Reforma LA Member Spotlight: Sylvia Aguiñaga

Sylvia Aguiñaga
MLIS Graduate student - San Jose State University
Director of Curriculum - DIY Girls

Primary service roles:

I develop programming and curriculum for DIY Girls, an organization dedicated to empowering girls by teaching and applying science, tech, engineering, and math (STEM) skills in creative ways. I also teach electronics projects and create resources for parents and kids to encourage learning at home.

How does your work align with service to Latinos and Spanish-speaking communities?

Every day, I work to empower Latino youth to see technology as a tool to express yourself. I’m especially interested in how we can make the “learn to code” initiative more accessible to the Spanish-speaking community--specifically parents so that they can support their kids at home.

Knowing how to code can connect a kid to a world of imagination and give her or him the ability to express their personality while learning critical and computational thinking skills needed for future jobs.  It can inspire a teenager, full of big ideas and idealism, to take the skills gained from learning to code and create real products that can have real impact. As an adult, knowing how to code can mean getting a raise or gaining more job opportunity because of your new skill set. It can empower the Latino community because it helps traditional barriers to achievement disappear.

Gratifying aspects of your work:

I love to see parents engage in the making process with our girls. It reminds me of when I would build model planes with my dad as a kid. I know how precious those experiences are for us, so seeing it happen in front of me is the best. It’s especially cool because our girls confidently share their engineering knowledge, and their parents help them create something special.

Seeing confidence build is my main motivator. When attitudes shift from, “I can’t do this.” to “How can I do this?”, ideas turn into products, and a girl yells, “I did it!” — I know we’re doing something right.

Some words of advice to other librarians and/or present and future MLIS students ...

It’s not what you do, it’s how you do it. This goes for librarians, but it also relates to kids as well. Some librarians feel pressured to take on STEM programming even though it isn’t necessarily their passion. Don’t do something you don’t like doing. There are plenty of STEM enthusiasts out there. Stick to what you love because when you do what you love, you do it well. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be open to how tech fits into what you love doing. :) I’m sure you’ll make some sort of connection.

Some personal interest that informs your service

I like to make things. From building my own music machines to writing silly stories about lizards. Making something that is so clearly “me” feels good. It’s something I want to encourage others to pursue because when you do, you become more “you”.