Cisco’s ERO Conexion & MESA partnership for students

On Friday, September 6th, 2013 Cisco’s Latino Employee Resource Organization (ERO), Conexion, had another first.  They partnered with an organization called MESA, Mathematics Engineering Science Achievement, here in San Jose.


MESA helps underprivileged college students in engineering majors by providing guidance & mentorship programs.  Conexion joined forces with MESA last spring and conducted a shadowing day at Cisco for 30 students who were then partnered with 30 Cisco mentors for a one year engagement.  One request that kept coming from the students was how to “get into Cisco”.



After a few conversations with Diversity Recruiting and University Recruiting, Conexion decided to host a recruiting day.  Conexion worked with the different business units to understand where the requisitions would be open and had the students apply ahead of time.



Anabelle Pinto, Director in Sports and Entertainment at Cisco, kicked off the day with some inspirational words to the students.  Cisco had 7 students interview for full time positions.  Two students interviewed for internships. Nine students, that do not yet qualify for either internships or full time positions, had mock interviews with Cisco employees.  The day ended with Rosie Cofre, ERO Strategic at Cisco, sharing her story about her challenges of growing up as a diverse person in the US.  It resonated well, and left everyone inspired!


This was the first time that an ERO was able to provide a diverse candidate pool to Cisco that resulted in interviews and hopefully in a few new hires for next summer!


About Conexion/MESA partnership:

Conexion sponsored the MESA Shadowing Day & Mentoring Journey originally on March 8th, 2013 at the San Jose Cisco offices. 

Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) is nationally recognized for its innovative and effective academic development program.  This particular program is a partnership between MESA and Cisco to provide shadowing and mentoring opportunities for MESA higher education students interested in pursuing careers in technology.  To kick-off their experience, thirty students spent a half-day at Cisco, learning more about their technologies and solutions, meeting their individual mentors, shadowing their jobs, and then reflecting on the experience.  Thirty Cisco mentors were recruited through our partnership with the Employee Resource Groups at Cisco. 

Informal mentoring relationships between MESA students and Cisco employees will continue for a period of one year, where they will meet monthly to discuss student areas of study and interest, review areas of focus for the Cisco employee, and engage in coaching and mentoring discussions. 

The Future Silicon Valley Latina Coders

It is an early Saturday morning as I am driving, with my daughters, to one of the greatest cities in the country if not the world, San Francisco, for what will be their first experience as computer programmers at the event “Build A Webpage – in a Day”. Coding is a modern science but also an art.

I recall the countless times as a youth driving into the city with my father to work in his art gallery on Maiden Lane. Learning the ins and outs of art and acquiring an eye, over many years, of how to appreciate good art.

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The significance of this event on this particular Saturday in May was that young Silicon Valley Latinas from all corners of the Valley & Bay Area were able to express and create their dreams via the modern canvas – The Computer screen! Step by step they were guided through the process of drawing their topic on paper first so that they could see how it would appear on their computer screen and then the coding began step by step. Their fingers gliding over the keyboards as a painter glides the brush across the canvas. The painter’s canvas in this case was the screen showing the coding on the wall with the master painter at the back of the class typing in the instructions for the girls to follow and learn.

We are about technology

As Giovanni Rodriguez wrote in Forbes not to long ago “while disparities in education (STEM) and employment exist, the conventional wisdom obscures the reality that Latinos are an emerging force in technology” and this first experience for these young Latinas in Build A Webpage – in a Day presented by Black Girls Code in partnership with Latino Startup Alliance, MEDASF & Google for Entrepreneurs demonstrates the hunger that Latinas in this case have to leave their mark on this industry.

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After learning to code the entire day these young ladies, 59 of them, were able to build their webpages on fashion, animals, dolls, etc. showing us their youth and at the same time learning how to create and bring to life, via their modern canvas, their dreams.

As I took pictures of these young artists keying code on their modern canvases I wondered if this is what it would have been like 70+ years ago when Frida Kahlo began leaving her mark in the art world and now it was these young Latinas turn to leave their mark on this wonderful Valley & City.

