A group of Hispanic parents are sitting or standing at the Lake Nona High School (LNHS) parking lot laughing and speaking rapidly in both Spanish and English as they await their children who had band practice after school.  Finally, the band room door opens and here they come all engaged in a jovial conversation as they walk slowly towards the waiting cars.  “Hi Mom! Hi Dad!” I guess “No bendición, Mami” anymore? Well, some things do change.  These are the new Latino scholars.  They speak almost impeccable fluent English and understand lengthy conversations in Spanish, but have some difficulty speaking it fluently.  Only a few are fully bilingual. But, unlike years ago when Latinos tried to hide their ethnicity and tried to blend into other groups, these new Latinos are extremely proud of their Latino heritage and culture—they love Salsa, Bachata, Reggaeton, and other Latino music.  They are not afraid to say: Soy Latino!  Or, Soy Latina!  Y Que!  Translated this means:  I am Latino and so what!

René, my son a sophomore, is among them and today he was wearing a shirt and sweat pants with the Harvard Crimson logos which he bought on our visit to Cambridge this summer during our family vacation road trip. “This college is on my list” he said very confidently in his deep newly-acquired manly voice as we strolled across the famous Harvard Yard where many of the Nation’s brightest and finest have walked and played Frisbee and chess during class breaks.  The other kids with René are Jordan, Manuel, Orlando, and John, whose mother is a Colombian, and they all have colleges on their lists as well.  The girls, Daphne, Cameron, Marisol, Adriana and Vanessa--who walked past us and jousted with the boys while on their way to their parents’ car, are all Latinas with high academic and career aspirations.  They too have a multitude of colleges on their lists.  All of these Latino boys and girls are firmly college bound and are going home tonight to enjoy a quick dinner before working on oodles of homework for their honors and AP courses.  Maintaining a decent GPA and getting high SAT scores is their immediate priority.

Judging by this sample of Latinos on the LNHS Band, who are discussing STEM careers--such as engineering, bio-medical sciences, computer sciences, and other high-demand fields, the future appears brighter for Latinos in the USA.  This is indeed a refreshing departure from the pathetic statistics of high dropout rates, low career aspirations, rampant teenage pregnancies, and other negative realities still plaguing some school districts and communities across our nation.

National Hispanic Heritage Month is the period from September 15 to October 15 in the United States, when people recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans to the United States and celebrate the group's heritage and culture.  For more information on Hispanic Heritage Month visit:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Hispanic_Heritage_Month