IMPERIAL — Yazmin Arellano Torres recently read a study that said 81 percent of young girls introduced to engineering are interested in it, but only 13 percent of those girls continue on that career path.

"An attributing factor was that many of the girls didn't know anyone personally who was an engineer," Arellano Torres said. "And many girls believe that because it is a male-dominated area, it is hard. But that's simply not the case. And that's why I'm here."
Arellano Torres, a civil engineer working for the city of Brawley, was the keynote speaker of the Young Latina Leadership Conference, which was hosted Saturday by MANA de Imperial Valley at Imperial Valley College.

The all-day conference was free and open to seventh-, eighth- and ninth-grade girls from around the Imperial Valley. The conference included topics such as college, career paths, career mentors, personal development, health and social media.

"Many of the presenters come from a wealth of professional areas such as law, law enforcement, human resources, communication and engineering," said Denise Cabanilla, member of the MANA board. "Our goal is to provide young girls with encouragement and allow them to dream big and pursue their dreams. We want to let them know the people in the community that support them."

Thirteen-year-old Reyes Benavente wants to go to college and become an engineer. Neither of her parents went to college and she wants to make sure she follows the correct path to get there.

"I learned that you need good grades and not to spend too much time on social media," she said. "I have to always study and do my homework."

Like Reyes, many of the young girls attending the conference want to follow the educative course to college.

"I learned about what you need to do and what your options are," 13-year-old Savannah Contreras said.

"Also, we learned about what the qualifications are for college," Faith Felix, 13, added.

13-year-old Jennifer Gastelum agreed.

"My favorite part of the conference was the college prep part," she said.

The young women had a plethora of guidance available, including April Mazone, who came down from San Diego to partake in the conference. Cabanilla hopes to triple or even quadruple the amount of presenters and participants of the event.

"It's the first time we've done this in a long time, we definitely want to re-introduce this back," she said.

Arellano Torres hoped the young girls walked away with plenty of knowledge to pursue careers they are passionate about.

"I try to inspire young ladies to go into the Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math program and explain the major discipline that goes along with it and how they can apply that to everyday life."

Original article can be found on the IV Press website.