Almost 1,000 Rio Grande Valley middle and high school students had the opportunity to hear from some of the nation's top executives at the Pre College Student Forum held in the Fine Arts Auditorium Sept. 27 during the first day of HESTEC 2004.
The line-up of speakers included Robert J. Stevens, president and CEO, Lockheed Martin; Bruce G. Macklin, vice president of global operations, ExxonMobil Chemical Company; Carlos Dominguez, senior vice president of Worldwide Service provider operations for CISCO Systems; and John Bell Sr., vice president for Human Resources, Verizon, among others.
Several of the speakers described their personal paths to success and the importance of education and hard work in that journey.
He explained that his father was the oldest of nine children, left school at age 14 and spent his life as a steelworker. "There were no prospects for me at all. We never had that conversation in our household about going to college," Stevens said.
Stevens said he joined the Marine Corps after what he called a "poor" academic record in high school. Upon leaving the military, he first drove a tractor trailer hauling steel from the mills. Using the GI Bill he entered Slippery Rock University in Western Pennsylvania. Stevens said he finally found a fundamental change in his life and his perspective on the future when two things happened.
"When I had the opportunity to get involved in Slippery Rock in athletics and education, it really changed my life. And being affiliated with people along the way who would create some opportunities for me, who would give me a chance to do things I had not done before and express my areas of interest made an absolute world of difference to me. Today there are people here that are interested in you and your future," he said.
All the speakers stressed the importance of a well educated work force and the need for diversity in the workplace.
"Diversity is strength not a weakness. Talents of all segments of the population need to be harnessed if we are to compete successfully in the global economy. The future has never been brighter and the opportunities have never been greater for tomorrow's Hispanic scientists and engineers," Macklin said.
Each presentation was followed by questions from students ranging from the current price of gas to specific job opportunities in the corporations to the effect of gasoline cars on global warming.
Myra Lozano, an eighth grade student from Ida Diaz Junior High in Hidalgo, said she found the morning session interesting.
"I learned a lot about what we are doing in space (exploration) and new things about technology," she said.
Linda Santiago and Tracey Starr, both clinical instructors at Med High in Mercedes, accompanied their students to the session and found it full of valuable career and resource information.
Santiago said she also liked the message and the way it was delivered. "It was a 'you can do it message' being delivered from a great diversity of speakers," she said.
Dominguez, who was born in Cuba, came to the United States at age four with his family to start a new life, said students had to believe in themselves.
"Dream and believe in yourself. The future is yours to take advantage of," Dominguez said.