He’s An Advocate for Hispanic Students
By Tom Edrinton illiam Gonzalez is a young man with a sharp engineering mind and community service in his
Gonzalez is president of the University of South Florida’s student chapter of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. It is an organization that Gonzalez sought out his freshman year at USF.
to them. We want them to understand that there is a great future possible for their children. “Right now, not many of them understand that their children can have a good future, that they can do something besides work in the fields or at a fast-food restaurant.” Gonzalez can relate to them personally. He
“It was my older brother, Jairo, who pointed me in that direction,” Gonzalez said of his older sibling who graduated from the University of Florida.
He is a junior and has excitement in his voice when he speaks about his organization. “The Society has five core values,” he began. “First, professionalism, second, we strive to grow the chapter; third, we are heavily involved in community outreach to promote STEM education. Of course there is academic excellence as a core value within the Society. The senior and junior members reach out to help the freshman and sophomores. Finally,” he went on, “there’s leadership. Not just leadership in the Society but we try and promote our members to be all-around leaders on campus and within the companies they will eventually work for.” The community outreach value is of particular interest to Gonzalez. “We do a lot with Strawberry Crest High School,” he said. “We meet with the students who are sons and daughters of migrant workers. A lot of their parents may not be able to speak English. We can get an important message
Another barrier Gonzalez is dealing with is to find more female members who can in turn become speakers to encourage young women to explore careers like engineering. Right now about 65 percent of our speakers are male and we’re trying to increase the female presence among the speakers,” Gonzalez said hopefully. When Gonzalez isn’t out encouraging local high schoolers, he has his hands full back at USF. He gets the members of the Society organized when corporate recruiters come calling at USF. The events are highly organized and Gonzalez wants all his fellow engineers to know how to present themselves properly.
The Society has come a long way since Gonzalez’s freshman year. There were 35 active members back then but he quickly worked his way into the organization’s leadership and was elected its President in April of 2014. Today the Society has between 70 and 80 active members and has developed 46 full-time internship opportunities for its members compared to just 20 when Gonzalez was a freshman.
even graduate at the high school level.”
“We prepare our members for those visits and for professional conferences where companies recruit. We show them how to make the best impression.”
William Gonzalez is the son of immigrants from Nicaragua. “I have been back to Nicaragua,” he continued. “If you haven’t been to a thirdworld country, you have no idea. There are naked children in the streets begging for food. When I go back there, I take extra clothes to give away, when I go back to the airport, I might be barefoot with just a tee-shirt and shorts left to wear. The need is great.” You can hear the passion in his voice when he speaks, when he talks about helping others, reaching out to the less fortunate. “We like to focus on schools in low-income areas where the students need the most encouragement,” Gonzalez added. “And our membership is not limited to Hispanic students, we have white, black and Asian members, we’re diverse. It helps us reach out even more. We know the Hispanic community has a huge need, there are too many students who don’t do anything past high school and there are many who don’t
Those students will have some great companies to audition for. “When it comes to finding the internships, we work with companies like Chevron, Cummings, Delta, Eaton, General Electric, Intel, Northrup Grumman and here in Tampa we work with a company called Chromalloy,” Gonzalez said, rattling off a list of who’s who in corporate America. Gonzalez is a young man on the run and still makes time for his studies. He is in the five-year program and in a short time will graduate with a bachelors and a masters in industrial engineering. “I plan to work for Eden Corporation when I get my masters,” Gonzalez said. But he has something in mind for the future that involves older brother Jairo and younger brother Richard, also a student at USF. “It would be great if one day,” Gonzalez said with a smile toward the future, “if the three of us could have our own consulting company. Yes, I would love that.”