GEAR UP students from five Rio Grande Valley high schools turned on their television sets February 18 and got a lesson in life possibilities from one of the top engineers at Lockheed Martin - all thanks to a Mentoring Sponsorship between the defense contracting company and The University of Texas-Pan American.
"You can do anything you want to do," said Sylvia G. Godoy - the senior manager for the Flight Controls/Vehicle Management Systems Branch at the Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth. "If the opportunity does not come to you, you go to the opportunity."
Godoy spoke to GEAR UP students from La Joya Chavez High School, Donna Todd Ninth Grade School, Raymondville High School, Rio Grande City High School and Edinburg Economedes High School via teleconference. This is the first in a series of monthly teleconferences that UTPA organizers hope will inspire and motivate students to pursue careers in the fields of science and engineering.
"We're widening the scope through technology and through this partnership. We're bringing the outside world to them (students) and they're being exposed to new possibilities and career choices," said Cynthia Saldivar UTPA academic advisor for the GEARUP program.
Lockheed Martin entered into the video mentoring partnership with UTPA as part of that company's long term strategy to fill technology and engineering positions that will be open due to retirements and increased technology demands.
"We know that as a corporation, especially Lockheed Aeronautics, we have a tremendous recruiting challenge in front of us. We know that in the next 10 to 15 years we will need 10,000 engineers," said Shannon Bowman, senior manager of diversity and equal opportunity programs. "For us it's really very much about the future is right around the corner."
Bowman explains that Lockheed Martin chose to work with UTPA because of its successful engineering department and because it has "the strongest GEAR UP program in the country."
Organizers declared the first mentoring teleconference a success mostly because of Godoy's frankness and willingness to share her life story. Godoy told students about growing up poor in Kingsville and selling watermelons out of a red flier wagon in order to get money to go to the local swimming pool. She talked to them about her love of school and her dream of becoming an engineer. Afterwards students, through the magic of modern technology, were able to ask the 29 year engineering veteran questions about her career, education and even her salary. (Starting engineers make $45,000 to $50,000 a year.)
Students said they were impressed to have a dialogue with someone of Godoy's stature.
"It was a great opportunity to talk with a person who can influence us. This makes me think I have a chance to become someone successful," said 14 year old Monica Gaona of Donna Todd Ninth Grade School.
Other students say they were pleased to learn about new opportunities they hadn't even considered.
"I wanted to be a pilot but now I might look into aeronautics engineering. It made me realize how important math and science are to my future and those are hard subjects for me. I know I'll have to work harder," promised Julian Castillo also of Donna Todd Ninth Grade School.
These same students will get to continue the dialogue with their new mentor through e-mail and they'll meet via teleconference once again in the next few months. As part of this Mentoring Sponsorship, other GEAR UP students will hear from different top level Hispanic engineers and technology experts from Lockheed Martin over the course of this year and into next.
"We see them (Valley students) as a part of our future and most importantly we hope they see us as a part of theirs," said Bowman. "We hope they realize the future is in their hands - I tell them el futuro esta en tus manos."