November 16, 2022

SACNAS 2022: A festival of Diversity and Emotions 

Aquí estamos, siempre estamos. 

No nos fuimos, no nos vamos

-Rene Pérez Joglar

Last week the CoCo Team had the opportunity to participate in SACNAS 2022, one of the largest conferences in the United States on diversity in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). 

The lack of diversity in STEM has created an underrepresentation of different ethnic and cultural groups in STEM. This issue is not new in higher academic institutions, where historically, only one perspective has been considered for the design of the educational system. These social injustices have created an unfair academic system that does not understand nor is prepared to receive, educate and train marginalized groups, causing educational inequalities by compromising the participation of Latinx, Hispanic and Caribbean communities in academic spaces. 

Angelique Rosa Marín, Co-Director & Science Communication Coordinator, and Tamara Aranguiz, Coding Coach

Along with Tamara Aranguiz, one of our Coding Trainers, we focused on recruiting the next 20 Coquites for our program in 2023. This was our first time representing CoCo at a professional STEM conference. It was very emotional to share the great things we have done during the past year, as well as to confirm, through student experiences, the importance of our bilingual program in academia. We establish relationships with institutions and organizations willing to collaborate and expand our beautiful mission.

As a Puerto Rican (from Carolina), I was so proud (el corazón bien infla’o) to be surrounded by Puerto Ricans and to welcome peers from Latin America with open arms. It was extremely special to see a space full of people like me, full of culture, joy and, happiness. In my experience, in this “type” of professional conferences, there is no tendency to integrate a holistic angle, where personal development and culture are a priority in the formation of the individual. It was truly special to share, hear and learn about the challenges that Caribbean women like me faced in academic spaces. 

Tamara Aranguiz exploring Piñones beach, Loiza, Puerto Rico.

Through CoCo, we break a language barrier by offering our courses and materials in English and Spanish. Thus, students can learn in a welcoming environment where language is not an obstacle in the learning process. CoCo creates an opportunity to fill knowledge gaps caused by academic-social inequities for Spanish speakers students. By creating this bridge through language, we foster a culture where participants can simply be, to increase the presence of Spanish-speaking people in STEM.

SACNAS was a festival of emotions. At times it was sad and overwhelming to hear so many stories of students affected by a system that does not represent us. Something that distinguishes us as Latin Americans, we move forward collectively. Our value system is what sets us apart and makes us how special we are. SACNAS was a great space to reinforce and continue contributing to the difference.