Last week, I had a great opportunity to interview Maria Cardona on her involvement with immigration reform and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education through inSPIRE STEM USA, an organization comprised of companies and leaders that push for STEM education in schools as well as reforming the US Immigration system at the same time through STEM education.
Maria Cardona served as a Senior Advisor to the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign as well as leading her Hispanic Outreach team. Maria also served a key role within the Obama for America campaign appearing on various national news shows. As a former Senior Vice President for the New Democrat Network (NDN) and Director of NDN’s Hispanic Project, Maria lead NDN’s $6 million initiative to communicate effectively to Hispanics across the country. This undertaking was the largest ever effort to conduct dedicated research and polling, develop effective messages geared toward Latinos, and to promote Democratic values and identity in the Latinos community through Spanish language and bilingual advertising.
Throughout the interview I was very impressed by her strong passion to improve the immigration system here in the United States, which has always been a heavy topic of debate in current politics. I also considered her strong pursuit for STEM education to be vital, especially starting with young students.
Maria wants both Democrats and Republicans to consider an innovative path where immigrants can receive US Visas through STEM education. There are young immigrants that are passionate about the sciences and engineering; to encourage them to study here in the US will definitely improve the workforce in these fields and help us stay competitive with the rest of the world. What do you think about Maria’s goals? Check out the interview below.
What got you interested in initiating the inSPIRE STEM USA?
Latino activists in Latino politics brought two concerns within the Latino community, immigration and education. Latinos today are very involved in technology and in terms of technology they actually over index. The drop out rate for young Latinos is 50% and that is tremendous. We need to get children to be educated in the STEM fields because a person with a STEM degree actually earns more than a person with a non STEM degree. There are job opportunities everywhere and the US is not keeping up with demand. In order to mitigate the drop out rate we need to inspire Congress to push any legislation to fund STEM education. With the ISquared Bill, we hope to solve two issues: Fill the demand for STEM workers and allowing young immigrants to stay so their education can help contribute to our US society. I believe that there’s an opportunity to achieve both.
Do you see the Department of Education STEM being the leader of promoting this program or should local governments, individual schools and corporations take part in promoting the program?
I believe that both the public and private sector should be involved in the program because our competitiveness within the STEM field is at stake. I see that high schools have proven programs that encourage student to pursue STEM degrees, we should continue promoting STEM programs at grade school, high school and college levels.
Do you hope that the program not only bring highly skilled immigrants and entrepreneurs to the US but also attract Latin American based start-up companies and other tech related businesses?
With this high skilled worker program , we hope to change the negative Latino stereotype. By attracting more immigrant students we show people that Latin American students can achieve technology learning at any level and perhaps be role models for all young students.
I do see an opportunity to attract start-up entrepreneurship and investments not only in the US but in our own hemisphere. Let’s look to our Latino communities and focus on being partners not competitors.
Do you think this program will help break the common negative stereotypes that are often portrayed in the media and political arena?
This is one of the basic reasons to change the mindset. Our kids can be this country’s future innovators and CEOs. I believe that alot of times we also negatively stereotype ourselves, partly due to generational and cultural elements. It’s up to parents to push their kids to achieving more and be successful.
Do you have other future goals that you wish to accomplish within the inSPIRE STEM USA program? If so, what are they?
One of my goals is to bring in national Hispanic groups as well as local Hispanic groups to join and help encourage children to reach for the opportunities that are available to them and by inviting successful Latinos such as astronaut Jose Hernandez to be spokespersons for inSPIRE STEM USA, they can help amplify the message and push for more STEM education in schools.
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