Seminar introduces young women to new fields

March 9, 2009

By Chantelle Lusebrink

Middle and high school girls on the Eastside have an opportunity to discover myriad careers at the Expanding Your Horizons seminars March 21 and 25 at Bellevue Community College.

Registration deadlines are March 12 for high schoolers and March 14 for middle schoolers.

“In sixth grade, I heard about it from school and it sounded like fun, so I went. I really liked that it was something different and we did some really, really fun things,” said Mackenzie Butler, a freshman at Pacific Cascade Freshman Campus. “I’d recommend it to everybody. Even if you’re not interested in joining one of the careers after college, it is still really fun and you learn a lot.”

Butler has attended each year since and plans to attend the high school event this year.

For 27 years, local professional women belonging to the American Association of University Women have gathered to speak about their education and careers. The seminars are designed to help young women see and experience the many careers available to them.

There are more than 38 sessions this year. Girls can choose three to attend during the morning.

Female police officers, firefighters, doctors, nurses, veterinarians, engineers and architects gather to speak about their professions and let the girls try hands-on exercises involving their daily work. Young women who would like to learn about nursing will learn how to give an injection; others can create a radio commercial with local vocal personalities or learn to build a bridge with engineers.

“This event allows the girls to see the broad spectrum of professionals that use these skills in their jobs,” Raquel Cundiff, a Boeing engineer and seminar presenter, wrote in an e-mail. “Seeing and hearing how women came to be in their skills also allows the girls to relate to them in some way and use their testimonies to provide motivation for whatever situation and/or obstacles they may be facing, and can provide for them a solution of how to remove barriers.”

Cundiff, who has more than 18 years of experience in aerospace technology, works as a liaison to airlines to personalize their Boeing Next Generation 737 orders. She will help girls at her session build bridges and test their strength with weights.

More than 7,500 young women have been through the program since it began, including Barbara Cluff, who has completed masters-level work at Brigham Young University in scanning electron microscopy. She attended the seminar 25 years ago.

“As a youth, it really opened up my eyes to the many careers available in science, math and technology, many that I had never even thought of before. I love that the class sizes are small so that there is a lot of interaction and personal attention,” Cluff wrote in an e-mail. “The presenters are so unintimidating and approachable, and great role models for young women.”

The event helped her better understand what field she wanted to go into and provided her with an opportunity to ask questions of successful professional women, she said.

This year, her daughter, Angie, a sixth-grader at Pine Lake Middle School, will attend the middle school seminar.

“I’m really excited about the life science classes that are offered,” Angie said. “I love learning about animals and the human body. It will be great to meet women who work in these areas and hear all about what they do in their job.”

If you go

Expanding Your Horizons

Middle school seminar

8-11:50 a.m. March 21

Bellevue Community College

Registration is $14 and must be by March 14 at

High school seminar

7:45 a.m. – 1:45 p.m. 4March 25

Bellevue Community College

Registration is $20 and must be by March 12 at

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