Christian Trujillo and Diana Martinez act out a story about a flower's life cycle. | Photo credit: Jen Tarlton

HSU students support science with Spanish

A bilingual HSU program encourages students to pursue the STEM field
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A bilingual HSU program encourages students to pursue the STEM field

Ciencia Para Todos, known as “Science for All,” is a Humboldt State University program that hopes to bridge the gap between younger, grade-school students and Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics careers through teaching English and Spanish in conjunction with local elementary schools like Fuente Nueva Charter School.

Christian Trujillo, a senior environmental science and management major, is the founder of Ciencia Para Todos. He strives to elevate youth whose first language is Spanish.

“We’re trying to destigmatize that idea,” Trujillo said. “Be like, ‘We are people who are bilingual, we’re in STEM, we want you to do that when you grow older, and hopefully you could become a scientist and also use your abilities and cultural lens to really help the science community.'”

Ciencia Para Todos came from a desire to create an environment for budding Latinx STEM students. Feeling ostracized from many of the spaces on campus, Trujillo and his fellow Latinx classmates communicate in Spanish as a means of escape.

An already-established refuge named Indian Natural Resource Science and Engineering Program for marginalized science students on campus, inspired them to create a refuge of their own.

“We need to make our own space on campus since no one else is really going to do it for us, so we have to do it for ourselves,” Trujillo said. “And we’re like, ‘Oh, now that we’re doing this for ourselves, why don’t we do it for our communities.'”

Different cultural centers at HSU have gotten their budgets slashed, Trujillo worked to combat the problem with student retention.

“The stuff we do I think is very important to keeping student retention,” Trujillo said. “Because I’m one of those students that stayed here because of the centers and if it wasn’t because of centers, I would have been gone.”

Odalis Avalos is an environmental science and management major and senior. She works as the liaison for Ciencia Para Todos and conducts outreach. Avalos is glad to have a space where she can flourish alongside Latinx STEM students, an opportunity she didn’t have growing up.

“I’m really grateful that there is a program out there that’s able to provide this resource specifically for sciences,” Avalos said. “It’s a very lax subject within the Latinx community, so it’s not really normalized to pursue these types of careers.”

Building off that, Avalos is glad to be able to feel a sense of community not only with the students she teaches, but also with her colleagues like Trujillo.

“It means a lot that they’ve created the sense of community for me,” Avalos said. “So we sit together and we come together and we collaborate and we have a common mission and even with that, we also have common experiences together.”

Diana Martinez recently graduated from HSU but continues to work for Ciencia Para Todos. Responsible for translating entire lessons between English and Spanish and managing the Instagram account for the program, Martinez has become more confident and optimistic in her future endeavors.

“And I used to do English and Spanish, but then when I go up in Humboldt, it was just English,” Martinez said. “So I almost feel like my Spanish was just blocked, and having met this group of people, it was just like ‘Oh, I could just talk in Spanglish or I could talk in English and in Spanish fifty-fifty.'”

Martinez is inspired by the children she’s worked with for Ciencia Para Todos and feels accomplished with what she has done for them.

“Once you see the kids, especially the native kids that only speak Spanish, when you speak in the same language, there’s a huge happy face in their face and it’s hard to describe,” Martinez said. “But knowing that they’re able to communicate just fine and the fact that you know that you’re helping them and supporting them and empowering them, that makes me feel great as an educator, too.”

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