Celebrating Hispanic heritage month

By Eleanor TaylorOctober 4, 2011

Honoring famous Hispanics in science and technology—like Nobel Prize winners Luis Walter Alvarez and Severo Ochoa, or astronauts Franklin Chang-Diaz and Ellen Ochoa—Argonne National Laboratory hosts an education and outreach day each year as part of Hispanic Heritage Month. The event encourages middle school students of Hispanic heritage to have fun while exploring the world of science.

The Argonne Hispanic-Latino Club hosted its 7th Annual Hispanic Educational Outreach Day on Oct. 4, 2011. Forty students from the United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) Charter School Network participated in hands-on demonstrations and attended scientific tours. They ended their day by presenting what they learned to their classmates and members of the organizing committee.

"The event is designed to spark their curiosity and encourage their interest in science and engineering," said Mike Kaminski, an Argonne scientist and president of Argonne's Hispanic-Latino Club. "Our mission is to show Hispanic children that there are several different types of science and technology career opportunities available to them and to help them see themselves in these roles."

The students extracted DNA from strawberries, learned about energy production, participated in lab activities and tour Argonne facilities. They also had an opportunity to meet with Hispanic scientists and engineers, ask questions and learn more about their work and careers.

"It is so important for the students to see role models they can identify with and experience opportunities like this first-hand," said Carlos Jaramillo, UNO's deputy chief of staff. "It makes a huge difference in motivating students to stay interested in science, technology, engineering and math and inspiring them to think about future career opportunities they would never have considered before."

The Argonne Hispanic-Latino Club also works with UNO to sponsor scholarships for high school and college students of Hispanic heritage who demonstrate a commitment to community and are enrolled in a science, engineering or mathematics curriculum.

"We want to do all we can to keep these kids interested and help them get the education they need," Kaminski said. "Diversity is an important element of innovation, and we can all benefit from their background and different ways of problem solving."

The United Neighborhood Organization (UNO) was established in 1984. It builds grass-roots leadership within Chicago's Hispanic neighborhoods. UNO challenges everyday residents to get involved and contribute to the advancement of the community. UNO manages the UNO Charter School Network, which includes 11 charter schools in Chicago, making it the second-largest charter holder and the largest direct-service charter school management firm in Illinois, as well as one of the nation's largest Hispanic-based charter managers. By the 2016 school year, UNO expects to operate 19 schools.