Hispanic students find the foundation for success through STEM

Two alumni share how access to tech, combined with life skills-building lesson plans, prepared them for college and careers

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This Hispanic Heritage Month, we celebrate the successes of two alumni of Verizon Innovative Learning programs: Sila Frayre and Ivan Martinez.

Through Verizon Innovative Learning, students gain access to state-of-the-art technology while learning how to code, build robots and use tools such as 3D printers and virtual reality (VR) headsets. Actively engaging with tech while learning life skills can be a powerful combination, and that know-how translates into higher education and adulthood, as Frayre and Martinez share.

With newfound confidence and support from a network of similarly-minded friends and mentors, these two Hispanic alumni share how Verizon Innovative Learning better prepared them for long-term success.

Sila Frayre, who graduated from Arizona State University in 2021, now works as a logistics analyst and hopes to start her own company one day.

Sila Frayre: A future supply chain ace

Even as a high school student, Sila Frayre was interested in business and innovation. Frayre’s senior year in Phoenix, AZ, she got involved with Verizon Innovative Learning as part of a marketing class. In one challenge, teams of students designed and developed an app to solve a specific problem. Frayre’s team zeroed in on the cumbersome process of navigating a grocery store; they developed a shopping app to guide a shopper through a store, navigating through the aisles item by item via their shopping list. The app, Shop Easy, won Best in State at DECA, an international career development conference.

The student team developed their idea from the ground up, including producing a video to explain their pitch, which also taught them presentation and team-building skills. For Frayre, the work had an eye-opening takeaway. “It really helped with the concept of creating something, then building a business plan and pitching it to an audience,” says Frayre. “I think that was one of the biggest skills that I learned through the program.”

Frayre praises the real-life, hands-on experiences she gained in the Verizon program with preparing her for college, as well as her career after graduation. “We weren't just doing the regular curriculum; we were doing other things that allowed us to get more experience outside of the day-to-day courses that we were taking,” she explains.

Today, Frayre is working as a logistics analyst, after graduating with a bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University. Next up for this young innovator: She hopes to start her own company.

“I liked that I was taking initiative and was ahead,” Ivan Martinez says of his time with Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers.

Ivan Martinez: From back row to head of the class

Ivan Martinez recently completed his freshman year at Cal State, near his hometown in East LA. It’s a school he knew from his days as a high school student when he attended Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers at Cal State Los Angeles.

Back in the day, Martinez described himself as the type of student who kept to himself in the back of the classroom. Although he was interested in engineering and coding, his high school didn’t offer any coursework in those STEM topics. He credits the Verizon program with vaulting him ahead when it came to computer programming. Despite going to a math and science school, Martinez says, “there was no programming in my classes. I liked that I was taking initiative and was ahead.”

Along with the STEM coursework, Martinez says he benefited from the camaraderie of students who were interested in the same things. “The program really got me to open up to other people,” he says. Martinez also mentored younger students in Verizon’s program, which he attributes to helping him gain admission to Cal State. Today, Martinez has many doors open to him: he is a pre-psychology major and will graduate with the class of 2025.

To learn more about the Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers program, click here. To access complimentary resources for educators, visit Verizon Innovative Learning HQ, a free, open-access portal of next-gen learning tools, lesson plans and resources. 

Ivan Martinez returned as a mentor to Verizon Innovative Learning STEM Achievers at Cal State LA this past summer.

"It really helped with the concept of creating something, then building a business plan and pitching it to an audience. I think that was one of the biggest skills that I learned through the [Verizon] program.”

Sila Frayre, Verizon Innovative Learning alumna

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