From the courtroom to the archery range and beyond, a quartet of female high school students are breaking into fields dominated by males.
Two Kent Career Tech Center students were among 32 students across Michigan to receive 2016 Breaking Traditions Awards from the Michigan Department of Education on Thursday, May 12. Annual recipients, nominated by their instructors, are recognized for overcoming obstacles and stereotypes in their field.
Two Tech Center students also received certificates of recognition for pursuing careers in male-dominated industries.
IT instructor Laurie Fernandez said the annual Breaking Traditions awards help to recognize the progress that would otherwise go unnoticed outside the classroom.
“It’s really nice that they are aware that we are working really hard to get women and minorities into positions that they normally wouldn’t get into,” she said.
Imani Hayden – Excellence Award
Wyoming senior Imani Hayden joined the Tech Center’s criminal justice program having already witnessed the inner workings of the profession. With three summers of internships under her belt since she left the eighth grade, Imani had experienced everything from legal paperwork to courtroom proceedings, which inspired her to become a lawyer.
At the Tech Center, Imani said her eyes have been opened to the issues and challenges that exist in law enforcement, and will help her in her pursuit of a law degree.
The male-to-female ratio in the criminal justice program is near even, which Imani said is hopeful, considering what she sees as a need for better representation in law enforcement.
“I think there’s a lack of minorities as well as females,” she said. “It’s important to have a diverse group when it comes to your law enforcement, so they are better able to relate to different people.”
Many of the tasks in the Tech Center program are physical, but each student is tested by their size and ability, not gender. As for dedication to becoming officers, Imani said, the competition is even.
“Most of the guys feel like girls aren’t as commanding and won’t take it seriously, but all the girls in the class seem really professional and into becoming a police officer,” she said.
Katarina Scrivenger – Merit Award
Kent City senior Katarina Scrivenger has been shooting a bow since she was 9. By middle school she was competing on the national level, testing her abilities in the nearly all-male sport.
At the Tech Center this spring, she took her bow hand to the drawing board and created a competition sight for a recurve bow. In the classroom, as on the range, she is among mostly male peers.
Katarina hopes to pursue a career in engineering, and expects to turn some heads along the way.
“I don’t believe that being a female in a male-dominated class and career field restricts me in any way, but provides an opportunity to get people’s attention,” she said.”Since it is uncommon, people in the industry will notice and be interested in my skills and what I can do.”
Rachel Bowman and Aria Cusenza – Certificates of Recognition
Kent City senior Rachel Bowman and East Grand Rapids senior Aria Cusenza received recognition for excelling in fields that are traditionally male-dominated – a reality they both experienced upon entering their programs.
Instructor Travis Raspotnik said Rachel was among the first females to enter the program, now its third year. She joins five other females on the verge of completing the program, which combines traditional fields of mechanical engineering, electrical engineering, IT and control systems.
Raspotnik said women are in high demand in the industry.
“If you have an all male-dominated workplace, you’re going to tend to stick to some old habits,” he said. “Females bring a different outlook.”
Though she admits was intimidated entering an all-male class for the first time, Rachel said she has since grown comfortable “hanging out with the guys.”
“I had a couple of projects where guys were like, ‘Oh, no, I’ll do all the hard work, you just do the design,'” she said. But her response was, “Give me that drill, I’ll saw this wood up. I’m not scared of it.”
In the information technology program, Aria said she hopes that, as a woman of color, she can bring a different perspective.
“We bring something new to the table because men and women think differently,” she said. “Say we’re making an app and the app is targeted toward women. Definitely, a woman would help make it better.”