May 22, 2015

Code as a Second Language

By ; President and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation

On appearance, Kaira Villanueva seems to be an average sophomore student at Columbia University tracing her way through New York with a well-worn backpack, scratched-up MetroCard, and a youthful curiosity. Except she’s not typical. As a Latina computer science major, unfortunately, there is nothing common about her career path. And after being selected this year by the Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and Google to be part of the Code as a Second Language (CSL) initiative, she’s more of a Tech Action Hero.


Kaira and about a dozen other Latino programmers were tapped to be CSL Fellows to teach computer programming to Latino youth across the country – Kaira just finished instructing a class of high school girls in New York over an eight-session course usingCS First curriculum to ensure there are more Kairas going forward. And more, Dantes. Dante Alvarado-Leon is a student at UC Berkeley that also wrapped up his CSL effort this week but across the country in an underserved school in San Jose. As America scrambles to find more programmers, it will take creative and resourceful approaches like the CSL initiative to empower more Tech Action Heroes like Kaira and Dante who are strategically leveraged to more effectively reach the imaginations of younger Latinos to join them in the dynamic but unfortunately exclusive tech space – a space which is desperate for programmers.

Yes, it doesn’t make sense to be desperate and exclusive at the same time but that’s exactly what the tech industry is. And the math just doesn’t add up … according to theBureau of Labor Statistics, over the next five years, 1.4 million new computer science jobs will need to be filled in the United States but currently in the pipeline are only about 400,000 CS students. At this time, there are over 500,000 vacant tech jobs. What is baffling is that nine out of 10 high schoolsdon’t offer coding classes and in 33 of 50 states, computer science classes aren’t counted as high school math or science graduation requirements (according to That’s right, in most states computer science is treated more like a shop class instead of a math or science-based course. CS/technology is only one of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields to decrease in student participation over the last two decades according to the National Center for Education Statistics. It’s no wonder that we’re so worried as a nation about competing globally.

And the long-term solution isn’t to search the globe for talent. (In about a week’s time, the H01B visa cap of 65,000 had been maxed out like a data plan on a very social teen’s phone.) Actually, the solution is right there here in the United States – in barrios, rural areas, urban areas, pretty much everywhere. To prove it, HHF hosted a LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) Coder Summit at Stanford which attracted 500 registrants who were all programmers with half CS students and half professionals (40 percent were female). Participates broke down and cried about how overwhelmed they were to not be on the only Latino or Latina in a room of programmers. Kaira and Dante were there and presented their innovative ideas along with about 15 other Latinos. We proved at the summit that a base of Latino programmers does exist and needs to be build upon and mobilized to grow the pool of talent, which is exactly what the CSL program is doing. We need to show Silicon Valley and the private and public sectors that a Latino programmer isn’t a brown unicorn carrying a keyboard!

However, leveraging the talent means tapping Kaira and Dante, providing them with platforms to inspire, introduce and teach younger Latinos about coding or to simply spark an interest in tech careers, or innovating to make a social impact, or learning a tool to express themselves better and be creative in today’s and tomorrow’s changing environment. This new wave of Latino innovators, tech workforce and entrepreneurs need to be added to the already burgeoning young Latino population to move America forward. America needs us.

And once again Latinos can fill the jobs our country needs us to fill. Latinos have always done what America has needed. Whether it was to build buildings, pick fruit, serve food or fight wars, we are a noble, hardworking and flexible workforce. And now we need to fill the gap in tech jobs. And as we have throughout history, we will come through.

But in order to do that we to be more resourceful, creative and actionable through programs like CSL, which just concluded in eight regions with visits to Google offices and the important connectivity to employee volunteers for mentoring and a vision of very cool jobs that they are now on track for (through CS First Curriculum it’s an opportunity for mentors, parents and teachers to also be Tech Action Heroes). It will take a collective effort between the private, public, education and nonprofit sectors to make an impact. This summer, HHF is working with Saber es Poder and the Mexican Government to bring CSL to the Mexican Consulates to provide our new arrivals that are on a pathway to residence and citizenship with a powerful value proposition for America. Immigrants are here to help to pay back the enormous debt we have to live in the United States. That’s the mindset. Our job is to collectively provide them with the tools and knowledge to fulfill that responsibility.

There needs to be a focus on Latino youth who currently represent nearly 25 percent of the student population. This is our future workforce of which 75 percent of new jobs will be filled by Latinos according to a report by IHS Economics. We need to make sure that a large portion of those new jobs being filled are in the tech industry. In the fall, CSL will start a year-round effort in up to 30 schools in Los Angeles alone through a partnership with community colleges.

