DAHLGREN, Va. – Isha Renta watched as Hurricane Hugo tracked
toward Puerto Rico in 1989 and after all the devastation, wondered how it
“I remember asking myself, at such a young age, what I could
do to help my people and reduce the damage,” said Renta.
That’s when Renta – a National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration (NOAA) meteorologist – started dreaming of becoming a
She pursued her dream by studying mathematics at the
University of Puerto Rico, graduating with a bachelor’s degree. Then Renta
studied meteorology at Howard University, receiving her master’s degree in
Atmospheric Sciences. Now, she supports the national weather service mission to
save life and property, while working on a doctoral degree in Atmospheric
Sciences at the University of Maryland.
“They say that you choose a job you love and you’ll never
have to work a day in your life,” said Renta, speaking at the Hispanic Heritage
Observance held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD),
Oct. 7. “Those who know me are aware that I’m always talking about what’s going
on with the weather and fascinated about the atmosphere and its phenomena.”
Renta joined local Navy leaders to celebrate Hispanic
Heritage with Dahlgren personnel at the University of Mary Washington Dahlgren
With a national theme of "Hispanic Americans:
Energizing Our Nation’s Diversity," the observance celebrated the
histories, cultures, and contributions of Americans who trace their roots to
Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central and South America.
“Hispanic Americans have served our nation throughout our
history and fought at sea in every American war,” said Capt. Mary Feinburg, commanding
officer, Naval Support Activity South Potomac. “Their roles have included
seamen, 4-star admirals, boatswains mates, corpsmen, fighter pilots, doctors,
nuclear engineers, policy makers – and of course, meteorologists.”
Renta then discussed with the audience another, cultural
milestone she was able to realize. The NOAA meteorologist achieved her cultural
dream by founding Semilla Cultural (Cultural Seed), a non-profit organization
dedicated to cultivating a community that embraces diversity by educating,
promoting and disseminating Puerto Rican culture and traditions.
The Dahlgren audience enjoyed the "Bomba" music
and dance performed by Renta and her Semilla Cultural volunteers – which
include NSWCDD scientists and engineers.
Renta started the organization in 2014 to teach and perform
traditional Puerto Rican musical genres while educating the community about
historical events that shaped the music.
Since Semilla Cultural’s humble beginning in Renta’s basement,
its volunteers have been engaged in a whirlwind of public and private classes,
workshops, and performances to bring cultural awareness to the state of
Recently, the group was invited by the John F. Kennedy
Center for the Performing Arts to perform in Washington D.C. Semilla Cultural’s
performance at the Sept. 27 extravaganza streamed live over the internet and
“made my cultural dream come true,” said Renta.
“In 21 months, it has been a great adventure,” she added.
“It has not been easy and it’s been overwhelming sometimes … but when I saw
what happened at the Kennedy Center, I said ‘yes, it’s worth it.’”
Renta – a former NSWCDD employee – and the audience agreed
that Dahlgren’s Hispanic Heritage event was informative and worthwhile.
“I have personally received rave feedback,” said Eunice
Mercado, NSWCDD Hispanic employment program manager. “The performers all
showcased their culture, music and dance and the appreciation of it was
evidenced by the overwhelmingly positive response from everyone who attended.”
Renta explained her science, technology, engineering, and
mathematics (STEM) + arts = STEAM formula for the audience.
“I’m a very strong advocate of STEM and a very strong
advocate of arts,” said the meteorologist. “STEM gives you critical thinking,
problem solving, persistence, collaboration, and curiosity. Arts give you
social development and the creativity you need for problem solving, academic
performance and critical thinking. The arts also give you intellectual
development for your curiosity and out of the box thinking for the problem
solving part of STEM. They are not mutually exclusive – they actually go
together. And when they go together, you get magic.”
Renta applies this STEAM magic at outreach events from San
Juan, Puerto Rico, to Fredericksburg, Va., where she teaches students about the
“wonders of weather” and keeping their homes safe during hurricanes.
“You can be passionate about science and the arts without
sacrificing either one,” said Mercado. “Many of us think that it’s too risky to
follow our dreams, but Isha opened our eyes to other possibilities. It takes
magic to achieve everything she has done so early in her career. But as Isha
said, it is the combination of STEM and the arts which creates that magic –
also known as STEAM. Those final remarks were very welcomed by the audience. In
my opinion they were the perfect ending to summarize how the passion and
dedication of Hispanics have come to ignite our nation’s diversity.”
Hispanic Heritage Month first started in 1968 as National
Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon B. Johnson, and was expanded by
President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period from Sept. 15 to Oct.
The date of Sept. 15 is significant because it is the
Independence Day for five Latin American countries: Costa Rica; El Salvador;
Guatemala; Honduras; and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate
their independence days Sept. 16 and Sept. 18 respectively.
Today nearly 70,000 Sailors and civilians of Hispanic
heritage are serving in the Navy, making up approximately 11 percent of the
Navy's active, Reserve and civilian forces.