Stephanie Gago, EA Class of 2012, is a woman of intelligence and perseverance paving the way for other women in a male-dominated field. In high school, she took advantage of opportunities to support her dreams of achieving a science/engineering degree. Working diligently through AP Calculus, attending Prep Zone for homework assistance, and learning from many financial aid and college scholarship workshops hosted by our College & Career Department, she took determined steps to achieve her goal. “I always say that my relationship with the teachers truly helped shape me. The respect I had for them and the respect they had for me truly made me work harder and inspired me to break barriers,” says Gago.
In 2013, her hard work paid off and she earned a spot in Penn State’s Civil Engineering program. Gago believes she was the only Latina in her graduating class and oftentimes was the only woman in the engineering classrooms. She says it was difficult to navigate college and often felt like she did not fit in. However, through consistent hard work and persistence, she pressed on despite the obstacles and is now receiving the fruit of her labor! She is working in New York as an Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) engineer. Her career is everything she wanted it to be: secure, innovative, and provides a good salary that she can use to help her family as well. She also is part of SHPE, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. She says, “I’m passionate about my work at SHPE. I want to be representative of what engineering could be, and show other girls that this is attainable.” She believes as young girls begin to see more women in STEM leadership positions and are exposed to more STEM programs, they will begin to see this career as an option for them. Gago encourages girls interested in engineering to not let the lack of representation keep them from pursuing their goals. Their opinions and perspectives are important and should be shared. She urges girls to: “Use your perspective to your advantage. Get involved and join groups that empower you. Don’t be afraid to speak up louder, make your opinion heard.”
Engineering is a dynamic field with many options, and she has proved that she is capable of working in the industry. She says, “I deal with all technology and infrastructure on highways/roads that communicate with each other, vehicles, and pedestrians. In my previous job, I did a lot of computer- aided design (CAD) where I created project plan sets that were used in construction sites to build whatever I designed. Right now I focus more on the software side of things. I figure out how the data collected from the roads are then used to communicate with the devices. For example, if there’s an accident on the road, the camera can see it, then it calls emergency personnel, then displays a message on the sign to warn oncoming drivers.” Her work is innovative in how technology can make our transportation safer and more efficient.
Within the last 8 years, Esperanza has included Engineering as one of their thirteen majors offered at the high school. The program is overseen by Curtis Roberts, who graduated from University at Buffalo and worked as an engineer for 12 years before transitioning to teaching 18 years ago. The program includes Introduction to Engineering, Principles of Engineering, Physics, AP Computer Science Principles and AP Java classes. The major prepares students to solve engineering challenges systematically and cost effectively using engineering tools such as the Engineering Design Process, CAD, 3-D printing, hands on construction, and more to make sure students are ready for the rigor of college engineering programs. While this major was not offered when Gago attended Esperanza Academy, she says she is excited about how this program will prepare our students and believes Mr. Roberts is doing great work!
Gago finishes our interview with pertinent advice for current Esperanza Academy students. She encourages students to, “Surround yourself with people who make you want to be better. Get involved in afterschool programs and activities. I was super shy and mute in high school, but after getting involved, I was able to run meetings and do public speaking. Force yourself to do something that makes you uncomfortable because that feeling is temporary and you’ll gain more from it than you think. Have a strong relationship with your teachers because they will be a part of your network in the future.”
Engineering is an extremely difficult and rigorous degree but also an excellent career choice. It is wonderful to see how Gago is excelling in her field and applying her hard work and intelligence to her workplace. She is an example for many young girls and students who are dreaming of careers in STEM to better our world. Thank you Stephanie for your interview! We are proud of all you have accomplished and proud that you are one of our many incredible alumni.