With support from two leading Latinx* organizations, MCO students Gonzalo Gonzalez-Del Pino, Linda Honaker, and Alexandra Mattei participated in Step into Stem (SiS): Exposing Girls to STEM Careers earlier this year. The event was intended to promote diversity in academia by offering mentoring and networking to Latinx students, and was co-organized by two local Latinx organizations.
The first organization, BeVisible, is a social networking site for Latinx in the United States. Co-founded in 2014 by Silvia Travesani and Andrea Guendelman (herself a graduate of Harvard Law), the site was established to promote professional networking and increase opportunities for U.S. Latinx. This April saw the launch of BeVisible in Boston, just a few weeks after the SiS event.
Networking platforms that bring Latinx together are important to students like Mattei. “When you make a profile you can connect with other Latinx professionals, and that helps you realize that there is a space that you belong, no matter your background,” Mattei said.
The second organization, Chica Project, was founded in 2011 by Nurys Camargo to promote youth leadership, college counseling, and career mentoring to Latinas in Massachusetts. In the last five years the group has served over 400 Latina students through their UWander service learning and Empowerment Institute mentoring programs.
The two organizations began organizing the SiS event by recruiting students and professionals to serve as mentors. Gonzalez-Del Pino was the first to learn about and volunteer for the event, and he approached Mattei to join him.The event was organized like a speed date, with a panel of Latinx mentors getting a few minutes of one-on-one time with each young Latina student. The informal structure was intended to put the visiting students at ease, and an MC helped prompt questions for the mentors to answer. Gonzalez-Del Pino, Mattei, and Honaker all served as mentors, along with distinguished guests like Boston City Councilman Tito Jackson.
For Mattei, events like SiS are part of her larger goal to promote outreach, and bring science to underserved communities. “From my perspective, there are two reasons why everyone should get involved with outreach,” Mattei said. “You can care about this issue from a moral perspective, in the sense that it isn’t fair that not everyone has the same opportunities, or from an intellectual perspective, in the sense that the best ideas come from a diverse group of minds thinking about a problem in new and creative ways. I want to do what I can to provide more opportunities for underrepresented minorities to participate in STEM and to make Harvard a more relatable place.”* Latinx is a relatively new term for referring to mixed-gendered groups of people of Latin descent. The term is intended to be gender neutral and more inclusive than the gendered terms Latino or Latina, which are still used when referring to groups of mainly men or mainly women.
Author: Mary Parker