H. Puentes is a co-founder of San Diego Squared, an organization providing mentoring, scholarships and other programming to increase diversity in STEM careers by supporting underrepresented groups.(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

San Diego Squared co-founder wants diverse students to know that they belong in STEM

Harid “H.” Puentes’ work in diversity and inclusion in STEM-related fields for science, technology, engineering and math, is personal while also coming a bit naturally to him. As a freshman in high school, he earned perfect scores in math for the entire year. His teachers were impressed, but that was where it ended. No one followed up to encourage him in math, to inform him about potential careers in STEM, or considered introducing him to professionals who shared his background.

“Now, I am a father to two diverse children (and) I want them to know that, not only do they belong in STEM, but that STEM-driven companies want them to be successful,” he says.

Part of how he’s fulfilling that commitment to his own children and others is through San Diego Squared, the nonprofit he founded with Bill Rastetter, a veteran in the San Diego biotechnology and venture capital fields for more than 30 years. The organization is focused on increasing diversity in STEM careers among underrepresented students and their teachers with mentoring, financial assistance and other programming.