Globaloria- empowering youth through science


Jennifer Arguello: The Globey Awards


Avalos Foundation: Educational Scholarships

avalos foundation logo

An Innovative Educational Strategy

Take a moment to reflect on your middle & high school experience. The awkwardness, the peer pressure, the pains of growing up-although challenging- these experiences helped us develop resiliency. In our ever-changing world, the importance of strong, viable school communities cannot be denied. More and more research is showing that in order to be excellently prepared for a successful career and life in our global society, adolescents need to develop essential skills, such as: innovation, adaptability, critical analysis, cross-cultural communication, and teamwork.

At E3: Education, Excellence & Equity, this is the skill set they are instilling within middle and high school students via three strengths-based approaches: professional development for educators, innovative tools for effective student engagement, and a leadership development program for the most at-risk students, which includes educational outings and a multi-media project. Their consistent results each year are remarkable: 90% of teachers report that student engagement increases in their classroom, students increase their G.P.A.’s while decreasing their suspension & absence rates.

What is truly innovative about E3 is the focus on an interactive strengths-based approach, in which the competencies students have gained from their diverse life experiences are recognized and matched to the correlating 21st century skills. This shift in paradigm boosts students’ self-esteem and confidence. Once their resiliency is highlighted and they realize the value & interdependency of their lived & learned experiences, students are able to reach academic success. By using technology to guide students through a digital story project, they not only gain multi-media skills, but also the understanding of how resiliency can help us succeed in both social and academic situations.

*E3 imagines a future where educators embrace the lived and learned experiences of each student, and value the strengths that each child brings into the classroom.  In this future, all children achieve academic success, graduate from high school, and have the skills required for their next steps in an ever-changing world.

For more information, please visit: and contact us at:

How to think green for your next construction project.

California’s single family residence construction trends.


Green is hot. Green is everywhere. Green is the new “must have” quality of almost every home remodel, addition or new project, especially in California, and particularly in the Bay Area.

In the past decade, California, always known for pushing the envelope, has moved towards darker shades of green. A deeper awareness of the concepts of sustainability has developed into mandatory regulations and even a recent green building code in 2010.

What does it really mean for a house to be green?

Silicon Valley is all about gadgets!  In the built environment green means: solar panels, solar water heaters, whole-house fans, energy efficient appliances, etc.

Using green or sustainable products, considering their origin and making most efficient use of resources are also essential in making a house green.






The actual “design” of the house is the most important aspect to consider.  Prior to having mechanical heating and cooling systems, ancient cultures developed techniques to take advantage of solar orientation, natural ventilation, thermal mass; etc. Today, architects use the very same techniques to build green.

The Moody House in Los Altos Hills is a good example of a house in which the architect used design, resources and gadgets to make the house green.  The architect carefully studied the site:  The elements of nature & context around the property included sun patterns on a south facing hill, valley breezes, trees and views. A major road on the north facade and breathtaking valley views towards the east had to be considered as well.

A thorough understanding of the site as well as understanding the owners’ specific needs translated into a simple and efficient building. The simple rectangular shape of the house on two and three levels, is organized on an east-west axis. It follows the contours of the site and fits well into the topography.  The house is situated in such a way that it takes advantage of the top and bottom flat areas of the site while capturing the best views towards the bay.

All living spaces face south, while the service spaces close off the building to the north, protecting it from cold and providing privacy from the street.  Length of overhangs on the south and east facades were calculated to shade the house in hot summer days, and allow sun into the rooms during winter. The design incorporated natural cross ventilation throughout the house.  In the summer time, the valley breeze works its way from the wide openings on the south side through the clerestory windows above (stacking effect) on the north side.



It’s been a couple of years since the Moody house was completed and the owners have noticed that local bird species populate the surrounding trees and often visit the decks and balconies that surround the house.

