A Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) volunteer changed Maria's life forever. Maria always excelled in math and science as an elementary student, but it wasn't until a volunteer from SHPE told her about STEM careers and encouraged her to pursue one that her future was illuminated. The critical skill set that would have otherwise remained hidden in the shadow of the unknown is now the skill set that Maria uses on a daily basis in her role as an airworthiness engineer in the F-35 program.
Indebted to Those Who Gave First
“If it wasn’t for SHPE, I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Maria said. “I am the only person in my extended family who is an engineer, and I am a first-generation college graduate. Also, I have learned to be a better communicator and leader, so I feel more confident and prepared when I lead my meetings in my current role at Lockheed Martin.”
What drew her to SHPE was the opportunity to surround herself with people who shared her interest in math and science, as well as her background as a child of immigrant parents. “They understood me, and they motivated me,” Maria explained. “I don’t know where I’d be without seeing examples of people like me who got into STEM and built a future for themselves.”
SHPE volunteers taught Maria how to apply to colleges, build a resume, look for scholarships and cultivate the soft skills needed to achieve her goals. She benefited from attending workshops, completing internships and having many mentors. One of the latter grew her confidence by assuring her that obstacles could be overcome if she was determined enough.
Another mentor recruited her for Lockheed Martin, where today she’s an airworthiness engineer supporting the F-35 program.
Repaying Others by Paying It Forward
Maria became a SHPE volunteer when she began college in 2013, and she’s been involved ever since. Among her STEM-focused volunteer activities with the organization, Maria visits students at disadvantaged schools in Fort Worth, Texas.
Reaching the local Hispanic community and beyond, she and other experts in STEM fields give presentations and answer questions from students. “STEM is so important to our world,” Maria emphasized. “I want to inspire students to leave behind any fear they have about going into a STEM field. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, it’s a lot of work. But it’s so worth it.”
“We’ve each had our life touched by someone who helped us and expected nothing in return. What if you paid back just one of those people by doing the same for someone else? Whether you reach one or 100 people, just make an impact. That’s something everyone can do, STEM expert or not.”