As the highly anticipated Synapse Summit approached, we had the privilege of sitting down with the distinguished Representative Susan Lopez Valdes. Hailing from a family of Cuban immigrants in New York City and now residing in Tampa, Florida, Representative Valdes has made a name for herself in the Florida House of Representatives, representing the 64th district with grace and tenacity. With a Bachelor’s degree in business administration from Nova Southeastern University and a Master’s in organizational leadership from Manhattan College, she brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to the table.
With technology and innovation shaping the very fabric of our modern society, the need to equip our young people with the necessary skills to succeed in this dynamic environment is more pressing than ever. In our conversation with Representative Valdes, she shared her insights on the implications of utilizing events like the Synapse Summit for the future of Florida and its people.
- How do you say innovation and technology are being implemented at an elementary level in our educational system?
I believe the districts can do a better job in implementing more opportunities for children be introduced to students in elementary school ages. In middle school, you will find more opportunities for children to enter robotic programs. In these programs, students are shown how to code and build functional robots, cars and other items to show their technological skills. Children today are growing up with technology in their hands and we must find ways to teach the children how best to utilize technology including how to ethically engage in the use of technology.
- How important is it to teach the next generation about technology and innovation at an early age?
It is important to teach the next generation about technology and innovation because this is where the present and future is headed. I come from a generation that saw the evolution and advancements in technology. We have seen the advancements in cell phones and its uses as well as the advancements in the medical profession. The advancements in the diagnostic machines used by physicians to detect diseases, surgeries being done by physicians through robotic hands is amazing to watch.
- Although mathematics, and several other traditional subjects, directly contribute to the tech industry, how important is it for children and adolescents to develop interpersonal skills to be able to communicate at an “old school” level through conversation with customers and each other?
I believe it is necessary to help our children become more social. Although the advancements in technology have been inevitable, children need time to be children by playing outside, through organized sports or at the playground with other children. In the texting or email world translations falls through the cracks and may create unnecessary chaos in moving projects forward. There is nothing like a face-to-face meeting to strategize and create bonds amongst the team towards a common goal.
- How long have you worked with public education?
Since 2004, I have been involved in a policymaking role. I served as a School Board Member for Hillsborough County Public Schools from 2004-2018, and I am now serving in my third term as a House of Representative for the State of Florida and serve on two education committees.
- How important is voting for our tech/innovation industries?
We know the trends. For those who may have a difficult time adjusting to technology is difficult to do so. Yet, we are charged with preparing our world for the next generation, and it behooves us to act with the future in mind. One must have an open mind.
- Why does education continue to occupy your highest priority, despite you no longer being on the school board?
Education is to many the liberator of circumstances beyond their control. Through an education, communities thrive and when an education lacks communities wither. I have seen many students reach their potential and reach goals that once they may have seemed unattainable. When given the tools to succeed, these students give me hope that they will take it to the next level and keep it moving forward. My motto is “An Education Can Never Be Erased”.
- What do events like the Synapse Summit mean for Florida’s ecosystem?
Events like the Synapse Summit keeps Florida ahead of other states in being an innovation hub. As the fastest growing market, in Tampa there is a lot of talent and we must continue to create more career paths with competitive earning potential. Technology is here to stay and events like the Synapse Summit provide the platform to continue the conversation and showcase the progress made. Welcome to Tampa!
In conclusion, our conversation with the esteemed Representative Susan Lopez Valdes provided valuable insights into the significance of technology and innovation in shaping the future of Florida. As a passionate advocate for education and a trailblazer in the field, Representative Valdes spoke about the importance of equipping the next generation with the skills necessary to succeed in this dynamic and ever-evolving environment.
With a wealth of knowledge and expertise, she emphasized the need to introduce technology at an early age, the importance of developing interpersonal skills, and the role of events like the Synapse Summit in keeping Florida at the forefront of innovation. With her unwavering commitment to education and her steadfast belief in the power of technology, Representative Valdes inspires us to keep pushing forward and shaping a brighter future for all.