¡Échale Ganas! is a $249,000 grant that was awarded to Humboldt State University to support hands-on learning and career advancement for Latinx students in STEM disciplines.
The grant was named for the Mexican expression, ¡Échale Ganas! as it translates to “throw some life into it,” roughly similar to English expressions, “just go for it” or “give it your all.” The program hopes that by identifying the grant through this expression, it will enable and empower Latinx students to pursue opportunities that will further their learning and careers in natural resources.
¡Échale Ganas! provides students with an array of opportunities through a couple of main components. This consists of supporting two graduate STEM Promoters, providing a number of valuable learning sessions, and offering research internships to Latinx undergraduates.
The promoters serve as a key component to the program as they use their academic and work-related experience to mentor Latinx undergraduates majoring in natural resource sciences.
The grant was awarded to Wildlife Professor Matt Johnson and Fisheries Biology Professor Rafael Cuevas-Uribe, in collaboration with Fernando Paz of El Centro Académico Cultural.
“El Centro works diligently to help students succeed in their respective major and academic disciplines,” Paz said. “In particular with STEM majors, we provide a cultural context that helps students persevere through courses that can be foreign and alienating.”
Paz obtained his undergraduate through a double degree in history and ethnic studies from Humboldt State, as well as his Masters in social sciences a few years later.
During his time as a student, he felt as though his path and the challenges he faced toward graduation were unique and different from those of many of his peers. He was consistently aware of the different perspectives he was able to contribute within his classes.
Samantha Chavez and Laura Echávez are both graduate students studying wildlife at HSU and are the first two promoters for ¡Échale Ganas!
“I’m hoping that my work as a promoter will inspire students to break out of their shells and believe in themselves and their abilities to succeed in this field,” Chavez said.
Chavez said that she wishes that she would’ve tried to access established Latinx spaces during her undergraduate study because it was increasingly harder to make these types of connections once she entered the workforce. She explains that the the unique situations that seasonal field work brings intersects with one’s culture, so it is best to talk it through with a friend in a similar situation.
The ability to learn and have access to other Latinx students of all different levels of experience is the primary goal of ¡Échale Ganas! Connecting these students within STEM disciplines is especially important as it allows them to feel supported in a field where they are predominantly underrepresented.
The revelear sesiónes are a critical role within the collaboration process between the STEM Promoters and undergraduate students.
Sarah Bacio, an academic and career advisor at HSU, attended both of the sessions last semester.
“It’s really valuable to have that student experience and know what folks have done in the steps that they’ve already taken,” Bacio said as she spoke to those in attendance of the first revelear sesióne on Oct. 14.
The Academic and Career Advising Center, along with other offices on campus, provides ¡Échale Ganas! with a number of valuable resources that coincide with the helpful tips that are given by the STEM promoters from their personal experiences.
“The great thing about undergrad is that so many similar people gather in one place,” Chavez said. “So there’s no easier time for students to be able to find peers who are like-minded and share the same cultural background.”