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[Online] Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists promotes math, engineering fields to underrepresented youth

By Shaudee Navid

Nov. 16, 2003 9:00 p.m.

Coming from an area where few students attend four-year
universities, David Luna strived for higher education. In high
school, a student one year older than Luna made a lasting
impression on him by attending Harvard University. The following
year, Luna entered UCLA as an engineering student.

He attributes his achievement in part to outreach programs from
UCLA’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.

Now, Luna, a fifth-year math student, gives back to
underrepresented youth as the vice president of UCLA’s
Society of Latino Engineers and Scientists.

This year, Luna was responsible for helping plan the SOLES
annual Youth Motivation Day.

On Friday, Ackerman Grand Ballroom was filled with eager
fifth-graders participating in the event. Youth Motivation Day
aims to create an interest in higher education especially in the
field of engineering in inner-city areas of Los Angeles.

Established in 1983, SOLES is a a student-run chapter of the
Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, a nationwide
organization dedicated to promote the development of Chicana/o
students in engineering, science and other technical

SOLES seeks to provide representation for Chicana/o student
engineers and scientists at UCLA. The organization also provides
academic and social support to current members.

Throughout the year, SOLES holds workshops ranging from mock
interviews to résumé critiques. In addition, the
organization as a whole serves as a place where students can come
together, socialize, and form study groups.

Advancing Careers in Engineering and Science is a component of
SOLES that reaches out to the L.A. community. The group focuses on
assisting students ranging from the third to 12th grade to perform
better in academia, focusing on math and engineering.

“By working with kids as young as the third grade it helps
implant the seed of education at an early stage. If kids think
about going to college early on, they can take advantage of their
resources, increasing their chances of attending a
university,” Luna said.

Throughout the day, elementary school students took part in
several workshops consisting of building foil boats, straw towers
and roller coasters. Following the workshops, members of SOLES
guided the kids through a campus tour and a visit to the

Because there was a mix-up with the bus transportation schedule,
the outcome was smaller than expected.

But the event was still a success, said Elena Garcia, secretary
of SOLES and a second-year civil engineering student.

Though many other outreach programs on campus organizations are
suffering from budget cuts, SOLES remains unaffected because it
receives funding from not only local companies but also its
nationwide parent organization.

“As of right now the budget cuts have yet to affect us,
and this is a blessing for an outreach organization like
this,” said Gabriel Elenes, director of ACES.

UCLA’s chapter has won the National Chapter of the Year
award for the past five years out of seven regions around the
United States.

The School of Engineering also has outreach programs and
opportunities for both current and prospective black and American
Indian engineering students.

“At a young age you either grow a hatred towards math and
science, or you like it. We want to build a foundation (in the
youth) for math and science. A lot of these students get
discouraged, so it is important to show them that math and science
and college can all be fun,” Elenes said.

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Shaudee Navid
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