Santana Garcia-Chang has received a scholarship from the American Association of University Women-New Mexico to attend the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders May 30 to June 1 at the University of Maryland.
She is the first student from UNM-LA to receive this award. The conference will bring approximately 600 college women from across the United States together for the common purpose of passing on the torch of leadership from one generation the next. Garcia-Chang recently graduated with an Associate of Science in Pre-Engineering from UNM-Los Alamos and will be attending UNM-Albuquerque to pursue her bachelor’s degree this fall.
She spoke May 10 at the AAUW Los Alamos Chapter Membership Tea.
“This will be my first time traveling outside New Mexico. I’m so excited to be attending the Conference and meeting women from around the country,” Garcia-Chang said. “Women like you have encouraged women like me to pursue non-traditional careers. Without your support, women wouldn’t be able to compete with men in these fields. Young women learn from others who have been there before.”
Garcia-Chang gave birth to her son, now three, while she was attending Questa High School.
“I was told I’d never have more than a minimum-wage job,” she said.
Garcia-Chang refused to accept this assessment of her future. She earned a LANL Foundation Scholarship of $11,000 and an offer of an internship at Los Alamos National Laboratory. This allowed her to attend UNM-Los Alamos. In spite of her many responsibilities, Garcia-Chang has consistently earned high grades. She has been involved in the student honor society Phi Theta Kappa and UNM-LA Student Government.
Garcia-Chang also received the first Merrick Engineering Scholarship offered by Merrick and Company, in collaboration with UNM-LA. She was awarded the premier scholarship of $20,000.
“When I first thought of applying for scholarships, I didn’t want to include my history,” she said. “Then I realized I shouldn’t be ashamed of my background as a young mother. This is who I am. It means so much to me that people who don’t even know me believe in me. It encourages me so much. I want to pass on that encouragement to others. Anytime I have a chance to talk to young students about engineering, I take it!”
This conference provides participants the opportunity to discuss contemporary issues affecting women across a wide spectrum. NCCWSL helps to create a next generation of leaders by equipping women with leadership skills to take back to their universities and colleges.
NCCWSL is a collaborative initiative created by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators and AAUW to provide women the opportunity to share a unified voice in shaping their own academic and leadership potential.