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US Hispanics not Keeping Up with Digital Technology - 2002-10-19

The Hispanic population in the United States, soon to be the largest minority group in the country, is not keeping up with technology advancement and higher learning. But, educators and some big names in the hi-tech business are doing something about it.

Students, parents, teachers, community leaders and technology company representatives recently came together at a public school in New York City for Tecnoferia, a technology fair that allowed Hispanics to get their hands on computers, learn about computer programs and surf the Internet.

The National Action Council for Minorities in Engineering says in its video lecture, minorities are not well represented in the engineering community.

If the United States is to produce the science and technology workforce that looks like America, we need to produce more than 250,000 African American, American Indian, and Latino engineers in the next 10 years. Only 116,000 minority engineers have been produced in the last 30 years by U.S. engineering institutions. Are we as a nation doing what we need to do?

One reason Hispanic Americans lag behind is that they have fewer computers at home. A study commissioned by the computer giant, IBM, shows that, while more than one half of white American families have a computer at home, only one of three Hispanic families own a computer.

IBM is the corporate sponsor for La Familia Technology Week, a nationwide campaign designed to increase technology-related education and computer literacy among Hispanics.

IBM Sales Director Cynthia Gonzalez heads the corporation's Hispanic Recruitment department. "I don't want to see a world where the Hispanic community is not benefiting from what we have to offer in the United States," she said. "Hispanic students have the highest drop-out rate in the United States and one out of every four Hispanic students drops out of high school, and nearly half of them leave by the eighth grade."

The emphasis on family in Latino cultures plays an important role in the initiative's goal to educate not only the children, but the parents as well.

One young pre-schooler sat playing a video game at the fair with her mother by her side and a volunteer at hand to help with the directions.

Children of all ages participated in the technology fair, choosing from a variety of workshops. One science workshop helped students build a robot.

The website is called Try Science. Try Science, come se dice Try Science? Y tenemos tambien bookmarks - marcas de libros. Now there is an activity on Try Science called Amazing Robots Robots Asombrosos how's that? And we are going to do an activity here which is a different robot activity and our two student helpers are going to be robots.

IBM's Cynthia Gonzalez says she hopes the fair will help Hispanic students realize the many career opportunities open to them in the world of information technology, or IT. "We hope that through these activities and this awareness that we will be able to increase their awareness around the IT field and get the kids involved in and knowing how much is available for them in career fields like computer software applications and computer support specialists and networking computer systems administrators, desktop publishing, etc," she said.

Ms. Gonzalez says the program is also designed to help teachers with new education technology.