“I moved to LA when I was 21,” says Rodriguez, “I had been doing some extra work and working in theater, trying to find my way into the business for about three years. My father had been in the military with a guy who ended up as a technical advisor for a show called NYPD Blue.”

Through a series of events, his father got in touch with his connection, Bill Clark, which led to an audition for Rodriguez.

“He gave me an opportunity that might have taken me a few more years to get. I will always be grateful to him for that. I got a show called Brooklyn South, and that was really the beginning of my career.”

He followed Brooklyn South with roles on Roswell, Felicity, Law & Order and eventually CSI: Miami, where he joined the main cast and even had the opportunity to write and direct an episode. He has appeared in Jane the Virgin and Empire. In 2016, he took on the role of Luke Alvez on Criminal Minds, where he stayed until the show ended this year.

“I was there for three seasons and I had a great time with that group,” he says. “We really bonded and we all really understood how lucky we were to be there.”

Adam Rodriguez poses with the Magic Mike XXL cast
Adam Rodriguez poses with the Magic Mike XXL cast

Rodriguez hasn’t only made his mark in television. He has appeared in music videos like Jennifer Lopez’s “If You Had My Love” and films including Magic Mike XXL and Tyler Perry’s I Can Do Bad All By Myself.

“I loved playing the character of Sandino in Tyler Perry’s movie,” he says, “I felt like he had something really important to say.”

Penny Dreadful: A Game-Changing Role

This past spring, Rodriguez stars as Raul Vega on Showtime’s Penny Dreadful: City of Angels, a supernatural crime drama set in 1938 Los Angeles. The show focuses on the political and social tension, the rise of radio evangelism, and the powerful forces that attempt to pull a Mexican-American family apart.

Starring on the show is a game-changer for Rodriguez. He feels a kinship with the character of Raul. “I really believe in everything Raul believes in,” says Rodriguez.

Of Penny Dreadful, Rodriguez stated, in an interview with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith, “This is the most incredible production I’ve ever worked out. There are some important themes that people really need to pay attention to right now more than ever.”

“This show takes place in 1938 and here we are 92 years later and we’re dealing with all the same challenges without having made very much progress in almost 100 years,” Rodriguez continued. “We’re dealing with compromising people who we believe have lesser value than us and we come up with every reason under the sun to decide why they have lesser value. They have a different socioeconomic class, different skin color, different ethnic origin, you name it. We do that as human beings, and it makes it easy to really dehumanize people and move them out of the way for whatever we think out grand cause is.”

Creating Space for Latinos

Miami Walk of Fame-Adam Rodriguez
Adam Rodriguez at the Miami Walk of Fame

Aligning himself with characters with a message is important to Rodriguez. And getting involved in writing and directing, like he did on CSI: Miami and later Criminal Minds, is one way he is making an effort to create space for Latinos in Hollywood.

“I think that we [Latinos] have to increase our presence on the creative side,” he says. “We have to grow writers and directors and executives and people that become people of influence within the system. We can’t expect a business that is not run by us to all of sudden decide they want to include us. We have to do the work to get in there and make ourselves important.”

And Rodriguez says we have to support each other.

“When we do get into those positions of power, when we are creating the content we want to see; we have to show up to consume it,” he says, “We have to show up for ourselves. For instance, a show like Penny Dreadful comes out, we have to show up and watch it.”

Rodriguez says the show as a whole is tackling big and timely issues.

“I really love that the show is addressing some things that were very relevant in the news cycle before COVID hit in terms of who we want to consider to be American,” says Rodriguez. “And how you are treated when you are considered not to be American, even though you very well may be… I was really happy to participate in telling this story.”

Flourishing Family

Another role Rodriguez has flourished in is fatherhood.

“Becoming a husband and father more than any other event, has changed my life,” he says.

He has three children with his wife, Grace Gail. Their newest addition, Bridgemont Bernard Rodriguez, was born on March 16, 2020 amid California’s stay-at-home order because of COVID-19. While Rodriguez admits it hasn’t been easy, it has afforded him more family time.

