Marijess Ramos doesn't have time for antiquated ideas about what jobs are reserved for boys and which are girls-only; she has rockets to build.
Well not now, but soon.
The 12-year-old is in the seventh grade now, but has her eyes on a field in aerospace engineering, ideally with NASA, and isn't about to let society tell her it's a "boy job."
And her mother, Silvia Ramos, is definitely in her corner.
That's why she brought Marijess to Saturday's science, technology, engineering and math exhibition at Veterans Memorial High School.
"I want to encourage her," she said, pointing out that the majority of the speakers were women who grew up in Brownsville.
Indeed, that was the goal of the exhibition when organizers first envisioned it a few months ago, said Norma Valle, a member of the North Brownsville Rotary Club, a sponsor of the event.
Fundraising efforts to send girls to a women's STEM conference in Corpus Christi led her, Marilyn Gilbert and Judge Elia Lopez to wonder why such an event couldn't be held in the Rio Grande Valley.
Lopez took off with the idea, Valle said, involving the Girl Scout troop she leads, Troop 1012, and reaching out to a handful of professionals in the engineering, technology, science and math fields.
The event attracted more than 100 attendees, most of them females, as a dozen speakers were scheduled to discuss their professions in small group sessions ahead of physics experiments led by the University of Texas at Brownsville's Physics Circus.
Participants from elementary grades, middle schools and high schools were able to hear from and ask questions of women and men in various STEM-related occupations.
The prevalence of female panelists was intentional, Valle said, because so often men are portrayed in jobs involving math, science and engineering.
Breaking that perception is the goal, she explained.
"I was not told and I know other women were not told 'You can do this,'" she said, thinking back to her upbringing.
Seeing women who have made a living in STEM fields was what excited Marijess about attending, too.
"I want to see that girls can do boy jobs," she said, adding that her goal is to be an engineer with NASA who designs and tests rockets. "I want to send people to space."
Showing her daughter that her potential had nothing to do with her gender was one factor that led Ramos to bring Marijess to the exhibition, but there was another reason, too: a maternal one.
"Most of the people who are here were from here and came back," the mother said, letting slip that she hopes Marijess will return home after she chases down her dreams.
It's that kind of long-term goal setting that Lopez had in mind when she brought the idea to her Girl Scouts, all of whom took the lead in organizing the event.
Their efforts will earn them the Order of the Silver Star, an honor awarded for troops that put together events that benefit the greater community.
Bringing STEM professionals together to inspire others in the area seemed to be a perfect fit for the six girls in the troop, with most of them in the STEM program at their respective schools.
With interests ranging from cardiology to forensic sciences to engineering, it was an event all of the girls could get behind, Lopez said.
"This is an area where (girls) don't have a lot of exposure to it," she said. "We want them to be excited about school and excited about science."
(c)2013 The Brownsville Herald (Brownsville, Texas)
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Original headline: Exhibition propels girls into fields of science, technology, engineering and math
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