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Latino youth leaders interested in STEM career fields visit Hoover Dam

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Latino youth leaders

Hoover Dam Manager Rob Skordas, standing left, enthusiastically welcomed the students for an educational day at Hoover Dam.

"Today was really fun," said Yseñía, a 17-year-old student from Hollister, Calif., whose visit to Hoover Dam on June 18 was a real-time experience that complemented a school assignment two years ago!

"Our guide took us everywhere," she added. "We also took many pictures. It was a very fun experience. I once did a project and a presentation about Hoover Dam in my sophomore year. I never really understood it until I came here. This made it real for me!"

Yseñía was one of about 20 students who visited Hoover Dam that day as part of partnership between LULAC (the League of United Latin American Citizens) and the Department of the Interior to promote the participation among Latinos in STEM (Science, Technology, Education, and Mathematics) career fields.

Brandon Sparks, second from right, points to a diagram to explain to the students how water flowing through Hoover Dam generates electricity.

The group was among about 260 high school and college-aged students, who are taking part in a national youth leadership development program partnership among LULAC, the University of Las Vegas (UNLV), and DOI.

Ymela, 16, of Oklahoma City, Okla., said, "I thought today was a really good day. I learned a lot from the tour, and saw lots of pretty views."

Adding to those remarks, Sabina, 15, said, "I thought this tour was very informational and it taught us a lot."

"I thought today was very amazing. It was a once in a lifetime experience," declared Victoria, 18. She and the other two students were from Oklahoma City, also.

Two UNLV students Braulio, 18, and David, 18, added their praise for their experience at the dam.

"I'm a local escort and I'm glad we could come here. It was great a tour," said Braulio. "Thanks."

While walking on the main floor of the powerplant, the students were very impressed with the size of the turbines.

Other students from Hollister accompanying Yseñía on the tour included Maríana, 18, who said, "I liked the tour. It was really interesting. I liked how they talked about the turbines and how they generate power."

"I thought this was a great experience because I got to see new things," said Nancy, 15. Ygeñía, 17, added, "I thought this experience was eye-opening because it changed my view of what I want to study. It showed me new options and opportunities of what to major in."

To this fellow Hollister student Martín, 17, added, "It was a great experience I had today. "All the things we saw were wonderful."

When the students arrived at Hoover Dam, they were greeted by Equal Employment Opportunity (EEO) Specialist Yvette Scott.

On hand to offer an enthusiastic welcome to the group was Hoover Dam Manager Rob Skordas, who said he hoped they found their time there to be educational and informative. He also introduced the group of employees who would serve as escorts. This included Electrician Steve Redmond, SCADA (Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition) Engineer Steve McHargue, Hydo-power Engineer Keith Cooper, Hydroelectric Mechanic Ruben Martinez, Chief of Maintenance Steve Valderrama, Site Development Coordinator Jed Blake, and Electronic Equipment Mechanic Brandon Sparks.

She also offered, ". . . 'big' thanks to Rob Skordas for welcoming the students and Tracie Lopata, Bill Schermerhorn, and Kathy Stewart for assisting in organizing the morning's activities.

Additionally, she extended a 'thank you' to Steve Valderrama, Keith Cooper, Steve McHargue, Steve Redmond, Ruben Martinez, and Brandon Sparks for giving the tours to the students!"

This group posed with their escorts Ruben Martinez, left, and Brandon Sparks, second from right, at the Arizona Stoney Gate.

Scott also thanked Georgie Willis for the "great behind the scenes preparation assistance for the day," which included gathering Bureau of Reclamation existing materials for distribution to the students.

EEO staff members provided snacks, bottled water, and the ingredients and condiments for sandwiches for the students' lunch at the conclusion of their Hoover Dam tour.

EEO Manager Linda Rivera commented on the day saying, "We are happy to assist in educational activities that will encourage and motivate students into STEM related academics. STEM careers are a mainstay for Reclamation. Our challenge is being visible to the few that pursue these occupations; we want them to consider Reclamation as their future employer!"

In addition to Reclamation, the DOI agencies in southern Nevada that hosted students included the National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Bureau of Land Management.

Partner organizations participating in this STEM outreach also included the Student Conservation Association, Outdoor Las Vegas Foundation, Forever Resorts, Red Rock Canyon Interpretive Association, Friends of Red Rock Canyon, Desert National Wildlife Refuge Complex, Great Basin Institute and Black Canyon River Adventures.

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Updated: June 21, 2013