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scenes from the women in stem event


For Newport-Mesa Unified School District’s (NMUSD) second annual Women in STEM event, professionals from throughout Southern California came together at the Norma Hertzog Community Center in Costa Mesa to encourage female middle and high school students to pursue similar careers.

In collaboration with the City of Costa Mesa, the event focused on closing the gender gap in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and math by introducing students in seventh through 12th grades to women in a variety of STEM careers, including clean energy, transportation engineering, aeronautics, materials science and engineering, artificial intelligence, cyber security, and construction technology. 

“We want to introduce students to brilliant women in exciting and challenging fields to help them find a path that aligns with their interests,” said Lisa Snowden, Coordinator II of Work-Based Learning.

In addition to participating in hands-on STEM demonstrations, the 50 students in attendance were invited to network with professionals during rotating roundtable discussions, which strengthened their communication skills and allowed them to learn more about different career paths. 

From the city, Council Member Arlis Reynolds, an alumnus of Estancia High School who is a consultant for clean energy projects and technologies; Transportation Manager/City Traffic Engineer Jennifer Rosales; and Associate Engineer Cristina Oquendo participated alongside: 

  • Special Inspectors Alexandra Brown and Kelcie Wolf of Twining Laboratories, which provides engineering, testing, and inspection services to help ensure quality and conformance with construction standards; 

  • Security Consultant/Analyst Kezica Flores of CISOSHARE, a cyber-security services company that created CyberForward Academy;

  • Senior Metallurgist Amber Lefrancois of Anduril, which designs and develops defense products;

  • Manufacturing Engineer Hani Macfadden, an alumnus of Estancia High School who represented Lockheed Martin, a global security and aerospace company; 

  • Clinical Affairs Manager Melinda Piscioneri, a Corona del Mar High School graduate who represented Edwards Lifesciences, which specializes in artificial heart valves and the monitoring of blood flow within the body’s organs and tissues; and 

  • Technical Director Dr. Renah Wolzinger of Eduvators, which aims to transform learning experiences through advanced technology.

A panel discussion with the STEM professionals encouraged students and their families to close the dream gap and maintain engagement with their STEM-related interests. They discussed ways to expand those interests into specific careers that may have been previously unknown to them. Though men outnumber women in scientific and technology fields, according to data from the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, the number of higher-education degrees in STEM areas earned by women continues to increase at all levels, leading to higher incomes.

To further explore the educational and career opportunities at NMUSD, visit our Career Technical Education webpage.