Things That Matter

This Group of Latino Students In the Bronx Had Their Names Flown Into Space on NASA’s Mars Rover

Photo via Alejandro Mundo

Everyone has a teacher that has come into their life and gone above and beyond. A teacher that has changed your life for the better. For a group of Latino students at Kingsbridge International High School in the Bronx, that teacher is Alejandro Mundo.

Science teacher Alejandro Mundo encouraged his astronomy class to send their names into the NASA’s Mars space rover.

Not only is Mr. Mundo a beloved high school science teacher, he’s also an associate NASA researcher. Apparently, NASA was the one who proposed the idea to Mr. Mundo in the first place. NASA reached out to Mr. Mundo and asked if the 25 astronomy students would send their names, stenciled on chips, on the Mars Rover.

NASA believed the idea would symbolize a personal touch between humanity and the mystery and wonder of space. They also liked the idea of a group of Latino students–a group that is underrepresented in the STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math)–and the historic space mission.

Alejandro Mundo’s primary reason for becoming a science teacher in the first place was to get more inner-city kids of color into the STEM fields.

As of now, Black and Latinos make up between 8 and 9 percent of STEM occupations. Kingsbridge International High School, the school that Mr. Mundo teaches at, is 93 percent Latino. 86 percent of those students are leaning English as a second language.

“The only way we can change that in the future is by starting with this current generation,” Mundo told NBC News. “So by igniting my students with a passion for science, that is the key that I have seen that can make a difference. Little by little, we will be changing those statistics.”

Born in Mexico, Alejandro Mundo came over to the US when he was 12-years-old, hardly knowing any English.

The adults around him–who were supposed to support him–told him that he would end up “cleaning bathrooms” or “working in a factory”. Mundo knew he was destined for more than that. “No, I’m going to college,” he told himself. “I’m going to get a career, and I’m going to use this career not for my personal growth but to help others, specifically people like me.”

Now, Alejandro Mundo inspires his majority-Latino students to also reach for the stars–literally and figuratively. He does that by engaging them on a creative level, like when he took his class on a field trip to the NYC Center for Aerospace and Applied Mathematics. The center showed his students what its like to be an astronaut. They also viewed a simulated space mission to Mars.

Alejandro Mundo has directly inspired his students both with his teaching methods, and with his own example of success.

In fact, his students love him so much that they created the “Mundology Club”, a club dedicated to STEM fields–and an obvious tribute to their favorite teacher.

“I couldn’t have this opportunity in my country,” said one of Mundo’s students, Dominican-born Jorge Fernandez, about the opportunity for his name to “travel” to Mars. “I feel like our teacher made that possible. It’s really important for us Latinos to get into it, because, basically, we can do a lot.”

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Things That Matter

Texas High Schoolers Conducted a Mock ‘Slave Auction’ Of Black Students Over Snapchat

Photo via Getty Images

Students at a high school in Aledo, Texas are being disciplined after the administration discovered they held a mock slave auction on Snapchat where they “traded” Black students.

Screenshots of the Snapchat group show that these unnamed students “bid” on students of color, ranging anywhere from $1 to $100.

One student in particular was priced at $1 because his hair was “bad”. The screenshot also shows that the group chat’s name changed regularly. The group’s name started as “Slave Trade” then changed to “N—-r Farm”, and finally to “N—– Auction”.

Upon learning of the mock slave auction, the Daniel Ninth Grade Campus’s principal wrote a note to parents explaining the situation. Principal Carolyn Ansley called the mock slave auction “an incident of cyberbullying and harassment” which “led to conversations about how inappropriate and hurtful language can have a profound and lasting impact” on people.

Many people felt that the school principal downplayed the gravity of the mock slave auction. Not once did she mention the word racism in the letter that she sent out to parents.

“Calling it cyberbullying rather than calling it racism… that is the piece that really gets under my skin,” said Mark Grubbs, father to three former Aledo ISD students, to NBC DFW. But Grubbs, along with many other Aledo parents and community members, say that the incident didn’t surprise them.

In fact, Grubbs said he had to take his children out of the Aledo ISD school system because of how much racist harassment his children were facing. “A lot of racism,” he said of his son’s experience at the school. “My son being called out of his name and what not and it got to the point he didn’t mind fighting and that didn’t sit right with me and my wife. My son was never a fighter.”

After the backlash to the initial statement, Superintendent Susan Bohn finally released a statement condemning the racism and “hatred” of the mock slave auction.

“There is no room for racism or hatred in the Aledo ISD, period,’ Bohn wrote. “Using inappropriate, offensive and racially charged language and conduct is completely unacceptable and is prohibited by district policy.”

The problem with “policies” like these is they fail to target the issue of racism at the root. Hate speech may be “prohibited”, but if a child is displaying racist behavior for whatever reason, the bigger problem is the way that they have been educated and indoctrinated. Slave auctions have no place in 2021.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

There’s A Mysterious “Bat Cave” Full Of Blind Snakes Near Cancun And It’s Creepy AF

Things That Matter

There’s A Mysterious “Bat Cave” Full Of Blind Snakes Near Cancun And It’s Creepy AF

YE AUNG THU/AFP via Getty Images

Mexico is full of incredible natural beauty, so it’s no wonder that it’s frequently one of the world’s most visited destinations. People love to visit the picturesque beaches, the ancient ruins, lively cities, and relaxed pueblos. But we would imagine that few people would add this mysterious ‘bat cave’ to their list of destinations, considering it’s full of blind snakes that hang from the ceiling to catch their prey. 

Mexico’s mysterious ‘bat cave’ is part of a truly unique ecosystem. 

Cancun is one of Mexico’s most popular tourist attractions. It’s home to some of the world’s greatest beaches and tons of adventure at cenotes and Mayan ruins. But, apparently, it’s also home to a unique ecosystem that includes a so-called bat cave home to thousands of blind snakes that hang upside down. Yikes!

The cave, located less than 180 miles from Cancun’s spectacular beaches, is home to a species of blind, deaf snakes that feed mainly on flying bats.”This is the only place in the world where this happens,” Arturo Enrique Bayona Miramontes, the biologist who discovered it, told Newsweek.

The cave system remained completely unknown to tourists and surprised many scientists, who marveled as the jungle was peeled away to reveal another species, another hidden natural world.

The “cave of the hanging snakes” has a 65-foot wide mouth from which thousands of bats of seven different species swarm out every night, seeking food in and around Lake Chichancanab, some 2 miles away. When the bats return from nighttime feeding, some become food for the snakes.

The cave is a bat paradise – unless they become food for the blind and deaf snakes.

The giant cave is home to hundreds of thousands – perhaps even millions – of bats who cling to the cave’s roof. Joining them in the cave are a unique species of blind and deaf snakes that strike unsuspecting bats as they fly by.

The technique of the yellow-red rat snake is frighteningly precise, Bayona Miramontes said. “These snakes do not see or hear, but they can feel the vibrations of the bats flying, and they use that opportunity to hunt them with their body, suffocating their victims before gobbling them down.”

If you’re feeling adventurous, the cave is open to a limited number of visitors.

The cave is located nearby a very small Mayan community in Kantemó, on the Yucatan peninsula. Although the village is so small that it only has one church, the community has been working hard to protect this unique ecosystem.

Only 10 visitors are allowed inside the cave at a time and no photography is permitted. Since the pandemic began, the cave has been closed but it will reopen when the health department of the Mexican state of Quintana Roo allows tourism again.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com