And yes, going forward more Tech Action Heroes like Kaira and Dante will be deputized and empowered to meet our workforce challenges head on.

Originally appeared on the Huffington Post.

For more information on the Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s programs and initiatives visit:


March 22, 2015

Latin@ Coder Summit–May 2, 2015 at Stanford University

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) is proud to host its first Latino Coder Summit! The summit is part of the LOFT Code as a Second Language national initiative.

If you are a Latino coder, programmer, hacker, developer, and/ or a computer scientist, we invite you to be a part of this one of a kind experience. 


Join HHF as we debunk the technology industry’s greatest myths, and help mobilize coders from across the nation, both students and professionals alike, to celebrate Latino culture, innovation and passion for computer programming.

The summit is a one-day event filled with back to back workshops, discussions, and opportunities to expand your network— please join us in redefining the landscape of computer technology through a heightened collaboration and representation of like-minded Latin@ students and professionals, all united and ignited by their endless passion for technology. 

Register here! Also, make sure you check our new LOFT Code as a Second Language website:

If you have any questions regarding this event, please feel free to contact Alberto Avalos:, and Brian Ovalles:

We look forward to hearing from you!

Tentative Agenda:

  • 8:30am: Breakfast Starts/Registration
  • 9:00am-9:15am: Welcome
  • 9:15am-10:00am: Keynote
  • 10:00am-12:00pm: Pitch and Judge for Latin@ Coders
  • 12:00pm-1:00pm: Lunch panel: Experienced Silicon Valley founders and career perspectives from Computer Scientists in research and academia
  • 1:00pm-2:30pm: Workshop Session #1 
  • 2:30pm-3:00pm: Booths of opportunities for coders
  • 3:00pm-4:30pm: Workshop Session #2 
  • 4:30pm-6:00pm: Roundtable Discussion w/dinner
  • 6:00pm: Closing Remarks

Following the summit, we will be having a reception for the LOFT Awards!

March 14, 2015


White House Initiative on Educational Excellence Joined Event at School in Astoria

NEW YORK, NY – The Televisa Foundation and Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) launched Televisa Foundation’s 2015 STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs and HHF’s national Code  as a Second Language (CSL) initiative through an effort in New York to engage, introduce and teach computer coding to Latinas at a press event at The Young Women’s Leadership School (TYWLS) of Astoria, 23-15 Newtown Ave., Astoria, NY, on Tuesday, March 3, 9:30-11:40 a.m. (greetings, 9:30-10 a.m.; remarks, 10-10:30 a.m.; introductory CSL session with classroom of Latinas, 11:30-11:40 a.m.).

The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics joined the kick-off event in support of Televisa Foundation’s commitment to support Latinos in STEM in response to the White House’s Call to Action on STEM as well as HHF’s innovative approach to increasing the number of Latinos and Latinas in STEM fields.

March 14, 2015

2nd Annual LOFT Investors Forum– June 23 – 24, 2015

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is proud to host the 2nd Annual LOFT Investors Forum, on June 23 – 24, 2015, in Los Angeles, California – the city and state, respectively, with the most Latino pension fund trustees in the country. The LOFT Investors Forum is a unique initiative focused on educational instruction and training for Latino pension fund trustees and relevant industry stakeholders. The Forum’s goals are: 1. providing training and educational opportunities related to investments and best practices, tailored to trustees; 2. fostering a robust network of Latino trustees and investors; 3. developing a platform for promising young Latino professionals to grow into senior roles at pensions systems.

The Forum’s agenda includes interactive discussions on topics including: trustee experiences; board governance; macroeconomic outlook; portfolio construction; equities; fixed income; private equity; hedge funds; real estate; real assets and energy; and emerging managers.

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation expects representatives of pensions with more than a combined $1 trillion of assets to attend the two-day event. Proceeds of the event will help fund LOFT financial literacy and talent development initiatives in underserved and underrepresented communities. Participation in the Forum is available by invitation only.

To learn more about the 2015 LOFT Investors Forum, please visit

February 18, 2015


Latinos On Fast Track (LOFT) Provides Career Guidance, Opportunities and Connectivity in STEM fields to Young Latinos

WASHINGTON, DC – The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) and the U.S. Army in addition to CVS Caremark Workforce Initiatives, ExxonMobil, Google, OCI Group, and Southwest Airlines (the Official Airline for LOFT) will host Latinos On Fast Track (LOFT) STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) Symposia in 10 regions across America. The leadership and workforce development program is free for attendees and provides career-path guidance, educational opportunities and connectivity for students and young professionals in the STEM fields.

