The students at Young Women’s Preparatory Academy in Little Havana received a visit March 19 from many of the women whom they aspire to be like when they are adults.
Girls from each grade were entertained, inspired and motivated by the 28 women who spoke in different classrooms throughout the school day, instilling the idea that women are just as capable as men of succeeding in male-dominated professions.
One of the women, Michelle Melendez, a Federal Aviation Administration pilot examiner, has a daughter who attends the school and talked about the significance of providing these girls with an example they can use in their future endeavors.
“I like to see girls exposed to different industries and let them realize that society doesn’t need to stop you,” said Melendez, mother of three. “Just because mostly men have these positions, doesn’t mean women can’t, and it’s important to let them know that those barriers are only there if you allow them to be.”
Melendez spoke to the girls about the challenges and roadblocks they will face during their paths to success, reminding them that although it is a much a friendlier society towards professional, independent women, the obstacles are still there.
One of the students moved by the presentations was senior Christina Elder.
Christina, 17, who plans on being a businesswoman and wants to major in global business and finance after she graduates, said the most important aspect of these presentations was getting a sense of the hunger that it took for these women to reach their goals.
“In middle school and high school, our minds are being shaped into what leaders we are going to be tomorrow,” she said. “Being exposed to their knowledge and the drive they have is an inspiration to us, and it really changes our perspective of the world and gives us empowerment, as well as our own drive.”
Young Women’s Preparatory Academy is an all-girls, magnet school for grades 6-12. The school is widely recognized as one of the best public schools in the country and has been holding these presentations, also referred to as the women’s symposium, for six years.
Concepcion Martinez, principal of the school, credits parents and teachers for making these presentations possible.
“A parent of one of the students approached me and asked if I’d mind working with her to invite women leaders in the community,” said Martinez, who is in her sixth year as principal. “We wanted do it in March, which is women’s history month, and we wanted it to be women who our students could look up to.”
Martinez, with the help of other parents, started the women’s symposium by contacting women professionals within the community and explaining the significant impact they could have on the girls at their school.
Cristina Canton, a University of Miami professor and architect, did not need much convincing to get involved.
“Seeing the young girls, how passionate they are and how much they have ahead of them is a great thing,” Canton said. “It’s important for them to see what women outside of their school do every day and what kind of options they have.”
One student who hopes to have many options when she graduates is 11th-grader Bianca Williams.
According to her, listening to the presentations was humbling.
“It’s encouraging to see women, who are successful in what they do, come and speak and share their knowledge,” said Bianca, who wants to study biomedical engineering in college. “Hearing about how they achieved their goals lets me know that I can do it, too.”