Hola Familia, my name is Michelle Tovar-Mora, a first-generation Latina who proudly earned a Bachelor and Masters of Science degrees in Mechanical Engineering from California State University, Los Angeles. I work as a Mechanical Engineer in the Power Industry ensuring customers are provided with the most reliable and economic power. If you saw my career roadmap one might assume that I’ve always had it all figured out and that I knew I wanted to be an engineer since I was little. The truth lies far from that; growing up in a low-income community I didn't have access to many resources and quite frankly I didn’t even know what engineering was until I got to college. After getting involved with various student organizations I got exposed to different engineering disciplines which sparked my curiosity in engineering.
Not knowing a single engineer growing up and being the first in my family to attend college made this journey quite difficult but it also has made it that much more rewarding. Throughout my college career I had to work what I felt like twice as hard to succeed after various failures. I didn’t fully understand the workload required to successfully pass engineering classes until after I began that journey. At that time, I was a full-time college student working 2-3 jobs to assist with my tuition and living expenses. A mentor advised me that if I wanted to have a chance at becoming an engineer I should quit all my jobs and pull out loans. Although this was outside my comfort zone I have no doubt that this decision was vital for my completion of my Bachelors of Science.
The support of my family and the STEM community is what really helped me overcome all the obstacles and challenges a first-generation college student has to face. I asked a million questions to my peers, advisors, and mentors to educate myself more on the opportunities that I didn’t even know existed such as scholarships, stipends, and internships. The support system and information gained through the network I created for myself was key to my engineering success.
My main motivation has always been to prove to my parents that all the sacrifices and suffering were not in vain. I’ve always been well aware that they left all they knew in their country and the only place they called home so that someday their children could have the opportunity to persevere and live the “American Dream”. This motivation drove me not only to become the first in my family to earn a Bachelors and Masters of Science but also become the first engineer.
Coming from an immigrant family and experiencing poverty allowed me to make a strong commitment for a better future. I felt college paved a road to a better life and brighter future not only for myself but also for my parents, siblings, and extended family. Quitting has never been an option on my agenda, I grew up watching my parents work hard, remain resilient, and always overcoming any obstacle that came their way. Every accomplishment I make today and in the future is a toast to my parents' sacrifices. Every opportunity I get, I make sure to share that I am a proud daughter of Mexican immigrant parents who raised a strong, determined, and fearless Latina. Every time we fall and stand back up we continue opening the doors for the next generation.
I have made it a personal mission to educate and expose other underrepresented communities to all of the STEM opportunities and resources available. It should no longer be a rarity to see Latinos in STEM, but especially Latinas as we are the fastest growing college population. In addition, after entering motherhood I have realized the importance of advocating for mothers in STEM and encouraging more women to not be scared of building a family while building their career. We don't have to choose between motherhood and our careers; we can be both, mothers and career driven women.
So today, I choose to continue sharing my story and be an example for all the Latinos and women in STEM out there doubting their ability to persevere. No matter the obstacles SI SE PUEDE and united we continue to inspire more women and Latinos to join the STEM field.
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