October 14, 2014

Students traveled to Washington, DC and earned innovation grants for games and apps addressing pressing social issues

September 30, 2014 – Washington, DC – Twenty minority students were selected as Leaders on the Fast Track (LOFT) Video Game Innovation Fellows based on games and apps they developed to address social issues in their community, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) announced today.

The fellows, ages 15 to 25, visited Washington, DC October 1-3 and presented their ideas to members of the Obama Administration, Congress, and national community leaders. Each fellow received an innovation grant to help further develop his or her game or app. For additional information on fellows and the ESA Project, contact Santiago Melli-Huber at or (202) 558-9473.


October 1
Arrival and informal dinner

October 2
– Congressional Briefing at Capitol Hill [Click Here for Bios of Panelist]

– Luncheon located at 1001 Pennsylvania Ave., 10th Floor, Washington, DC Click Here to view Photos

– Evening Reception

For Photos Click Here

October 3
– White House Briefing with Office of Science and Technology

“This creative partnership with ESA allows us to engage youth on their terms,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, president and CEO of HHF. “We believe that video games are a compelling gateway for teaching students how to code and build their own games and mobile apps — skills that will ultimately help prepare them to compete in today’s technology-driven marketplace. We will empower them to become content creators, not just consumers.”

“The ESA LOFT Video Game Innovation Fellowship demonstrates that games are more than a means of entertainment. They are a valuable tool for positive change in our society,” said Rich Taylor, senior vice president of communications and industry affairs at the ESA. “We are proud to offer an opportunity that will help foster and promote creative thinking and innovation in minority communities through the unique platform only video games can provide.”

Read More.

June 23, 2014

1st Annual LOFT Investors Forum

June 13, 2014


MIAMI, FL – The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF), Google and Florida International University (FIU) will host a LOFT (Leaders On Fast Track) Coding Jam Session at FIU (Engineering and Computer Science Building Room 241, 11200 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33199) at 10 a.m., Saturday, June 14, in an effort to introduce minority youth to computer coding and career paths in technology fields to fill the skills gap in America. The free, bilingual Jam Session will instruct minority youth on how to code with hip-hop, jazz, and salsa music playing in the background.  A Google Chromebook laptop will be provided to the student with the best idea to make a positive impact on their community.

“Driving this effort is the belief that all young people throughout our communities deserve access to technology-based programs and trainings,” said Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of HHF. “It’s remarkable that in 2014 only one out of 10 high schools teach computer coding.  We are trying to fill that gap not only in education but in the workforce going forward through our partnership with Google.  There is no greater way to make an impact on society going forward than through technology.  We’re thrilled to be in Miami with FIU to make an impact.”

The Coding Jam will be part of the Voto Latino Power Summit, a leadership conference to educate, empower, and engage Latino Millennials to create positive change in their communities. Voto Latino is a partner of HHF.

LOFT is HHF’s award-winning leadership and workforce development program and the Coding Jam Sessions – which are being executed in at least 10 cities – are part of LOFT’s Innovation & Technology Track is an area of focus. Other LOFT Tracks include Science & Healthcare, Engineering, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Education, Public Service, and Media & Entertainment.  Through a grant from the State of California, HHF will execute the LOFT Coding Jam Sessions in 30 schools in the Los Angeles County School District, which is the second largest in the country.

As follow up, HHF stays connected with the students through and will provide next-step curriculum online and even certificates of achievement when a level is reached.  HHF also video tapes the Jam Sessions to post online for students, educators, nonprofits and even parents to access the LOFT curriculum as an introduction to coding.

Interested middle school students may register here.

May 14, 2014


MONTEREY PARK, CA – East Los Angeles College (ELAC), Hispanic Heritage Foundation’s (HHF) Leaders On Fast Track program (LOFT), Department of Education, Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and other partners present the third segment in ELAC’s Mixing Arts & Science series on May 15 from 6-8 p.m. at the ELAC auditorium (1301 Avenida Cesar Chavez, Monterey Park, CA 91754). The purpose is to introduce and encourage Latinos to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) careers through video gaming, in which Hispanics and other minorities are over indexed as users.  Art is being added to the traditional STEM categories making it STEAM.

“At the core of LOFT’s video gaming initiatives is the belief that using technology for social change or career paths is essential to not only the advancement of minority communities, but America as a nation,” said Emanuel Pleitez, Chair of HHF and an LA native. “Through this creative partnership with ELAC, DOE and ESA, we are engaging youth on their terms, through video games. The link from playing a video game to developing one to computer coding, cybersecurity and other skills gap areas is part of the strategy for this effort in Los Angeles.”

