Museum of Natural History's Bridge Up Stem program trains girls in coding

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Monday, October 9, 2017
Museum of Natural History's Bridge Up Stem program trains girls in coding
Joe Torres reports on an inspirational teacher in the field of technology.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Yvonne de la Pena is a teacher, a scientist and a self-described workaholic. But for her high-achieving high school students, she is also an inspirational role model.

"There is not a lot of Latinas who are in technology, so it is great to see," student Julieth Sanchez said. "And to have a mentor and a teacher who is in that field, and who can share her experiences."

The 41-year-old serves as director of the American Museum of Natural History's Bridge Up Stem program, an intensive and competitive two-year curriculum created specifically for girls -- and many of them are girls of color. The focus is computer coding, a field largely dominated by white males.

"Computer science being a field where women and women of color are under-represented, they really need to know what tremendous benefits there are to be in this field," de la Pena said.

She was born in mexico and educated here in the states, earning degrees in computer science and education. Teaching and coding are her passions, but opening the eyes of young ladies to a world of opportunities is her joy.

"Seeing her and her heritage and all the great things she has accomplished was really solidifying for me, that I too can probably get a good job in this field and make an impact," student Isabella Zanzani said.

With so many colleges, universities and companies actively looking for high-achieving women of color to enter the respected and competitive fields of science, engineering and technology, the job employment possibilities are many.

"I think that I was very lucky to have the opportunity to study computer science, and actually, it provided a lot of opportunities for me," de la Pena said. "It has opened a lot of doors for me. And I just want more students to be able to have that."

And if that road to prosperity is paved by an energetic and passionate Latina, well, what a great way to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month.