Arriya Harris is entirely comfortable about a future as a woman in a field that’s traditionally been mostly men. The same goes for Damaris Sanchez.
“I just want to be treated the same as the guys,” said Arriya, 17, an East Kentwood High School senior who is completing the criminal justice program at the Kent Career Tech Center. “Everyone comes (to the profession) for the same reason: to lay down the law and to make the community a better place.”
Damaris, 16, is a junior at Potter’s House High School who attends the Tech Center’s aviation maintenance program. “At first it was intimidating being one of only four girls in the class,” she said. “But I just really liked what I was doing. I find the field interesting. I don’t want to be doing work sitting down, looking at a computer. I want hands-on, I want to see what’s out there.”
That said, their trailblazing status as females in fields that are still largely staffed by males is being recognized.
Arriya and Damaris were part of a group of students statewide recognized recently by the Michigan Department of Education (MDE) for surpassing obstacles and stereotypes to achieve success in career and technical education (CTE) programs.
The Breaking Traditions Awards honor high school and college students who have demonstrated success in CTE programs that are nontraditional to their gender. Honorees received the awards on May 13, during a ceremony at the Library of Michigan in Lansing.
Arriya will attend Ferris State University in the fall as a criminal justice major. Her plans are to spend a few years working as an officer for a police department in Michigan, then move to North Carolina and continue police work, preferably with a canine unit.
Damaris plans to go to college, get an aviation mechanics license and private pilot’s license, and ultimately work for a missionary aviation organization.
“I’d love to help other people in other countries, and I’d love to travel,” she said. “We can help people in other countries, and the ‘getting there’ part is the important thing.”