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Local girls taking advantage of learning about opportunities in industry

Several local high school received sponsorship for female students to attend 'Women in Industry Conference'
Mariah Vara Taft High School.jpg
Posted at 2:57 PM, Feb 23, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-23 18:42:04-05

TAFT, Texas — In the Coastal Bend, there are plenty of opportunities for career in industrial companies. However, in a male-dominated field, many women may not be aware of the opportunities available to them.

Thanks to a collaboration of industrial companies located in the Coastal Bend and local school districts, some girls will get to see what opportunities they have in industry.

“There’s so much industry coming in, it’s going to continue to grow. There are going to be more jobs as the years go by. Why not start preparing now?” Stephanie Hajducek said.

Hajducek is the catalyst to the cooperation of the companies and districts. She works for Steel Dynamics in Sinton.

A few years ago, she attended the Women in Industry Conference in Galveston, and noticed industries in the Houston area had sponsored high schools to send girls to the conference.

She decided she wanted to bring the same opportunity to girls in the Coastal Bend, so she brought the idea to her supervisor to sponsor girls at Sinton High School to attend the conference.

Her supervisor was onboard, and so was the school, so she thought about expanding it to other schools in San Patricio County.

“I just started making connections, and letting them know, ‘hey, this is what Steel Dynamics is doing, would you be interested in sponsoring one of the other schools?’ and I haven’t heard a ‘no’ yet,” she said.

As of Wednesday, every school in San Patricio County has a sponsor; so does Rockport-Fulton, and Hajducek said she is working to get Refugio a sponsor as well.

In Taft, more than 50 percent of the girls in the junior and senior class will be attending the conference.

“It’s nice to see females have a role in a male-dominant zone, and it’s nice to see there are other things than the traditional roles for females to do,” said Taft senior Janelle Lopez.

Lopez has been interested in getting involved in industry her whole life, as she grew up in a family with a lot of people in the field.

“I kind of grew up seeing all the crude oil all over my grandpa, the smell of everything. So, I just grew up in a family, and got used to it,” she said.

Adacely Aguirre, a junior at Taft High School, also grew up with family members in the industrial field. Aguirre is part of the AgMechanics program at the high school.

She said getting hands-on experience is helpful for her.

“Not many women get to do it, so when you’re doing it, it can show me that I’m capable of doing anything that I put my mind to,” she said.

Aguirre’s classmate, Mariah Vara, shared a similar sentiment.

“It makes me feel good knowing I can do it, and knowing there are more job opportunities out there to work with my hands makes me feel good,” she said.

Lopez said the experience of seeing her work become a reality is the most rewarding part about a potential career.

“For me to see my work, and the progress through it, I feel like it will boost my confidence to be able to see your growth as you go,” she said.

The added benefit for these girls, and girls across the Coastal Bend, is they have these career opportunities so close to home.

“You don’t have to miss a lot of holidays or birthdays. You can just stay here where your community is and where your support is,” Lopez said.

Gulf Coast Growth Ventures is the sponsor for Taft High School’s students attending the conference.

In addition to GCGV and Steel Dynamics, voestalpine, Chemours, Cheniere, Kiewit, and Airforce Turbine Services are all sponsoring local schools.

In total, nearly 200 local high school girls are being sponsored to go to the conference.

“The companies sponsoring them is showing them the companies are supporting this effort, and that’s them saying, ‘hey, we’ve got a spot for you, and we want you to know that this is important to us,’” Hajducek said. “Just getting these girls to the conference, and broadening their horizons, hopefully, it will get them a little more interested in these sorts of positions at these companies.”

The Women in Industry Conference will be in Galveston on Mar. 24. Hajducek said if other schools are interested in getting a local company to sponsor their students for the conference, they can contact her through the website of her non-profit, This One's For The Gals, or via email at