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“Future Girls” Of Engineering

Published: March 1, 2016

When Future Girls @ the Beach launched two years ago, only a handful of girls would raise their hands when asked if they wanted to pursue engineering. But now that the CSULB high school outreach program is in its second year, the number of future engineers is growing.

“A lot more girls raise their hands now,” says Saba Yohannes-Reda, CSULB College of Engineering Director of K-12 Outreach and Recruitment. “It seems that we are winning.”

Girls participating in the program visit CSULB once a month for a scheduled activity. On Feb. 15, several dozen took advantage of the President’s Day holiday to shadow their mentors, tour CSULB engineering labs and facilities, and hear a presentation on cognitive radio from electrical engineering assistant professor Shabnam Sodagari, who recently joined the program.

“It’s to get them exposed to different kinds of engineering,” said Yohannes-Reda.

Electrical engineering senior Alia Bonetti is finishing her second year with Future Girls @ the Beach and her mentee Jasmine Cisneros, a freshman at Long Beach Polytechnic High School.

“I love this program,” Bonetti said. “It’s really great how I’ve seen my mentee grow and change.”

Bonetti wasn’t exposed to outreach programs like Future Girls @ the Beach when she was attending high school in South Orange County. Hired to work at Tesoro as an electrical engineer after she graduates this spring, she plans to return to CSULB as an industry mentor.

Cisneros said it helps that she and Bonetti share an interest in electrical engineering. “We have a lot in common,” she says.

Briana Villaverde, a sophomore from Paramount High School, applied for Future Girls @ the Beach at her engineering teacher’s suggestion. “He said, ‘You’re really good at math, so you should do it,’” said Villaverde, who’s been interested in math since sixth grade. She hasn’t decided which engineering specialization to pursue, but is leaning toward computer science.

Chloe Weatherspoon, a senior at Long Beach Polytechnic, has a different problem. She’s decided on computer science but can’t decide which school to attend, since she was accepted by five CSU campuses, including CSULB.

Weatherspoon credits Future Girls @ the Beach with helping encourage her interest in engineering. “It’s just been an amazing experience,” she said.