Inspire California continues to add to its growing list of programs aimed at showing students the opportunities of higher education.

On Friday, April 19, Inspire California organized a Silicon Valley Tech Tour for 35 Central Valley high school students, which included a tour Google's Global Headquarters in Mountain View and Stanford University in Palo Alto.

Inspire California is a community-based organization that offers free comprehensive college preparatory services, mentoring, professional development opportunities and free college campus trips to Central Valley high school and community college students.

Inspire California's founder Aaron Brieno, a Hanford West High School alumni, created the program to provide free college prep resources to Valley high school students who have aspirations to pursue opportunities in higher education.

Inspire California's recent Silicon Valley Tech Tour was organized by Brieno to help promote careers related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) within underserved communities.

In Brieno's current capacity as legislative director for California State Senator Ben Hueso (San Diego) he said he became keenly aware of the underrepresentation of minority groups within STEM professions.

"When Senator Hueso was chair of the California Latino Legislative Caucus he worked to promote STEM career pathways for underrepresented groups within California. Statistics demonstrated that women, African Americans and Latinos are significantly underrepresented in STEM careers,” he said. “It was my hope that this Tech Tour to Google would provide students with the inspiration they might need to pursue a career in STEM.”

During the tech tour, students had the opportunity to tour Google's Global Headquarters in Mountain View, eat lunch in Google's cafeteria and hear from a Google diversity panel composed of women and minority coders.

Brieno said this trip served to inspire many of the high school student participants, including Rodrigo Maldonado, 18, a recent Hanford High graduate and class co-valedictorian.

"Inspire California's recent trip to Google provided me with an in-depth look into many possible careers in STEM. Growing up in a low-income, first generation household I had to work as landscaper with my mother and father and was oblivious of many of the career opportunities in technology and computer science,” he said. “This trip afforded me with the opportunity to see a variety of STEM related career opportunities and prompted me to apply to the Stanford Summer Engineering Academy, a month-long summer engineering academy for underrepresented students."

Maldonado received the Quest-Bridge National College Match Scholarship and was selected for the California Latino Legislative Caucus Foundation scholarship by Assemblymember Rudy Salas. He will be attending Stanford University in the fall.

Jessica Fernandez, 15, an incoming sophomore at the Lawrenceville School and former student at Sierra Pacific High School, said it was a great experience to visit Google.

“It was quite surprising and empowering to see so many people of color working in STEM,” said Fernandez, who has been a participant in many of Inspire California's programs and aspires to attend Harvard University as a political science major.

Vivian Navarro, 18, a recent Hanford West High School graduate, also attended the tour. Navarro is currently enrolled at West Hills College and aspires to apply to UC Davis's Law School after her undergraduate studies have been completed.

"What I enjoyed most about the trip to Google was the amazing diverse community of employees,” Navarro said. “There were many people of color and as a Latina it really motivated me to keep bettering myself."

Today, Aug. 9, Inspire California is taking more students on a free college campus tour of the University of Southern California and a free tour of the Los Angeles County Natural History Museum and California Science Center.

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