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Written by San Fernando Valley Sun   
Thursday, 13 March 2014 03:58

Photo Credit: David Jimenez

More than 400 young women and a few young men from schools in the San Fernando Valley were given a chance to receive firsthand knowledge about various careers from a mechanical engineer, aerospace project manager, research scientist, a student pursing a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, a professor of biology, a nurse, a civil and structural engineer, and a university student doing research in biotechnology. It was the first time many of the students had met an engineer or a university professor.

“Latinas in STEM” (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) was the theme of Comision Femenil’s 21st Annual Adelante Mujer Latina career conference held at Los Angeles Valley College on Saturday, March 8.

For several of the presenters, who grew up and attended schools in the San Fernando and Pacoima areas, the conference was a homecoming of sorts.

Nora Cadena and Veronica Garcia, who presented a workshop on aerospace engineering careers, both graduated from San Fernando High School and were awarded full scholarships to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, considered by many to be the premier engineering school in the world. After working as engineers for a few years Nora and Veronica returned to school and earned graduate degrees.

Cadena holds two master’s degrees from MIT and Garcia has a master’s degree from Stanford. Cadena is part of a team at Boeing Corporation working on launching two satellites for the Mexican government. Garcia works for the Pratt, Whitney Rocketdyne Corporation and provides engineering support for NASA’s space program.

When asked what motivated her to attend MIT in Boston, Garcia replied, “ I was fortunate that Jesus Perez, a San Fernando High graduate who was attending MIT, encouraged me to apply, and to my surprise I was accepted.”

Cadena pointed out that while there has been a substantial increase in women pursuing engineering degrees, only about one percent are Latinas. She and Garcia are members of a nonprofit organization—Latinas in STEM—that encourages Latinas to pursue careers in engineering and related fields.

Among the activities for the attending students was constructing an antenna similar to ones used in space. Remarked Claudia Miranda, an 11th grader at Discovery Charter High School in Pacoima, “I never knew what an engineer does; now I know.”

Norma Padilla, a California State University, Northridge graduate who works in the housing industry, was the keynote speaker. She talked about the challenges she faces as a Latina who supervises men; many resent taking orders from a woman, especially from a Latina. She told the students, “No job is beyond your ability. Work hard, establish a positive reputation and you will succeed.”

Comision Femenil is a nonprofit, all volunteer group of professional Latinas based in Pacoima. In addition to the annual conference, Comision Femenil provides scholarships to high school seniors.

Last Updated on Monday, 17 March 2014 15:19