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Qualcomm engineers visit Hoover High to show kids they can also succeed in STEM careers

Some ninth-graders crowded around tables in a large classroom, where they listened to Qualcomm engineers talk about what they do.

Qualcomm and the San Diego Workforce Partnership brought the world of science and engineering to Hoover High School with conversations and workshops. The idea was to convince students, from backgrounds that are underrepresented in the field, to aspire to STEM careers.

Such careers are plentiful in San Diego and some of these kids are looking for a path to get there. STEM Day at Hoover High tried to expose the students to people who were not so different from them. Ninth-grader Daniela Martinez said one of those Qualcomm employees was very inspiring.

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“She didn’t come from a great school. And she really had to motivate herself because everyone there just didn’t really care and she pushed herself. She kept trying even though she would fall at times,” Martinez said.

The person Daniela spoke of was Olivia Carrizales, from Chicago, who now prototypes technology for cellphones and computers for Qualcomm.

“My high school was very overpopulated and underfunded and there was a lot of gang violence going on there,” Carrizales said. “So I always found it struggling to not give in to temptation, with my peers, of blowing off studying or blowing off assignments.”

She said whenever she is concerned about the fact that she doesn’t look like her peers or comes from a very different background, she tries to push that out of her mind.

“I never let it stop me from speaking my mind or working hard, and facts are facts,” she said. “My work is going to speak for myself and I always let that overpower any minority talk.”

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One former teacher, who helped to organize STEM Day at Hoover, said there are effective ways to inspire kids to tackle science and engineering, which can be very challenging subjects.

“Having an adult in your life who can show you how useful it can be and how you can apply it, like I think these (Qualcomm) employees are doing today,” said Chloe Chen, with the San Diego Workforce Partnership. “I think helping kids not to think in terms of ‘I’m bad at a subject or good at subject.’ But every subject is something they can grow in.”

Camille Camejo is a software engineer for Qualcomm, originally from Connecticut. She said the adult in her life who drove and inspired her was her mother.

“She would always give me extra homework and tell me I could not go outside and play until I finished the homework that she left and printed out," Camejo said. “It was extra homework that my school did not even assign.”

Camejo said she did not really think about the impact that she, an African-American, would have just being present in a stem career. But as an adult, she sees that she can inspire kids who look like her, and that made her want to speak to kids at Hoover High School.

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