A 2013 study stated that women only make up 24% of the workforce in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) fields. Even more startling, only 3% of workers in the field are Latina. Jessica Cáceres is counted in this 3%. Working for the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), she merges her passion for environmental advocacy with her interest in community development.
Cáceres was raised in Lebanon, Ohio and moved to Columbus to attend Ohio State. She is first generation; her mother hails from Puerto Rico, while her father is Colombian. Growing up in a culturally rich and gracious environment instilled in her a want to help others. Now, as a socially and environmentally-conscious millennial, she seeks to improve the environment with her work at the Ohio EPA as an Environmental Specialist in the Division of Environmental Response and Revitalization.
Listen to her story – from catching worms as a kid to coming to Columbus, navigating identity, finding community, and working in the sciences – Cáceres has a lot to offer on this week’s ¡Dímelo, Columbus!:
Here, Cáceres is working as an intern for Ohio EPA taking water samples. Ohio is leading the way in their monitoring and notification techniques of indicators for Harmful Algae Blooms.
Cáceres’s passion for the environment developed at an early age.
A socially and environmentally conscious millennial:
🎧 Listen (2:37)
“I am a socially and environmentally conscientious millennial… I was interested in environmental science as a child – I was always playing outside. My mom recently sent me a photo of me picking up worms… So I think I’ve always had that interest in being in the outdoors and college helped me focus it through sustainability and eventually to environmental science. I’m just interested in how we interact with the resources that we use. Right now I have family in Puerto Rico that are struggling just to get water and food, and environmental science encompasses all of that. It’s just our access to everyday goods.”
Growing up Latino:
? Listen (1:41)
“In general – I think Latinos, we always have that liveliness, but there’s always a sense of familiarity that people care for one another. And I think that sense of care for not only others, but our environment, our community, our resources – they [my parents] instilled that in me and that has influenced how I view the world.”
LMA 2017 following graduation.
Cáceres volunteering with fellow LMA hermanas at the Festival Latino with the Damas Latinas paper flower booth.
🎧 Listen (1:10)
“As a kid, and pretty much until now, I’ve always navigated the Latino community through my parents. All of those connections that I have have been through their friends and the people that they know. So, joining LMA (Latina Mentoring Academy), this was the first time that I was able to reaffirm my identity on my own terms and establish those relationships for myself. That was really reaffirming to have that community on my own.”
Two identities in one:
🎧 Listen (0:52)
“I identify as a Latina. I think it’s a good term for someone like me who has two different influences… I think the term is uniquely American. It includes the parts of me that are Puerto Rican, that are Colombian, and that are American all in one.”
Unless otherwise noted, all photos and text are copyrighted to Leticia Wiggins. Music for introduction & interlude by The Original Soundtrack (thanks, guys!).