Young Latinas Leading the Future in STEAM

Posted on 11/19/2019 @ 11:46 AM

By Melissa Cossio, Program Coordinator

2019 marked a significant year for the partnership between LULAC and Spectrum. Together, they established the Latina LEADS program in Austin, Texas, an impactful initiative for Hispanic middle school-aged girls designed to increase their exposure to STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics) fields of study and careers.

Although women have made significant strides in education and economic security, statistics show that Hispanic women still lag behind compared to their counterparts in STEAM fields. According to the National Science Foundation, while women comprise 25% of the science and technology workforce, Hispanic women represent only 3% of this workforce. LULAC recognizes that in order to prepare our young women to break into in-demand tech careers, we must start early. This means promoting better career opportunities through education and mentoring at a young age. Latina LEADS puts its focus on middle school Hispanic female students as they are in a formative phase in their lives and are more susceptible to adopt a growth mindset.

“This program is a dream in the making to expand the opportunities young women leaders need to build a solid foundation in the STEAM fields. We need the minds of bright young women and the support of family to transform our communities. Through this initiative, Spectrum and LULAC are thrilled to support efforts to increase Latina representation in STEAM fields of study and careers and we are grateful to have all our participants along in this long-term journey,” says Sindy M. Benavides, LULAC’s Chief Executive Officer.

The program provides participants with the opportunity to take part in STEAM-focused workshops, tech-industry job shadowing, mentorship opportunities, access to academic and career guidance, leadership development, and more. The 2019 pilot cohort welcomed three partner organizations to implement the program. The recipients included Latinitas, LNESC-Austin, and Sarah Lively Middle School PTA.

For more information about the Latina LEADS program, visit

Latinitas - Austin, TX

Latinitas, whose mission is to “empower all girls to innovate through media and technology,” serves more than 3,000 girls across Texas every year through their after-school clubs, workshops, and conferences. They recognize the challenges faced by Latinas and the lack of inclusivity in STEAM fields of study and careers and is working adamantly to break down those barriers. The success of their programs has been demonstrated by their alumni high school graduation rate of 93%. In addition, they graduate 50% more STEM majors than the national average for girls.

Latinitas joined the Latina LEADS family with a program that incorporates weekly lessons in coding, game and app design, 360 filmmaking, virtual and augmented reality production, and drone technology in addition to mentorship opportunities with professionals in various STEM sectors. Their culturally sensitive programming will not only teach girls important tools to become knowledgeable of the many STEAM fields, but will also deliver lessons in cultural history, identity, empowerment, social and emotional learning.

"An opportunity like LULAC and Spectrum's Latina LEADS program let's an organization like Latinitas do what we do best - teach technology to girls on their terms" said Gabryella Desporte, Latinitas Program Coordinator. "We get frustrated when we hear that call to action that ‘girls of color need to get into tech' when we know they are and they are good at it. They, though, need to see mentors like themselves teaching it and projects that speak to their desire to improve the world or support their community. Latinitas creates that environment."

To learn more about Latinitas, visit Follow them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for the latest program updates!

LULAC National Educational Service Centers, Inc. - Austin, TX

LNESC-Austin’s mission is to “elevate the student experience.” Through their mission, they strive to help students achieve academically while also giving them the chance to travel beyond the classroom to discover their strengths, and use those strengths to excel at the university and their future careers. Serving over 500 primarily low-income and first-generation students each year, LNESC-Austin offers college readiness resources including SAT prep, FAFSA guidance, college applications assistance, and scholarship awareness along with career guidance services such as resume building workshops, mock interviews, networking and job seeking tips, industry professionals as guest speakers, and a variety of field trips. LNESC-Austin’s success is reflected in their 100% graduation rate amongst their senior students during the 2018 fiscal year.

"We are so thankful and enthusiastic to have this opportunity for LNESC-Austin because of all the young women's lives we are impacting. This program provides girls the opportunity to have a role model whose skin tone resembles their skin tone and is there to empower them and show them they can accomplish their dreams no matter how hard it is or what their background may be. That is why this program matters, we spark the fire within them that they might have never realized they had," shares Magaly Maldonado Lopez, Program Coordinator for the Latina LEADS program at LNESC-Austin.

Their Latina LEADS program is guided through a focus on foundational robotics. During the initial workshops, students learn the basics of robotics before proceeding to a more challenging curriculum. The fun-focused workshops help students develop critical thinking skills, build their self-esteem and empower them to become more involved in STEAM-fields. In addition, LNESC-Austin is working with local universities and corporations to provide field trips and off-site workshops led by leaders in STEAM-industries such as Apple and Samsung.

To learn more about LNESC-Austin, visit Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest program updates!

Lively Middle School PTA

Sarah Lively Middle School has served the Austin, Texas community since its founding in 1886. It’s mission, “to provide educational opportunities that inspire global thinking and social responsibility,” is met through diverse course offerings and rich extracurricular activities. Serving over 1,000 students and their families, their advanced academic classes and dual-language programming provides students with the tools to develop cognitively.

“As a new PTA board member, I was happy to learn of the LULAC Latina LEADS grant opportunity. Situated in the heart of South Congress, Lively serves a diverse mix of student populations and communities. Winning this grant provides exposure to rich programming in science and science related careers through student activities, collaboration, and off-site field trip experiences. We have so many interested candidates and I can’t wait to kick this off!” shares Laurie Solis, Lively Middle School PTA President. Middle School’s PTA has developed a Latina LEADS program aimed to immerse participants in the world outdoors while providing exposure to a variety of career opportunities within the fields of STEAM. Their focus on conservation of natural resources, geology, and watersheds programming is carried out through weekly meetings, workshops, and nature field trips. Through their Latina LEADS program, Lively Middle School PTA is working to increase student engagement and attendance as well as interest in the natural world around us.

To learn more about Sarah Lively Middle School PTA, visit Follow them on Facebook and Twitter for the latest program updates!


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