Hispanic Heritage Foundation Highlights Importance of Math and Science to Latinos

Hispanic Heritage Foundation Highlights Importance of Math and Science to Latinos

Seismologist Dr. Ines Cifuentes Honored for Math, Science Leadership during 21st Hispanic Heritage Awards


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Washington, DC–(HISPANIC PR WIRE – BUSINESS WIRE)–October 10, 2007–The Hispanic Heritage Foundation (HHF) announced today that Dr. Ines Cifuentes is the first recipient of the Hispanic Heritage Award for Math and Science, a new award funded by ExxonMobil.

“Dr. Cifuentes is an embodiment of the Hispanic Heritage Awards, and living proof that through education, hard work and vision, anything is possible,” said Jose Antonio Tijerino, HHF president and CEO. “Through her remarkable accomplishments in an industry lacking in Latino and female representation, Dr. Cifuentes’ story is a true testament to the American spirit.”

ExxonMobil created the new award in an effort to raise the visibility of math and science with Latinos and create role models within the field to inspire youth. ExxonMobil has been a partner with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation since 2001 when the company created a Math and Engineering category for HHF’s Youth Awards program.

“I commend ExxonMobil for their leadership in creating this award, which will not only promote Hispanic excellence in math and science but provide inspiration for our youth. Through our year-round partnership, we have created a sustainable model to identify, prepare and guide Latinos in the areas of math, engineering and sciences, and now we are promoting the work of leaders such as Dr. Cifuentes on a national level.”

Dr. Cifuentes is of Ecuadorean descent and came with her family to the Washington, D.C. area at the age of 12. Her academic career began at Pennsylvania’s Swarthmore College where she studied physics. She moved onto graduate school at Stanford University where she earned her master’s degree in geophysics and afterward became a field researcher with the U.S. Geological Survey in Central America. Dr. Cifuentes later became the first Latina to receive a Ph.D. in seismology at Columbia University. As director of the Carnegie Academy for Science Education, she taught science and mathematics to elementary school students and educators. Dr. Cifuentes’s outreach includes her work with CASA of Maryland, which originally was created to help Central American refugees fleeing the war but now extends to low income immigrants from all Latin American countries and several African countries. She now works as the Education and Careers manager for the American Geophysical Union where she encourages minority youth to study the earth sciences and is currently writing a children’s book in English and Spanish about earthquakes and tsunamis.

“I am honored to receive this prestigious Hispanic Heritage Award and will continue working to make sure that doors are open for young Latinos to become scientists,” said Cifuentes. “We need as many good minds as we can get to solve the world’s problems — environmental, energy and natural hazards. I’m grateful to ExxonMobil for recognizing Latinos in my field and for encouraging youngsters to enter the exciting and rewarding subjects of math and science.”

In addition to Cifuentes, ExxonMobil will also honor the 2007 National Youth Awards recipient for Engineering and Mathematics, Keone David Hon, during the Hispanic Heritage Awards. Hon, of Kailua Kona, Hawaii, is currently a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

“ExxonMobil is privileged to partner with the Hispanic Heritage Foundation in recognizing talented Latino leaders while additionally helping to raise awareness about the integral importance of a math and science education,” said Gerald McElvy, president of the Exxon Mobil Foundation. “We want to spotlight outstanding individuals such as Dr.Cifuentes and Keone Hon whose influence encourages others to pursue these promising careers and help make a positive difference in our nation.

“We commend the Hispanic Heritage Foundation on their impacting efforts to elevate, encourage and celebrate Latino heritage and culture while promoting future generations of great contributors to our society.”

For 21 years, the Hispanic Heritage Awards have honored Latinos for their leadership and impact made in their respective fields. A star-studded roster of celebrity presenters and entertainers will complete the festive and emotional program.

The other 2007 Hispanic Heritage Awards recipients include:

Actress and Founder of Voto Latino, Rosario Dawson, for VISION; Hall of Fame Baseball Player, Tony Perez, for SPORTS; U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and U.S. Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) for EDUCATION; and the Cast of Love in the Time of Cholera for ARTS (Director Mike Newell, Actors Benjamin Bratt, John Leguizamo, Hector Elizondo, Oscar-nominee Catalina Sandino Moreno; and Laura Harring)

The other 2007 National Hispanic Heritage Youth Awardees, in addition to Hon, include: Nicolas Frank Altemose of Temecula, California for Academic Excellence; Fabian Alejandro Poliak of Apopka, Florida for Business; Natassia Rodriguez of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania for Community Service; Haydee Cruz of Phoenix, Arizona for Education; Daniel Lage of Coral Gables, Florida for Healthcare; Christopher Stephan Oroza of Coppell, Texas for Journalism; and Ilona Catalina Juan of Homestead, Florida for Sports. In addition to these students, teacher Dora Arredondo-Maron of Los Gatos, California will be recognized with the National Hispanic Heritage Teacher Award.

The Hispanic Heritage Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit organization which identifies, inspires, promotes and prepares Latino leaders through national leadership, educational, and workforce programs. The Hispanic Heritage Awards, which began as a small White House ceremony commemorating the creation of Hispanic Heritage Month, has become the most recognizable and celebrated Hispanic honor and event in America, and serves as a culmination of the Foundation’s year-round programs. For more information please visit http://www.HispanicHeritage.org.

Hispanic Heritage Foundation Highlights Importance of Math and Science to Latinos