“I am sure it is a thing in many cultures, but I know it is a thing in Latin cultures, where you stay in for the first 30 days with a new baby. So, we would have been doing some version of that anyways,” he says. “I have enjoyed this time tremendously. I don’t know that I will ever get this much time to be with my family and have no one expecting me anywhere else…I have really chosen to look for the silver lining.”

Adam Rodriguez & Wife pose together at entertainment event
Adam Rodriguez & Wife

Growing through Positivity

Looking for the positive angle is one way Rodriguez has been able grow.

“I have learned something in every single job. Some of things that I have been in that were bad, that I wouldn’t consider high quality that I have been a part of, I have learned plenty doing those,” he says. “And I have learned plenty doing things that I thought were extraordinary. The challenge of constantly working to get better and never letting the ego get in the way of me learning – that is a challenge to me every day.”

Which he says goes back to giving it all you’ve got.

“You are not going to get the full lesson out of it unless you are giving 100 percent of yourself.”

How Does the Black Lives Matter Movement Affect Latinos?
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woman's hands holding sign that reads latinos and blacks united

The Latino community has been standing in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. LULAC Chief Executive Officer Sindy M. Benavides and UnidosUS Senior Vice President of Policy and Advocacy Eric Rodriguez shared their thoughts with HISPANIC Network Magazine (HNM) on the Black Lives Matter movement, Latinos’ participation, and the changes they hope to see.

HNM: What were your thoughts when you first heard what happened to George Floyd?

Benavides: Horrified, deeply saddened, but unfortunately not surprised to learn that yet another criminal cop had taken the life of a person of color. America is built upon systemic oppression and discrimination, systems that activists have tried to bring to light and fight against for decades. When we heard of what happened to George Floyd, and when we watched the video of police officers watching their colleague murder a man and refuse to stop him, we were distraught over the state of the police force and the loss of life. We share our thoughts and prayers with George Floyd’s family, as well as the family and communities of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Andres Guardado, Carlos Ingram-Lopez, Erik Salgado, and the hundreds of others who have lost their lives to a discriminatory policing system.

Rodriguez: I was horrified and shocked by George Floyd’s murder. Police killings of unarmed minorities is not a new story, and anyone who is Black or Brown is likely familiar with the type of racial profiling and hyper aggression by law enforcement that played out in that episode. But this incident transpired in daylight, surrounded by people filming it on their smart phones, and with other police officers standing by watching while a handcuffed Black man on the ground is slowly incapacitated and ultimately killed by an officer before their eyes. That’s something most Americans do not see every day.

HNM: What are your thoughts on the policy changes happening? Do you feel they are affecting genuine and lasting change?

Benavides: We need to urgently implement policy changes at the local and national level to dismantle police brutality. LULAC fully believes that these changes, combined with the work of thousands of activists, can help enact lasting change in this deeply flawed society. Policy initiatives like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act are a good start in the long battle of eradicating policy brutality and addressing the variety of issues that take the lives of our Black community in this country. This is a good start, but much more needs to happen both at the federal and local levels for true change to be achieved. We have also joined efforts by progressive allies such as the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights and support the following federal reforms:

  1. Prohibit racial profiling with robust data collection on police-community encounters and law enforcement activities. Data should capture all demographic categories and be disaggregated.
  2. Prohibit all maneuvers that restrict the flow of blood or oxygen to the brain, including neck holds, chokeholds, and similar excessive force, deeming the use of such force a federal civil rights violation.
  3. Require a federal standard that use of force be reserved for only when necessary as a last resort after exhausting reasonable options, and incentivize states to implement this standard; require the use of de-escalation techniques, and the duty to intervene; ban the use of force as a punitive measure or means of retaliation against individuals who only verbally confront officers, or against individuals who pose a danger only to themselves; and require all officers to accurately report all uses of force.
  4. Prohibit the use of no-knock warrants, especially for drug searches.

