For Christina Venegas of Mission, Texas attending HESTEC's Latina Day Wednesday, Sept. 30 at The University of Texas-Pan American opened her eyes to the countless career possibilities in the science and technology fields available to her daughter Valerie Villalobos, an 11th grade student at Mission High School.
"Being a Hispanic and a minority, I thought this was a good opportunity for my daughter to see what careers are out there," Venegas said.
Venegas said attending the third day of Hispanic Engineering, Science and Technology (HESTEC) Week at UTPA with her daughter was a wonderful experience as she heard from Latina engineers and scientists and Latina leaders in Corporate America currently in the work force.
"If it wasn't for coming here I would have never thought of a career in engineering or science for my daughter," Venegas said.
Villalobos agreed with her mother about attending Latina Day and realized there are plenty of career options out there for a young Latina like herself.
"I really enjoyed learning about all the opportunities out there. Right now I am not sure where I am headed, but I maybe interested in a career in engineering or science," Villalobos said.
Venegas and Villalobos were among the hundreds of South Texas mothers and their daughters invited to Latina Day, a day solely dedicated to inspiring young Hispanic females to consider careers in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) areas, during the eighth annual HESTEC Week.
Latina Day opened with Lupe Alcala, director of State Farm Insurance, addressing the crowd at the UTPA Fieldhouse. She discussed with the audience her story and how she became "the highest ranking Latina for State Farm Insurance."
Alcala, who has been with State Farm for 12 years and oversees 350 employees, is actively involved with improving the lives of Hispanics through education and leadership. She said it was an honor for her to be asked to speak at the annual HESTEC event, which reaches out to young Latinas.
"For me to be here in front of you I feel I have arrived..." Alcala said. "Hopefully with my story you will make a choice to live better lives."
Raised in the small town of Moline, Ill., Alcala encouraged the young ladies in the audience to pursue their college degrees and asked their mothers to support their daughters in their higher education pursuits. Alcala told the mothers to always ask the tough questions and ask the high school counselors how they can help their daughters earn university degrees.
"You are the owners of these Latinas who are our future. So ask those questions," Alcala said. "Some day the women in this room will stand up here and tell their story."
"Get your degree and know that degree will open doors of opportunity for you. There will always be time for everything else so invest in your education and in yourself," Alcala added.
During Latina Day, participants also had the opportunity to hear from women in the STEM fields during the morning breakout sessions conducted by IBM, ExxonMobil, Verizon, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, Marathon Oil, Procter & Gamble and NASA.
Latina Day participants also heard from the first female in the history of H-E-B to hold a vice president of operations position, Laura Gump, who served as the luncheon keynote speaker. As vice president of operations for the H-E-B Border Region, Gump shared her story of success and offered advice to the mother-daughter attendees.
"Life is truly about the decisions you make. The choices you make today will set up the kind of life you will live in the future," Gump said.
Gump, who has worked with H-E-B for more than 20 years and oversees 46 H-E-B stores between Del Rio and Brownsville and leads 9,000 partners, told the audience how the experiences she faced while growing up in El Paso, such as selling items at the flea market every weekend with her family and learning to speak English in school, helped lead to her success today.
"I didn't realize then that those good and hard life experiences made me who I am today," she said.
Gump asked the young ladies in the audience to stay focused on their goals, stay in school and go to college.
"Ladies look around, you are the future of this country," Gump said. "The decisions you make starting now will determine the life you live the rest of your lives."
HESTEC continues Thursday, Oct. 1 with Robotics Day where high school students will test their engineering skills.
To view a photo gallery of today's event, go to http://ur.utpa.edu/video/watch/f271a2e334be843a169.
For more information on HESTEC events, visit http://hestec.utpa.edu/.