Conservationist and TV host Jeff Corwin and Lockheed Martin's Vice President for Business Development for Integrated Defense Technology Maria Ruess urged high school students to pursue what they love and never let anyone deter them from achieving their dreams during the ninth annual Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology Student Leadership Day event at The University of Texas-Pan American.
About 1,000 high school seniors from all over the Rio Grande Valley attended the student event on Tuesday, Sept. 28, which included keynote addresses from Corwin and Ruess, as well as sessions where students heard about career opportunities from representatives of various companies, government entities and UTPA.
Lockheed Martin sponsored the student event. Organizations that participated in the sessions included Texas Instruments, the U.S. Navy, State Farm Insurance, Chase, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, H-E-B, Shell Oil Co. and the University.
Corwin, who spoke during the event's morning session, told students they are the future stewards of the earth, and despite the alarming rate of extinction of various species, they have the potential to improve conditions on the planet.
He told the group when they are in their 30s about a fourth to a half of all life on earth will be lost.
"The truth is there is tremendous hope and that hope lies in you," Corwin said.
Corwin shared his experiences in studying animals and habitats all over the world with students and told them some success stories of some species that were rescued from extinction, including the black-footed ferret and the American bald eagle. "But the truth is it really is up to you. The generation before you has not done a very good job, but you have a chance and you are moving forward by building these important foundations," Corwin said.
He encouraged students to pursue their interests in the sciences, mathematics and technology.
"When you do it you not only secure your future, your livelihood, your future families, you participate as stewards of our planet, and we all will benefit," Corwin said.
Ruess, who gave the luncheon keynote address, told students that their life experiences help define who they are and to focus on who they are now and who they want to become in the future. She shared with the group how she was born and raised in Colombia and worked as a production manager, but when she moved to the United States she had other careers, including being a high school Spanish and physics teacher.
Ruess said it was always thinking what was next for her life and accepting challenges that led to her success.
"Never be intimidated by any challenge," she said.
She also encouraged students to pursue careers in science and math, even though the courses required for those fields are challenging, because in the end they are rewarding. There are also many opportunities in those fields.
Lockheed Martin has about 136,000 employees, and about 68,000 of them are scientists and engineers. Many of those scientists and engineers are planning to retire and those jobs need to be replenished, said Ruess and other representatives from the company.
Students who attended Lockheed Martin's presentation, "Engineering Primetime at HESTEC" saw how some of the technology the defense contractor created is featured on the TV show "NCIS: Los Angeles" and participated in an interactive videogame similar to the TV show "The Amazing Race," where they had to complete tasks to take them from Washington D.C. to Hollywood, Calif. They also heard from employees of the company who shared how they obtained the jobs they have now.
Students said hearing the stories of all the presenters encouraged them to think seriously about their futures and what they will study in college.
Hugo Sanchez, a 17-year-old senior from Donna High School, said he appreciated hearing advice from the presenters to never give up. Sanchez said he plans to attend UTPA next year and study civil engineering.
"I can picture myself here," Sanchez said.
Karina Garcia, a 17-year-old senior from Nikki Rowe High School in McAllen, said she plans to enter the medical field when she's finished with school and liked hearing the speakers talk about their experiences in pursuing their careers.
"It's like everyone who spoke to us is doing what they want to do," Garcia said.
HESTEC 2010 continues Wednesday with Latina Day, where female students and their mothers learn that the STEM fields are not just for males and hear from successful Latinas who have gone on to secure jobs in the science and technology fields. ExxonMobil and Northrop Grumman are sponsoring the event.
For more information about HESTEC, visit hestec.utpa.edu.