Also, many of the bikers who frequent that road seem to be in the habit of taking breaks in front of the house to say hello and chat for a little while.

The moody house has a real sense of place and has taken on a life of its own.

To learn more about the Moody House visit:

Aida Alvarez: United We Dream

Stephanie Bravo-

Mentoring students for success

A perspective on Dreamers and the Dream Act

“With hunger for a better tomorrow, I crossed that stage to receive my college degree, and today I will cross because I’m here to strive.”  Liliana Campos[i]

Editorial perspective by Jose Espinoza 

While many students opted to leave school due to lack of recognition, hope and opportunities, many DREAMERS continue working hard or have completed their studies in well accredited institutions of higher learning and wait for the right opportunity to show their full potential.   Now, with the announcement of partial legislation of the Dream Act, the prospect of the realization of their dream is a step closer.

For the past fifteen years I have had the opportunity to learn from and teach many Latino students at the high school level.  Most of my students have been newcomers or came to the U.S. when they were little.  It was not difficult to identify first generation students to the US in my classroom.  They hold those fundamental principles of a great education that I also learned at home: a willingness to work hard, and an evident respect for teachers and adults in general.  “The teacher is your second parent when you are at school,” a parent reminded her daughter in a parent conference; it is a joy to teach and learn from these students and to work with their parents!

The dream to succeed through hard work is alive in these students.  They continue striving even though, the approximately 65,000 undocumented students  who graduate yearly[ii] face the possibility of deportation, find out that they don’t qualify for the FAFSA, scholarships or other opportunities, such as jobs, offered to them during high school.   I remember how, in high school, students were highly encouraged to apply for jobs with high tech counterparts such as Varian Computers, Hewlett Packard, and Lockheed Martin among others.  It didn’t feel good when I didn’t “qualify” as my other peers; I was so ready, and capable!   Since I didn’t pursue a career as an engineer in electronics or lawyer, I opted for my other choice, to become a teacher and instill in my students a persistent attitude to achieving their dreams.   Consistent with this idea, a few months ago, a sophomore at UC Berkeley shared with my students how her family sold tamales in order to send her to college; others financed their education working two or three jobs.    Julio Navarrete, in his testimonial, Teaching While Undocumented, epitomizes the attitude many DREAMERS have firmly believed and chosen to follow when he says,

“We need to educate ourselves.  Even if the possibility to have a career isn’t available right now, when things change you will have the skills necessary to be successful.” [iii]

While many students have been able to continue pursuing a good education despite the uncertainties,  many others were misinformed or highly discouraged by the poor prospects of getting accepted to a college without a social security, enough financing or the dim possibility to getting a job after graduating from college.  Who could blame them if they chose to leave school and start working if they had an opportunity to do so?  How could I convince some of my students to continue their education when they asked, “why even try if I will not be able to get a job after I graduate from college?”  They desperately needed something to look forward to; hope was not there for them.

I join in celebration with the DREAMERS who rejoice in President Obama’s recent announcement[iv] of legislation that will grant them work permits, and the possibility of adjusting their status in the U.S.   Many of my ex-students are part of the 800,000 who qualify; they now have something more concrete to look forward to.  The students have been raised and educated in the U.S. and have been active contributors to this country for a long time; it is only logical to make the move of a brain gain instead of the other possibility.  While the discussion to the issue of immigration is a much broader one, this step is in the right direction.

It is necessary for middle schools, high schools, colleges, and the private sector to establish working relationships to create mentorships, internships, scholarships, and other creative opportunities for students who might have a desire to pursue careers in the various fields of those businesses.  Pairing students with a mentor, exposing them to a working environment and maybe offering a summer job would provide an awesome service to students. While one could say that schools attempt at preparing students for the demands of the 21stCentury, the connection needs to be made with those businesses.   This is also a great time to embrace our DREAMERS who continue their education or who have graduated and are motivated, have great potential, and want to be validated for their contributions past and those yet to come, and be an integral part in the great fabric of our society.