Trekkers honored at La Palma AAUW

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Pictured at the Sept. 20 meeting of the La Palm-Cerritos AAUW are, left to right, Walker Jr. High School Vice-Principal Dr. Jeremy Sell, Walker students Lilly Sierra and Shahan Chejin Ozturk, and Walker Science teacher Suzanne Duris. Photo by Edna Ethington

The La Palma-Cerritos Branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) invited four middle school girls, their families, their teachers, and principals, to come to their Annual Potluck and first general meeting of the year on Sept. 20, at the Cerritos Library. The four girls who were invited were Ariana Austin and Edrianna Simbol, from Ross Middle School in ABC Unified School District, and Shahan Chejin Ozturk and Lilly Sierra, from Walker Jr. High in La Palma. The girls came as guest speakers to tell members about their personal experiences at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Tech Trek at Whittier College this past June. The girls were the first on the program for the evening prior to the potluck.

La Palma-Cerritos AAUW member, Tobi Balma, served as moderator of the girls’ panel presentation. Balma served as a Dorm Mom at the Whittier Tech Trek Camp for three years. She carefully selected slides to show some of each girls’ activities as they took turns speaking and answering questions.

Balma said that the girls were immersed in STEM subjects at Whittier College to encourage them to study STEM subjects and prepare for careers in STEM fields. They participated in classes including Physics, Engineering Design, Neuroscience, Coding, Food Science and Aerospace Engineering. They also attended a workshop about Cybersecurity, took field trips to the Whittier Cadaver Lab and Cal Poly Pomona, Food Science and Animal Science Departments. They also were able to visit with professional women who are currently working in the STEM fields.

All of the girls said they felt comfortable being “nerds” at the camp because everyone was a “nerd” at the Tech Trek camp. They were especially impressed with the workshops, field trips and meeting the professional women working in STEM fields. They each asked everyone to continue donating funds so that more girls could experience the next Tech Trek Camp at Whittier College like they did.

Edrianna Simbol said that she learned a lot about diseases, especially, diabetes. She became more aware of the sugar content of foods she ate because of what she learned about Food Science. Lilly Sierra enjoyed coding and wants to learn more about computers. Ariana Austin said she wants to be a medical doctor or do biochemical research after hearing the biochemist tell about her two careers. Shahan Ozturk said she wanted to be an engineer at first, but now wants to be a neurosurgeon after visiting Whittier Cadaver Lab and studying about neuroscience.

Members and guests enjoyed the girls’ speeches and applauded them for doing a great job speaking publicly before a large audience. They had some practice giving speeches at the Tech Trek camp.

After the girls’ presentations, the branch’s Tech Trek Co-Coordinator, Celia Spitzer, presented a Certificate of Recognition to each of the girls on behalf of Assemblymember Cristina Garcia of the 58th District of the California Legislature. Garcia congratulated the girls for receiving the AAUW Tech Trek Scholarships and said, “I wish you nothing but the best for continued academic growth and success!”

The girls and their families, and their guests, enjoyed the potluck dinner provided by members of the La Palma-Cerritos AAUW. Guests included Science teacher, Rebecca Souza and Principal Patricia Rodriguez from Ross Middle School, and Math teacher Suzanne Duris and Vice- Principal Dr. Jeremy Sell from Walker Jr. High School. Parents who accompanied their daughters were Mrs. Lizbeth Chejin, Mrs. Adriana Austin and her three sons, Mrs. Julia Ann Simbol and Mr. Cesario Sierra.

While everyone was enjoying the potluck dinner, Tobi Balma announced that Science teacher at Ross Middle School, Rebecca Souza, was a recipient of a La Palma-Cerritos AAUW Academic Achievement Award at Cerritos College a few years ago. She continued her education and has a degree in Geology.

The general meeting of the AAUW followed the girls’ presentation with the leaders of the Interest Groups explaining when and where each of their groups meet and other requirements for joining the groups. A brief business meeting was conducted and adjourned before 8:30 p.m. by President Harriet Moses. For more information about future meetings of the La Palma-Cerritos AAUW, contact President Harriet Moses at 714-994-1487.

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