Last fall, 300 middle-school girls flocked to North County’s MiraCosta College to get a glimpse of futures that used to be denied to almost anyone who wasn’t a man.

They talked to student ambassadors from the community college, made ice cream with hydrogen gas, gawked at a penguin from SeaWorld, looked at the DNA of a strawberry, and inspected a solar-powered car.

“Many of the presenters were women, and they did more than talk about their careers. They shared their pathways to success,” Miracosta College’s Office of School Relations and Diversity Outreach Lisa Montes said. “Now the girls can say, ‘She made it, and I can too.’”

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Contributions to Civic Light Projects will allow the program to offer more free workshops, reach more local girls and spread the word more widely about opportunities for internships and awards.

That’s the extraordinary power of the Girl Tech Conference and Expo, designed by the educational nonprofit Civic Light Projects to help girls and young women embrace careers in science and technology. The goal is to help them realize their potential and reach forward.

Teenage girls often know plenty about preparing for the future. If they’re Latina, for example, they may be preparing for their own quinceañera celebrations in honor of their 15th birthdays, or they might be helping a sister or cousin put things together for a party of her own.

“They have the skill and patience to get ready for the big day,” Civic Light Projects President Leticia Chavarria said. “We figure that if you can plan a quinceañera that’s like a wedding, you can plan the rest of your life.”

Through events like the Girl Tech conference, Civic Light Projects is teaching local girls that they’re well-equipped to begin planning their futures and enter the same fields as their male counterparts.

“We want to make these opportunities available to our kids,” Chavarria said. “Our goal is to help girls see their potential to become scientists and serve in other roles in a technology world that’s been male-dominated.”
Chavarria and her organization are promoting computer programming workshops for kids in elementary, middle and high school. It’s also aiming to help young women through a variety of strategies, including scholarships, financial assistance and partnerships with universities, businesses and nonprofits.

“I’m not going for something that’s a little after-school program,” says Chavarria, who has something much bigger in mind.

Kenneth “Chris” Hurst Sr., associate superintendent of Educational Services at the Oceanside Unified School District, praised the Girl Tech Conference and Expo and its focus on girls.

“Their minds were opened to all of the possibilities in the different fields that rely on science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” he said. “They had fun, and they realized it’s something they could have fun doing. It had a powerful impact on our young ladies, who may be able to say, “This is something that I can do in the future.’”

Girls gather around science experiment to see the results. Photo courtesy of Civic Lights Project.
Girls gather around science experiment to see the results. Photo courtesy of Civic Lights Project.

Chavarria went to school in Oceanside herself and has worked in the world of technology. She says her program focuses on specialized approaches to helping girls enjoy computer science and programming. For example, computer programming workshops emphasize the storytelling aspects of “coding” such as storyboards instead of treating girls like boys, “who get interested in it though gaming and Comic-Con and all that stuff.”
Montes, who’s a student services specialist at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, says her own young nieces, Sierra and Kayla Montes, attended the conference last fall.

“They loved it,” she said. “It’s important for girls to see that whatever obstacles may be in front of them, they can overcome them with hard work and determination.”

Looking for Volunteers at the Girl Tech Conference

Civic Lights Project is on the lookout for volunteers with an interest in science and technology. If you think you’re the right fit, email The conference is set for Nov. 14.

Looking for a Board Member

Civic Lights Projects is also actively looking for board members with backgrounds in technology and science. If interested email,

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