Categories: Technology
22 March, 2019
by Cassandra Matos - Mendez
Woz U Software Developer Instructor
Woz U Instructor, Cassandra Matos - Mendez weighs in on making a $5 million grant to UnidosUS, the YWCA and the Hispanic Heritage Foundation. A grant that will bring computer science (CS) education to over one million Latino students and their families by 2022. Read her response below!

After reading Adriana Jara’s Google article about ​Helping Latino Students Learn to Code​, I  was ecstatic and inspired to find new ways to help the community.

Google granted $5 million to UnidosUS, the YWCA, and the Hispanic Heritage  Foundation. These $5 million will provide Latino students resources and an opportunity to  learn to code in a language that is familial – Spanish.

As a daughter of two first-generation Borinquenos (Puerto Ricans born on the island of  Puerto Rico) parents, I have witnessed the pains and struggles of adapting to a dominant  culture with English as their second language. My parents have been in mainland America  now for over 30 years and they continue to struggle with learning new skill sets in English.

As is the case with many Latinos acquiring new skills in America, it is not a matter of  intelligence, but a matter of access. Many Latinos are left on the outside looking into new  endeavors simply because the opportunities are not in a language that they thrive in. With this new grant, it can provide Latinos the opportunity to develop skills in STEM fields,  particularly coding. With more diverse skilled coders, we can provide more creative  services to a wider range of people.

As a coding instructor, I have come to learn that this field is populated by 70% white, 20%  Asian, and 5% Black or African American men and women. Leaving 5% for all other  ethnicities, including Latinos. As a Latina woman in this industry, I have had experiences  that would have caused many to switch careers. It is a constant uphill battle managing the  politics of the industry, let alone the subject material itself; however, the gratification I receive when a student realizes a dream by creating, designing, and implementing an  application that provides a specialized service is well worth any challenges I might face.

For example, a good friend that became one of my students created an application that  provides resources and access to orphan teenagers aged out of the system. The application allows the user to locate places to stay, events in the community, and job opportunities by a click of a button. The goal of this application was to help reduce  homelessness in the teenage orphan population.

The reason for my student’s creation was because her husband was an orphan that faced  many difficult circumstances when he was aged out of the system. I believe with this  Google initiative a new generation of creative services will emerge. We all have our own problems, our own cultural differences, and our own challenges, but at the end of the day  we are all human and have common needs. Sometimes these common needs are obvious,  most of the time we do not realize them until a light is shined on a different perspective.

We all have beautiful minds, amazing potential, and gifted brains. We should all have  access to learn new skills in our strongest language. If we have the ability to eliminate a  barrier, I believe we should knock down that wall and begin building bridges. New minds  provide new solutions to new problems, which I believe will build a new type of Tech. A  Tech we should all be eager to experience. This is a very exciting time and I am honored to  be a part of history in the making and I am beyond ecstatic to see new technical services  provided by the Latino community.

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Cassandra Matos - Mendez

Cassandra Matos-Mendez is a Longhorn Alumna with a B.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering. Before becoming a Woz U Instructor, Cassandra taught at different institutions while working full-time as a Freelance Web Developer and Graphic Designer. She enjoys working with passionate people that have “outside of the box” ideas and appreciates the arts to an unbound degree. She strives to transfer her passions for learning and creating to her students in hopes that they will achieve all of their Web Developing dreams.

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