WASHINGTON, D.C, Aug. 24, 2001 — Elisa Ju
rez and her parents are making a short stopover this week on their way to deliver Elisa to her freshman year at Brown University in Rhode Island — a stop that marks her as the national winner of the Hispanic Heritage Youth Award for Science and Technology.
rez will be honored here by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and Microsoft for her outstanding accomplishments in science and technology. The award carries a $5,000 scholarship, funded by Microsoft along with the $2,000 scholarships that Elisa and 11 other regional award winners received earlier this year.
That $7,000 means a lot for this Mexican-American family, which is trying to fund an Ivy League education for a gifted daughter.
“Its going to help pay for my college tuition, room and board,”
rez says from her South Miami, Fla. home.
The awards ceremony on Saturday, August 25, at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will give Ju
rez a chance to thank her family and friends for their support, she says. She also plans to acknowledge the institutions trying to reward and inspire Hispanic youth, she says.
“Its reassuring that there are organizations out there that recognize Hispanic youth in a positive way,”
“Thats refreshing, because when you turn on the news its only gangs, teen pregnancy and the dropout rate in high school.”
Franc Camara, a lead program manager in Microsoft’s Windows division, will present the award to Ju
rez. He agrees that the Youth Award for Science and Technology carries an important message.
“Its the kind of thing thats needed for the Hispanic community to be able to go to college and to be recognized for their brain power,”
“Theres quite a bit of talent out there that is not being recognized.”
At Microsoft headquarters in Redmond, Wash., Camara chairs a Hispanic employee group known as GUIA (Grupo Unido Ibero-Americano). The group fosters community among Microsofts Latino employees, and sponsors activities such as Spanish conversation
meetings open to everyone. He also is a member of the companys Diversity Advisory Council.
Camara, who has been at Microsoft for nine years, came to the United States at the age of 15 from a Mayan village in Mexico. When it was time to go to college, it wasnt easy.
“I struggled to go through college with loans and scholarships,”
“The fact that a program like the Hispanic Heritage Awards is there can make it easier for the students of today.”
The story of last years winner of the Youth Award for Science and Technology bears that out. Jose Barraza, of San Diego, says the scholarship made it possible for him to live out his dream of attending the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
“MIT was really my dream school,”
Barraza recalled this week.
“I got accepted there and at Stanford and CalTech. Those other places offered me more money, but the scholarship through the Hispanic Heritage Awards made it possible for me to go to MIT.”
A major in electrical engineering and computer science, Barraza also spent this summer as an intern at Microsoft — a far cry from his high school job at a fast-food restaurant.
“I have my own office, with my name on the door, and my own Microsoft.com e-mail address,” Barraza says. “Its exciting.”
Stafford Mays, corporate outreach manager at Microsoft, says that by supporting young people like Barraza and Ju
rez the company is looking toward the future — not just by identifying and nurturing talented young people who might someday work in the industry, but also by improving access to technology for all Hispanics, African-Americans and other groups.
“The No. 1 thing that we want is to find people who traditionally dont have access to technology and get it to them,”
“The Hispanic Heritage Youth Awards give these kids that opportunity to excel and to learn about technology.”
This is the second year that Microsoft has sponsored the Hispanic Heritage Foundations awards in science and technology. The selection process began earlier this year, when Hispanic high school seniors in 12 U.S. cities submitted applications for the Youth Awards. Local community leaders in each city selected seven regional winners, one in each of seven academic or artistic disciplines, for a total of 84 regional winners.
Winners were chosen based on accomplishments in that discipline, their potential for leadership, and for their commitment to community service. Recipients also must have shown strength and quality of character and must have demonstrated that their Hispanic heritage plays a significant role in their lives. Each regional winner received a $2,000 scholarship, a state-of-the-art laptop computer and a $1,000 donation in their name to a chosen charity.
Then, a national award winner in each of the seven disciplines was chosen by the Foundation. Those seven, including Ju
rez, received additional $5,000 scholarships and will be honored at the Kennedy Center ceremony Saturday. The event will be televised on NBC on September 22.
A resident of South Miami, Ju
rez was honored for her accomplishments in both science and in her community. She won the First Place Air Force Award in the International Science and Engineering Fair, and the
“Best of Science Fair”
award for two years in Miami-Dade County. She began doing gerontology research at Miamis Jackson Memorial Hospital, and as a result was asked to testify before the Florida Legislature about osteoporosis in the elderly. She also created a program at Miamis science museum to encourage minority youth to pursue science as a career.
rez earned an International Baccalaureate degree from Coral Reef Senior High School, and plans to major in biology at Brown University.
I think its important to realize that Ill be a Hispanic woman in science and technology — and thats a combination thats rarely seen,”