Breaking Barriers: Diversity in STEM program introduces high school girls to a new discovery

BY Amanda Sotelo

Proudly carrying her TSTC pendant, Leann Lopez walked the halls of Texas State Technical College and toured technical programs during the college’s Diversity in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) event.

The 19-year-old said she is ready to begin her college career at TSTC after taking nearly a year off after high school and the birth of her first baby. Lopez hopes to pursue an associate degree in Digital Media Design beginning in August.

“Every minute spent with my baby instead of focused on school was worth it,” she said. “But I’m ready to start working toward a career and a better life for my child.”

Lopez was one of more than 40 prospective TSTC students participating in Diversity in STEM, an event hosted by the TSTC Advisement Center, to expose girls and women to careers in non-traditional fields.

TSTC Gender Equity Advocate Anna Cortez said this is TSTC’s second Diversity in STEM event, which focuses on encouraging girls and women to pursue male-dominated professions.

“Many times girls or women are interested in pursuing a career in say Chemical Environmental Technology, but they have no one to turn to,” said Cortez. “Today gives them the chance to experience the program hands-on and ask questions.”

San Benito High School students, High School Equivalency Program students and community members participating in the event had the opportunity to tour three programs offered at TSTC – Architectural Design and Engineering Graphics; Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning; and Chemical Environmental Technology.

Each tour was approximately one hour and included a hands-on activity such as experimenting with design and engineering software or conducting a forensic analysis in the chemical environmental labs.

San Benito High School sophomore Jasmine Bautista said she had no idea TSTC offered opportunities in so many areas of study.

“It was fun learning how different technology fits into our everyday lives and how many programs TSTC offers,” said Bautista. “I’m now seriously considering TSTC as a college choice. I can see myself here.”

Bautista said her favorite part of the tour was the forensic analysis program which she is now considering as a career option.

Additionally, other programs such as Welding Technology, Building Construction Technology and Biomedical Technology were showcased in a mini expo where instructors spent time talking with students and answering questions.

Event keynote speaker Meg Jorn, chief executive officer and architect at Megamorphosis Architecture and Interior Design shared her experiences of working in a male-dominated field with the girls and provided some advice.

“Try hard, work hard, study hard and be better than the boys,” she said.

Cortez said she hopes Jorn acts as a role model for the girls in attendance and as an example of what can be done with hard work no matter the field.

“We introduced the girls with the tools they need to be successful in a non-traditional career,” said Cortez. “Now it’s up to them to follow the path.”

For more information on the technologies offered at TSTC call 956-364-4524 or visit

Registration for Summer and Fall 2017 begins April 3.