Adversity is difficult to overcome. Detroiter Ismael Olivarez has done that by facing it head on.

Ismael’s family immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico 20 years ago. Throughout his 18 years he has constantly feared that his father could be deported for being an undocumented citizen. Ismael is hoping that his dad’s case will be delayed until he turns 21 and can advocate on his behalf.

Ismael also lost his 19-year-old sister suddenly when he was 11. When she passed, he poured himself into academics to achieve what she didn’t get a chance to, which is when his love for STEM and coding took shape.

Ismael graduated from Cass Technical High School as a valedictorian and was granted a full-ride scholarship to study Computer Science at Columbia University starting this August.

Ismael thanks Googles Code Next, an afterschool coding program for Black, Latinx and Indigenous high schoolers, for the unique opportunity to foster his passion for STEM, and for connecting him to mentor Nando Felten, Code Next Detroit’s community manager, and peers able to relate. “The Code Next lab is one of my favorite places, where my peers remind me of who I am and make me feel at home,” said Ismael.

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