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Local Latina heading to STEM convention

"Pursue your dreams. It's fun. It's worth it," Becerra said. "I want to be a Latina in tech."

BOISE, Idaho — A local BYU Idaho student is working to make her dreams a reality, by heading to a National STEM-focused convention.

Samara Becerra is a first-generation student studying business analytics at Brigham Young University in Idaho (BYUI). She is trying to bridge the gap when it comes to the lack of diversity in STEM careers (STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

"Pursue your dreams. It's fun. It's worth it," Becerra said. "I want to be a Latina in tech."

She is one of the few Idahoans attending this year's SHPE National convention, which is a three-day event being held in Charlotte, North Carolina, this November.

"It is the largest gathering of Hispanics in stem majors, so this is a big opportunity to network," Becerra said.

Becerra is one of many Hispanics making strides in science, technology, engineering and math industries. But numbers show that is just not enough.

Katie Bosh-Wilson is a STEM and Computer Science Manager. She said conventions like the one Samara is going to are necessary in order to create change in the industry and inspire future generations.

"If we are going to grow the field of STEM within the Latina community, representation matters, so young Latinas seeing someone doing it and seeing someone that looks like them or having a story that is similar to theirs is huge," Bosh-Wilson said.

A Pew Research Center study showed that Hispanics only make up around 8% of STEM jobs, and only 3% of that are women.

That number is even lower in Idaho, but some organizations are working to change that.

"There has been a ton of work done by general classroom teachers, all the way up to industry organizations and universities," Bosh-Wilson said. "Organizations like ours to try to increase women and minorities within stem fields."

The SHPE Convention helps close the gap by raising awareness and increasing access to education and connections in the industry.

Although Becerra said this is helping her to achieve her dream, she also said it will benefit Idaho businesses.

"I'm pretty sure every individual has a specific and special background, and with their knowledge, we are able to bring a lot of richness to these companies," Becerra said.

Samara is hoping to bring back the knowledge learned at the convention to her teachers and fellow students at BYUI

"It's also about other workshops and professionals giving talks and sharing their experience. I really want to share that experience so it can be done or promoted in school and Idaho," said Becerra.

She is also fundraising to help pay for some of the expenses.

"It's a long trip and four days of stay. I know it's worth it and I'm sure it'll impact my local community in the future," she said.

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