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Noche de Ciencias Encourages STEM Jobs for Hispanic Students

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - It's a familiar push, with a new audience. Saturday night marked the first time Cedar Rapids hosted Noche de Ciencias, a program geared to getting students of Hispanic background interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM careers.

Noche de Ciencias was created by nonprofit Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers in 2008. The group reports Hispanics will be part of the U.S.'s majority population by 2042, and would like to see the ethnic group take advantage of the growing STEM job market.

Seven year-old Sebastian Caballero of Cedar Rapids one day hopes to have a job studying animals.

"I'm even going to go underwater to see what they do," said Caballero.

He was one of the about 100, to attend Noche de Ciencias, at Coe College, Saturday. The program lasted from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm and enticed kids, from elementary to high school, with fun activities.

"What better way than to do activities? Activities that relate to the sciences, where you can use science and math applications in the real world," said Irmarie Swanson, with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers' Eastern Iowa chapter.

Kids were learning how to observe through a microscope, trying out finger printing in a forensics lab, building skyscrapers out of newspaper, and more.

"I think the sciences are where big things happen. I kind of want to make it cool," said Chris Hinojo, an Iowa State student volunteering with the program.

Noche de Ciencias organizers also got parents involved by giving them workshops on how to keep kids in school and afford a university.

"Even if they don't have the resources right now, there are financial aids and there are ways to get your kids to college," said Swanson.

Noche de Ciencias only recently started in Iowa. The Cedar Rapids event made about 11 total in the state, mostly in Eastern Iowa. But the hope is the program will go state-wide in the future.