Rodriguez: The demonstrations and protests have opened up the possibility for real social change. The death of George Floyd, and other recent incidents of racism caught on video, has also helped to open the eyes of many Americans about the many ways that racism shows up in our society. One result is the cross-racial solidarity we have witnessed among the protesters and the advocates calling for change. Another result is the heightened consciousness we see on display across the country. For instance, the historical symbols of racism and prejudice in America are now under intense public scrutiny. Many more Americans seem ready to acknowledge that the heroes and flags of the Confederacy belong in American history books and museums rather than displayed and honored in public places, or on government buildings or civic institutions. And in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death, how many more Americans today know what Juneteenth is?

Despite this, when it comes to public policy, I am less hopeful. There are few examples in our history when widespread justice for racial and ethnic minorities transpired absent a strong federal role. The power of the federal government has in most cases been necessary to break up the culture and practice of racism that fossilized in cities, states, and within our institutions.

Yet, we certainly cannot stop fighting for change in political leadership and federal laws. Our CEO and President Janet Murguía contributed to President Obama’s 21st Century Policing Task Force, which identified recommendations for local and state authorities that included community policing and accountability measures. We also support policy changes working their way through Congress, and there is a good chance that some cities will be able to put in place some new practices that can help. Finally, UnidosUS is registering, educating and mobilizing voters this fall in what stands to be a pivotal election.

HNM: How have Latinos stood in solidarity with the Black lives matter movement?

Benavides: Police brutality is an issue that affects both Black and Brown communities. Something that is often missed is that under the ethnicity of Hispanic, we have members who identify as Black, who may be Afro-Latino, or mixed. That is why many Latino organizations and Latino leaders have come out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, including LULAC. We are also working with our councils to ensure they also have the tools to work with their local elected to implement local reforms. LULAC has also created a microsite on our website to make sure that we are providing resources and information to the Latino community on how it can support the Black Lives Movement.

Rodriguez: Latinos are speaking out, protesting and marching, joining advocacy efforts to push for needed policy changes and encouraging self-reflection about how anti-Black racism and colorism shows up within the Latino community. The Latino community, which is about 58 million strong, has also felt the blows of prejudice and inequality. Nearly 25 percent of Latinos identify as Afro-Latino and experience both racial and ethnic discrimination in their daily lives.

The same unchecked police power that has taken the lives of Black Americans is used to separate our families, put children in cages and racially profile us. This broken system has led too many Latinos to fear law enforcement, with deadly consequences—as in the tragic cases of Andres Guardado in Los Angeles and Carlos Adrian Ingram-Lopez in Tucson.

So, our solidarity with the Black community is rooted in the shared lived experience of facing racism and oppression that harms all communities. Most Latinos do not just empathize with the experience of Black Americans who are abused and targeted by police, but they also identify with that experience.

HNM: How has the Black Lives Matter impacted the Hispanic community?

Benavides: Black Lives Matter has shown the power of sustained grassroots organizing, a great model for the Latino community to follow. We have learned that change takes time and this moment has been 400+ years in the making. Most importantly, we know that their success is our success and that it will benefit all communities who are targeted and marginalized. And, in this process, BLM has spurred a national conversation among Latinos around anti-blackness. It has forced us to look into the mirror and acknowledge our own shortcomings. I think this is a valuable conversation that is sorely needed and we have and continue to learn from it.

Rodriguez: The Black Lives Matter movement has brought necessary attention to the pervasiveness of police abuse and bias that results in the death of Black Americans and the lack of accountability and injustice that follows. The movement has given many Latinos, who have also been harmed, aggrieved or offended by police practices, a voice and a means of expressing their frustration in a way that advances social change. The movement has sparked needed conversations that can push state and local governments to reinvest in their communities in a way that enhances public safety while helping residents thrive economically and socially.

HNM: How can Latinos participate in this movement?

