By Dr. Idit Harel Caperton
It recently came to my attention, that throughout the nation, young men and women who are Latino are, unfortunately, caught on the wrong side of the digital divide. I have spent much of my career working on initiatives that provide technology learning opportunities to youth in underserved communities–from a poor urban neighborhood in Roxbury (Boston) in the 20th century during the 80s, to over 30 rural poor counties in West Virginia, as well as poor urban communities in East Austin, Texas, Queens, New York, and San Jose, California, during the second decade of the 21st century.
Whether Hispanic or non-Hispanic whites, they all had in common three-four obstacles for progress: 1) limited or no broadband connectivity in their homes and schools, 2) no engaging opportunities for STEM and Computing education, 3) a “Fixed Mindset” (Carol Dweck’s term) about their STEM abilities; and 4) a community/school leadership without initiative to do any sorting and shifting of budgets to afford coaching of educators in order to drive the necessary changes in their community.
The present circumstances are unique in that the Latino population continues to grow rather fast across the United States. Currently the Latino population makes up 17% of the total U.S. population, and by 2050 will grow to 26%. We cannot afford to pass over this largest, youngest, fastest-growing minority group in America with STEM education opportunities.
Latinos and Latinas are the major rising workforce in an economy of too many unfilled STEM and Computing jobs in the tech industry, research, academia, education, health, and politics. So we must respond proactively to this fact to make an impact.
More specifically, and quite unexpectedly, I’ve become familiar with the opportunity gaps that Latino youth face daily, especially in low-income, socio-economically- and technologically-underserved communities, through my team’s work on Globaloria, the first and largest blended-learning platform, an innovative MOOC, for youth (grades 5-12) to master STEM subjects through game design and programming, including designing, prototyping, and coding.