The 2013 Latino Education Conference took place on October 23 in our nation’s capital just after Congress was back in session after the government shutdown.  LATINO Magazine’s fourth annual event brought together several hundred Latino opinion leaders and students at the Capital Hilton a few blocks from the White House to address the challenge of education.

Participants included executives from companies such as ExxonMobil, GM, Lockheed Martin, Cisco Systems and Microsoft; representatives from the Navy and Selective Service System; students from Cesar Chavez Charter School in Washngton, DC and High Point HIgh School in Prince George County; and Latino nonprofits such as the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI). One common thread running through the panels and  roundtable discussions throughout the day was the need for outreach to encourage Latinos to enter the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

“Many more companies are talking the talk when it comes to STEM,” said LATINO Publisher Alfredo Estrada as he opened the conference. “But they’re only talking to themselves, so that message has not gotten through to young Latinos and their parents. The purpose of our NUESTRO FUTURO initiative is spread the word about STEM through Latino media.”

The keynote speakers were freshmen Members of Congress Raul Ruiz and Michelle Lujan Grisham, both featured on the cover of LATINO Magazine. For Rep. Lujan Grisham, a twelfth generation New Mexican, public service is a family tradition. Her grandfather, Eugene Lujan, was the first Hispanic Chief Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court, and her cousin Manuel Lujan was a congressman and later Secretary of the Interior. Since being elected to the 113th Congress, she has chosen to serve on the House Committee on Agriulture and the House Committee on the Budget.

Rep. Ruiz described his inspirational personal journey from the farm fields of California to the halls of Congress. A son of farmworkers, he attended UCLA and received a medical degree from Harvard Medical School. Then he returned home to work as an emergency room doctor at a hospital in the Coachella Valley until he was elected to Congress. Currently, he serves on the House Committee on Natural Resources and the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.

The need to bridge the public and private sectors, and the corporate and nonprofit worlds, surfaced in  several of the panels. The first was entitled “Creating Partnerships in STEM” and featured Esther Aguilera, president of the CHCI; Antonio Tijerino, CEO of the HHF; Maria Cardona, a principal at the Dewey Square Group; and Sid Espinoza, Microsoft’s Director of Corporate Citizenship in Silicon Valley and the first Latino mayor of Palo Alto.

Following the panel, participants heard from two outstanding leaders in the public sector: Lawrence Romo, Director of the Selective Service System; and Capt. Ann Burkhardt , U.S. Navy. Romo delivered to students the message that young men must register with the Selective Service System upon their 18th birthday. Capt. Burkhardt described the STEM opportunities for young Latinos in the Navy.

The second panel was “Filling the Pipeline in STEM” and featured Emily Simone, Director of Community Relations for Lockheed Martin; Celeste Carrasco, Director of Public Affairs for AT&T; John Peasland, Facilities Area Manager for GM Baltimore Operations; and Paulo Santos, a mamber of the Conexion network at Cisco Systems.

Lunch was served in the Presidential Ballroom, and featured several guest speakers including Blanca De La Rosa, past president of the ExxonMobil GOAL group. During her 30 year career at the company, she’s worked around the world, from Latin America to Africa, giving her a truly global perspective on the energy industry. De La Rosa is also a writer and the author of Empower Yourself for an Amazing Career.

Keynote remarks at the luncheon were delivered by Alejandra Ceja, who was appointed by Presidnet Obama this year as the Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. Prior to that, she was chief of staff to Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter.

It was a fitting and inspirational end to NUESTRO FUTURO, the fourth annual Latino Education Conference. Many thanks to our partners at ExxonMobil, GM, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Cisco Systems, Telemundo, Dept. of Energy, and the Selective Service System who made it possible and to all who attended, including teachers and students.