Inspiring Young Leaders at the Intersection of STEM & Policy
Global Los Angeles
January 2, 2020

At the Pacific Council, we believe in cultivating the next generation of global leaders. With this in mind, the Special Initiatives Department has been piloting educational partnerships with schools in the local LA community. One such partnership is with USC Hybrid High, a charter school within the Ednovate network.

In our first ever Speaker Series event with USC Hybrid High, we curated a STEM Career Panel consisting mainly of Pacific Council members (pictured left to right in the photo above): Nicholas Chow, Tepring Piquado, Ingrid Zeledon, Güez Salinas, and Joey Jefferson of NASA. These members sat down and talked with high school students about their STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) careers and how they got to be where they are. They also explained how their STEM-focused work has a policy impact.

Each member touched upon how their career trajectories changed from what they thought they would be doing, to how they found their passion and joy in their work. Chow talked about how the constant theme of his love of water led him to travel all over the world. He now works as a water engineering project manager.

Piquado touched on how she is combining her background in cognitive neuroscience with policy analysis as a neuroscientist. As a doctoral candidate, Ingrid mentioned her dissertation topic about an immigration experiences stress scale to gain insight on the immigration and acculturation process. Salinas gave an inspiring speech about his journey with cybersecurity and the importance of time when it comes to achieving your dreams.

As a member of the audience, I could see how our members’ stories resounded with the first years and sophomores. Their eyes lit up as they heard and saw how people who look like them, have the same hair as them, or even grew up in the same kinds of neighborhoods as they did, can succeed and thrive in STEM fields. Jamie Alvarez, a senior at USC Hybrid High and coordinator of the STEM Speaker Series, said, “With the lack of adequate STEM resources in communities like ours, your participation is helping promote mentorship and guidance in this field.”

Walking away from this inaugural Speaker Series event, I felt humbled and reminded of how much representation matters and its deep, resounding impact in our communities.


Ilyssa Padrid-Dykman is Officer of Special Initiatives at the Pacific Council.

If you would like to be involved with our educational partnership work, please contact Ilyssa at

Read about the USC Hybrid High class, which came to visit the Pacific Council and learned about foreign policy, here.

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