By Tina M. Beller, Army Public Affairs Specialist

Approximately 175 Latino students from five Queens-based high schools united in the spirit of science to complete a leadership challenge through the Latinos on the Fast Track program sponsored by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation and the U.S. Army at Queens College’s Union Hall Nov. 5, 2015.

Both the U.S. Army and HHF share the goal of increasing the number of Latino
students who pursue academic and career paths in STEM-related fields, which
include healthcare, engineering and technology.

«With nearly one out of four students in our schools being Hispanic and a
need to fill nearly three million jobs in STEM fields over the next five
years, we are teaming up the U.S. Army to make a direct impact on meeting
America’s priorities,» said Antonio Tijerino, president and chief executive
officer of the HHF.

«Through the LOFT STEM Symposia, we are inspiring, preparing and connecting
young Latino leaders to pursue a higher education in STEM fields,» said
Tijerino.

Students like Information Technology High School sophomore Zane Charles
Chandler, found the Army leadership vignettes the most inspiring and
interesting of the day’s events.

«I enjoyed listening to the Army captain talk about his leadership
experience,» said the young graphic arts designer.  «He was very frank and
candid with us, and that’s helpful as we are discovering what we want to
pursue in life.»

«As a Puerto Rican, I was honored to participate in today’s Latinos on the
Fast Track STEM-leadership event,» said Sgt. 1st Class Julio Diaz, an Army
recruiter and guest speaker.

Sharing in a smiles and laughter during the leadership video vignettes, Sgt. 1st Class Julio Diaz, an Army recruiter of Puerto Rican descent, keeps the diverse group rolling along through the Army's presentation at Wednesday's LOFT event at Queens College in New York.

Sharing in a smiles and laughter during the leadership video vignettes, Sgt. 1st Class Julio Diaz, an Army recruiter of Puerto Rican descent, keeps the diverse group rolling along through the Army’s presentation at Wednesday’s LOFT event at Queens College in New York.

«This STEM event makes me realize these students are the sons and daughters
of many immigrants and each one of them has the right to grow and develop
themselves, and I am glad the Army could help them advance our Latino
heritage today,» said Diaz, who has traveled with the Army to countries like
Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina and Venezuela.

After lunch and a few raffle drawings, Lt. Col. Richard Gussenhoven, a
professor of military science serving within CUNY’s ROTC program,
participated in a STEM-related panel where he gave the students a brief
description about the Army’s STEM program, more specifically, what STEM
occupations we have in the Army and how the Army is a great pathway for
young Latinos interested in STEM careers.

«I spoke to the students about how the Army uses science, technology,
engineering and math in everything we do from our medical clinics to our
logistical processes to our engineering procedures,» said Gussenhoven.

Additionally, students from Bayside High School, Edison High School, John
Adams High School and the Jamaica Gateway to the Sciences participated in
the LOFT event.

«Not all high school students have the experience of being on a college
campus,» said Jasmin Zamorano, manager of LOFT programs.

«Like Andrea Chaves from the Young Women’s Leadership School of Astoria said
earlier during the panel, ‘Exposing today’s students to as many different
things as possible is what we should be doing as adults.  Let them make
their own decisions, and let’s support them in their choices.»