4-H Tech Wizards prepare Latino youth for a high-tech future

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Students learn skills in web development, video and podcast production, GPS technologies and robotics

Jobs in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) are important to the United States' economic strength. But some are concerned about whether today’s youth have the skills to fill these careers. Of particular concern is the underrepresentation of Latinos in the STEM field. Of Latino college freshmen who began a four-year STEM degree in 2004, only 22 percent completed it within five years.

The Oregon State University Extension Service's 4-H program is trying to change that through a program called Tech Wizards. Launched in 1998, this bilingual afterschool program teaches technological skills to low-income students, particularly Latinos, in grades 9 through 12 who are considered at risk of dropping out of school. Students in the program learn to create websites, produce videos and podcasts, make computerized maps and build robots. They are also required to perform 30 hours of community service each year in tech-related fields.

About 1,000 students have participated in the program. About 95 percent have graduated from high school, and about 70 percent of those have pursued more education in science, technology, engineering or math.

Source: Octaviano Merecias-Cuevas, 4-H Tech Wizards coordinator in Washington and Multnomah counties

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