Engineering degree closer for Latina
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 21, 2005

Susanne Tso

PHOENIX - Monica Telles will graduate from South Mountain Community College this May and then enroll at Arizona State University to continue work on her computer engineering degree. It's an achievement she once thought beyond her reach.

But a chance encounter with a computer class at North High School changed that, sending her on a path that community college officials hope others girls take.

"In high school, my interest in computers grew, and I gradually began to think about college," she said 

There were some setbacks, but eventually she enrolled at SMCC, a school that recently has pushed engineering and especially women in engineering to the forefront. Last summer she was among 30 Hispanic college students nationwide chosen for NASA's Space Flight Life Sciences Training Program at the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, Fla.

Telles' success is inspiring Latina engineering students on other campuses to seek her guidance, and she enjoys being able to influence them. She also speaks to younger girls at grade schools.

Earlier this month, South Mountain held Hermanas: Deseņa tú futuro/Design your Future, a weekend workshop on Latina career opportunities. Its aim was to increase the number of underrepresented female students choosing to go to college and encourage those in grades 6-12 to consider education and careers in engineering and science.

"A lot of young Latinas don't have goals," she said. "I found that's the only thing that keeps you going. Without goals, you have no in- spiration."