The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

The student news site of Los Altos High School in Los Altos, California

The Talon

Em Tornero on breaking barriers for Latinos in STEM

Latinos+in+STEM+president+Em+Tornero.+As+an+AVID+student%2C+Em+hopes+to+break+the+expectations+in+coming+from+a+disadvantaged+Latino+background.
courtesy Em Tornero
Latinos in STEM president Em Tornero. As an AVID student, Em hopes to break the expectations in coming from a disadvantaged Latino background.

A 2022 study from the Pew Research Center shows that only 8 percent of Latinos work in any type of STEM field. Junior Em Tornero is proving the statistics wrong — in helping to promote Latinos in STEM, he’s empowering a community and giving a platform to underrepresented voices.

Em’s journey in STEM began in AVID. Though he had always liked math and science, it was only after AVID that he started considering those subjects as potential career paths. Em was particularly inspired by movies he watched during AVID, which showed him it was possible for Latinos to be successful in fields such as mathematics and engineering.

We watched movies such as ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Spare Parts,’ which are focused on Latinos learning about things like math and robotics. It really inspired me — if these people who look like me can do it, I probably can too.

— Em Tornero

“We watched movies such as ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Spare Parts,’ which are focused on Latinos learning about things like math and robotics,” Em said. “It really inspired me — if these people who look like me can do it, I probably can too.”

As an AVID student, Em was always encouraged to explore his different interests and to try new things.

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“Em has always been somebody who is authentically curious about everything,” AVID teacher Joanne Miyahara said. “He’s a person who really models a genuine curiosity about the world. It’s been exciting to see that grow throughout high school.”

To further his interest in STEM, Em joined the Women in STEM (WiSTEM) club, but realized he didn’t really fit into the community.

“I didn’t want to be in WiSTEM because it didn’t fit me as a transgender guy,” Em said. “Then I started to realize there was actually high demand from Latinos who wanted to learn more about STEM.”

Em has always been somebody who is authentically curious about everything. He’s a person who really models a genuine curiosity about the world. It’s been exciting to see that grow throughout high school.

— AVID teacher Joanne Miyahara

Em really liked the idea of having an identity group built around STEM, and his Latino identity, so he chose to combine the two to create Latinos in STEM.

“It’s something that, since I’ve been hired, I’ve always wanted to exist,” math teacher and club advisor Hector Arias said. “One of the big reasons why I came back to work was to break the stigma that Latinos can’t do STEM, when I believe — as a Latino math teacher — that they’re completely able to do.”

The club aims to increase the accessibility of STEM topics through a combination of organizing activities and hosting guest speakers. On March 15th, the club partnered with the Latino Student Union (LSU) to host an event with SOLES, the Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists. In the future, the club hopes to provide further resources in the form of internships and out-of-school programs.

“We’ve done a lot of research and found a lot of good programs to talk about,” Em said. “We’re building a support group with both outside mentors as well as those within our community.”

For Em, the ultimate goal is to prove a point — that Latinos, especially those who come from underrepresented backgrounds like him, shouldn’t be scared to chase their dreams.

Em Tornero sells bracelets at the Holiday Fair to raise money for his club, Latinos in STEM.

“When people see that I want to do STEM and then they look at my background, they start to wonder if it’s possible,” Em said. “As a Latino, I want to show that yes, it is possible, and that all of us are able to make big, positive changes for the future.”

“What Em is trying to do is fantastic,” Arias said. “It’s a great thing to have at the school.”

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Tyler Elman, Staff Writer

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