The event, titled “The Art of Video Games,” will feature video gaming industry experts highlighting the connection between playing video games to developing them to entertaining careers in technology which would fill an ever-growing skills gap in America. Public officials and other leaders from the area will also participate including Congressman Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Pleitez, and Los Angeles City General Manager Jan Perry.  The students will explore career opportunities, learn employment forecast, participate in interactive and hands-on demonstrations from video game companies, and form connections to help build a seamless integration of STEM and the Arts.

A reception will immediately follow the event. Registration is free and open to the public. Contact Martha C. Pelayo at

May 14, 2014


CA State Assembly Member Luis A. Alejo of the 30th District Also Being Recognized

PALO ALTO, CA – Es Tiempo, LLC and Hispanic-Net hosted the 5th Annual Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit (SVLLS) at the Stanford Faculty Club at Stanford University and presented Hispanic Heritage Foundation President & CEO Jose Antonio Tijerino with the Vision Award for his contributions to the Latino community and innovative approach to youth leadership.  The Honorable, Luis A. Alejo, California State Assembly Member, 30th District, was awarded the Latino Pioneer Leadership Award for his commitment in empowering the residents in California, especially those who are disadvantaged and underrepresented.


“I’m deeply honored to receive the Vision Award from a leader like Frank Carbajal in a region full of American dreams – Silicon Valley,” said Tijerino.  “I’m accepting this award on behalf of the tens of thousands of young leaders in our network who provide me inspiration, ideas and a spirit which embodies what this great country is all about – innovation. Ahora Si! I’m also humbled to share the stage with Luis Alejo who has made an indelible impact on California.”


Tijerino has served as president and CEO of HHF for over 12 years during which the national, nonprofit organization has expanded its mission to inspire, prepare, connect and position Latino leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s priorities.  Tijerino has developed an innovative, sustainable programmatic model for Latino leadership in 10 areas of focus or Tracks including Science & Healthcare, Technology, Engineering, Entrepreneurship, Finance, Education, Public Service, Media & Entertainment and Latinas and leads a network of tens of thousands of vetted students and young professionals who he believes are “leaders of today and tomorrow.”  HHF’s approach and youth programs have been recognized by the White House, Congress, and Fortune 500 Companies.  He also executive produces the star-studded Hispanic Heritage Awards at the Kennedy Center and the television broadcast.  He serves on numerous boards and committees including the Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard, National Parent Teacher Association, National Building Museum, Jefferson Awards, the Robert H. School of Business at University of Maryland, and Hispanic Technology & Telecommunications Partnership among others.


“Antonio continues to inspire tens of thousands of youth through his great team at the Hispanic Heritage Foundation,” said Frank Carbajal, founder of SVLLS and Es Tiempo, LLC. “Antonio leads this organization with his genuine leadership, by creating a platform that builds Latino Leaders to become the voice and leaders of today.”


The Silicon Valley Latino Leadership Summit (SVLLS) is an annual event aimed at inspiring, educating, and fostering connections through an interactive experience with participants and speakers. SVLLS brings together hundreds of diverse business, community and government leaders, entrepreneurs, social media innovators, college students and even high school students participating in the California Ivy League Project and the Young Latina Project.


About HHF and LOFT

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation is a nonprofit originally established by the White House in 1987 which inspires, prepares, positions and connects minority leaders in the classroom, community and workforce to meet America’s priorities.  HHF also promotes cultural pride, accomplishment, and the great promise of the community through public awareness campaigns seen by millions.  HHF is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Los Angeles, Miami and the LOFT Institute is housed at Michigan State University (  Follow Hispanic Heritage Foundation on Facebook and HHFoundation on Twitter.


HHF’s award-winning LOFT (Latinos On Fast Track) leadership and workforce development program is divided into 10 “Tracks,” or industries, which are priorities for America including Innovation & Technology, Science & Healthcare, Engineering, Finance, Entrepreneurship, Education, Public Service, Law, Media & Entertainment, and Latinas.  Tens of thousands of students and young professionals are connected to each other and to mentors and resources; over 50 trainings, workshops, and informal Charlas are hosted across the country; creative initiatives are executed; and hundreds of minorities are placed into internships, mentorships, fellowships and full-time positions with Fortune 500 companies and government agencies.  Visit, and join to get on the fast track to leadership.  Follow LOFTinstitute on Twitter.

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