Teens exposed to world of biotech careers through partnership

Bernadette Tansey:

The family culture of Berkeley’s Hernandez clan is a cool blend of Mexican roots and Bay area savvy – jumpy banda music, quinceanera parties, spicy pico de gallo and genetic engineering experiments.
That last part, the biotechnology, has been grafted onto the traditions Roberto and Irma Hernandez brought with them when the family immigrated to California in the late 1980s. Their arrival was timely – a new school program was about to welcome minority and disadvantaged kids to the biotech industry.
Their oldest child, Roberto, was the pioneer at 15 when he took a chance on the unfamiliar subject at Berkeley High School in 1992. Over the years, he has persuaded his brother and two of his three sisters to sign up for the biotechnology classes.
These four children of immigrants are now part of a young generation of biotech initiates whose prospects include some of the best-paying jobs in the Bay Area.
Roberto Hernandez, 30, was one of the first students to join the school program designed to convince disadvantaged kids that biotechnology jobs are a real option for them. The program, Biotech Partners, removes the barriers that often stand between low-income students and the well-compensated positions abounding in their own neighborhoods.
Hernandez and his sister Griselda, 28, work at the sprawling Bayer Healthcare campus in West Berkeley. Their younger brother Jesus just spent the eve of his 17th birthday tossing around terms such as “cell transformation” and “diafiltration” at a celebration for Biotech Partners students like himself who were finishing summer internships.

Biotech Partners Website:

Biotech Partners provides an entry-level biotechnology education and training program dedicated to supporting the San Francisco Bay Area’s robust bioscience industry while providing valuable working skills for local young people.
Biotech Partners has long been recognized as a model for connecting youth who are under-represented in the sciences to the world of biotechnology. A non-profit organization, Biotech Partners owes its success to strong collaboration among local biotechnology companies, secondary school and community college districts, a dedicated core staff and most importantly, the students and their families.

Related: Madison West High School’s Accelerated Biology Program [RSS].