LULAC CEO Sindy Benavides headshot
LULAC Chief Executive Officer Sindy M. Benavides

Benavides: Latinx people can participate in the movement by being physically present in support of this movement. And using our voices to practice proper allyship in this time of need and centering Black voices in everything you do. Acknowledge your privileges and make an effort to learn about the Black Lives Matter experience. We encourage everybody in our Latinx community to use their voices for good and support Black voices in all of their actions. ‘Tu lucha es mi lucha’ should ring true to our hearts as we strive to build a more inclusive democracy where all of us are equal and treated equally in all aspects of society.

Rodriguez: Latinos have long been in the fight to end systemic racism and discrimination that manifests across our society and filters through the private sector and our government systems. Eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health, housing, education, and voting through the courts or Congress have been important ways to tackle structural racism.

Right now, the Congress is debating police reforms. Latinos can call their senators and demand that Leader McConnell bring the Justice in Policing Act to a vote. They can call members of Congress and demand annual congressional oversight hearings to review the status of the implementation of the Death in Custody Reporting Act to compel the collection, reporting, and analysis of all deaths, by race and gender, that occur in law enforcement custody.

Those who are moved to organize and express their concerns about the status quo can do many other things, such as join peaceful marches and protests, demand accountability from political leaders, fight for policy changes at the local level and support and donate to organizations at the forefront of the fight, like Black Lives Matter, NAACP, Color of Change, UndocuBlack, RaceForward and many others.

Latinos can contact their police departments, city council and/or Attorneys General and demand meaningful investigations and prosecutions of incidents involving abuse of force against racial and ethnic minorities. They can vote with these concerns in mind.

And most of all, for those Latinos who, upon self-reflection, recognize that they have been too silent and accepting of anti-Blackness within their circle of family, friends, neighbors and co-workers, it is time to take responsibility and act. If we are to dismantle systemic factors that enable the scourge of anti-Blackness, colorism and race-based violence to grow, we must start by healing ourselves and preparing for the hard work and courageous conversations ahead.

Real Estate Developer Brings Diversity, Cultural Immersion To Early Education In DC Area With Tierra Encantada Business
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Mustafa Durrani seated at home office table wearing a suit and tie and looking confident

(Alexandria, VA) – For minority business owner and real estate developer Mustafa Durrani, bringing opportunity to area residents has long been a passion.

The George Washington University and Cambridge graduate has built market rate and affordable homes in the Washington, DC, metro region as a successful real estate developer. Today, he is expanding his business with plans to bring three Tierra Encantada Spanish-immersion preschool and day care centers to local residents of Northern Virginia. Opening in mid 2021, the centers will provide children ages six weeks to six years of age with a bilingual curriculum designed to foster early cognitive development and respect for diversity.

Durrani chose Tierra Encantada for its award-winning concept, experienced team and high demand, a unique combination that he knows firsthand is key to success. The franchise empowers the entrepreneur to join the fast-growing early childhood education market with his own Tierra Encantada centers, while providing the expertise and support to help Durrani succeed.

“I saw solid opportunity in Tierra Encantada’s concept, and the value of cultural immersion and diversity in early education. There is a constant demand for quality education and resources for parents and families. Tierra Encantada is among the best in the country,” said Durrani.

The popular early education franchise is also a natural fit for Durrani’s real estate investment and development expertise. As a lifelong resident of Virginia, it taps both his expert insight about local area communities and experience in bringing new development to the region.

“I will maintain my development business and the Tierra Encantada franchises in the DC metro area,” added Durrani. “I think the model will be very successful here.”

Bilingual and cultural immersion childcare is also at the forefront of where the market is going, enabling Durrani to enter a powerful niche at a key, early stage in the category. As a minority business owner, he knows the value and opportunity in America’s dynamic cultural diversity and multilingual population. Furthermore, Mustafa is a father of three young children and realizes the value of being multi-lingual at a very young age for a child’s development.  Finally, with Tierra Encantada, Mustafa, an advocate of Organic Food will serve only Organic meals and snacks to all his students.

“I plan to start with the three new locations in the region, and then expand to additional communities in the next five years,” added Durrani.

Tierra Encantada is the leader in Spanish immersion early education. For franchise information, visit franchise.tierraencantada.com.

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