September 15 to October 15 is Hispanic Heritage Month, a time for those to celebrate and recognize the contributions that have been made through those of Hispanic heritage.
Despite a growing Hispanic community in the United States, there are still several barriers that those who are Hispanic face. IBM reported that 67 percent say they must work harder to succeed because of their Hispanic identity, 30 percent of junior managers surveyed have access to mentorship programs or on-the-job training and only 20 percent of those surveyed say they feel empowered to overcome their professional challenges.
The Newburgh Enlarged City School District offers Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) at the Newburgh Free Academy, thanks to the partnership with SUNY Orange and IBM since 2011.
P-TECH is a four to six year program that provides students with the opportunity to graduate with both a high school diploma and an Associate’s degree in applied sciences in either computer networking or cyber security.
Suriana Rodriguez was once a P-TECH student herself, where she was able to have her own mentor to guide her professionally. Her mentor was Jamira Torres-Murphy, who works at IBM in Poughkeepsie.
After graduating from the Newburgh Free Academy, Rodriguez applied for an apprenticeship position with IBM. Now, she is a full-time position and Torres-Murphy has moved from her mentor to her manager.
Rodriguez, who is from Mexico, and Torres-Murphy, who is from Puerto Rico, have both seen the positive impact that mentorships can have on the Hispanic community.
Both Rodriguez and Torres-Murphy didn’t know how to speak English when they got to the United States yet they both had a strong desire to work hard with a goal in mind of success.
“I had a lot to learn when I came here,” said Torres-Murphy. “I felt that in order for me to succeed I need to work hard and maybe even harder than everybody else.”
Rodriguez echoed the same sentiment and said she “always strives to be the best” and has always pushed herself to do so, professionally and academically.
Torres-Murphy, who is a mom of two and the current manager for mainframe technical support at IBM, decided to take on the role as a mentor with the P-TECH program, where she built an extremely tight bond with Rodriguez, both professionally and personally.
While Rodriguez was weary at first of what it would be like to have someone you don’t know help guide you through the program, she was open to the opportunity.
Through the mentorship program, students and mentors have the opportunity to meet, plan activities and complete projects.
“We constantly talk,” said Torres-Murphy about the mentorship program. “At first it was more about I need to ensure this kid loves math and science, but over time it blossoms into something much bigger than that, like helping her sort out things in high school and relationships with teachers and peers.”
The mentorship between the two created a bond that they have been able to carry into their professional lives now at IBM.
“Every mentor mentee relationship is different,” said Torres-Murphy. “Suriana and I over time hit it off.”
In addition to the mentorship program, P-TECH offers other opportunities like internships, building connections and special job opportunities. To be a P-TECH student, applicants must apply when graduating from middle school and it is a lottery based system. The cohorts are 50 students per class.
P-TECH has a graduation rate around 90 percent.
“Hispanics, latinx are one of the largest minority groups in the United States,” said Torres-Murphy. “Enabling Hispanics to continue to progress forward is needed for the future of society in the United States. It will allow more professionals that help society bring diversity of thought and background to different society needs, whether that’s government, technology or education.”
Rodriguez said she celebrates her Hispanic heritage all year long, but is glad there is a month to recognize it.
“I think it’s really important to celebrate it,” said Rodriguez. “You’re putting out success stories that haven’t been talked about throughout the year. It shows younger people how you’re not the only one out there who is striving to be something successful. As Hispanics you’re being stereotyped and told all Hispanics are this or that. It shows we can accomplish way more than what people think we should accomplish.”