Panelists at Sixth Annual Women in Industry Event Empower Next Generation of Leaders by Sharing Professional Advice and Experiences

On Wednesday, October 18, the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) hosted its sixth annual Women in Industry event, an inspirational experience designed to empower the next generation of leaders and prepare them for the future.

A crowd of students, staff, families, and community members gathered in the PYLUSD Performing Arts Center to learn from this year’s respected panel of seven female professionals who represent a variety of diverse industry sections. 

To begin the event, Esperanza High School’s all-female Air Force Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFJROTC) color guard posted the colors. Madison Perez-Fernandez, a senior at Valencia High School, led the room in the Pledge of Allegiance.

Beth Scott, Counselor on Special Assignment, then welcomed the auditorium and thanked honored guests in attendance such as Board of Education members, Executive Cabinet members, and various district and school site administrators.

El Dorado High School Principal, Joey Davis, followed by offering a brief tribute to Amy Madrigal, the former Assistant Principal at El Dorado. Sadly, Mrs. Madrigal passed away this last spring. “Over the past few years, one of the driving forces behind this wonderful, wonderful event was Amy Madrigal,” said Mr. Davis. He dedicated the evening’s event to Mrs. Madrigal and the work that she did to empower women in the district during her lifetime. 

Giselle Mendez, a Medical Sciences Academy student at Esperanza High School, then introduced the event’s keynote speaker Sinéad de Vries. A host for televised and digital media, actress, and web personality, Sinéad took the stage to remind those in attendance that they are capable of inspiring those around them every day.

“Rejection does not equal failure,” she told the room. “You’re going to face rejection throughout your career tons of times, no matter what you do. But if you get up every single time, and you get back to fulfilling your purpose? Guess what – that’s not failure, that’s success!” 

She coached those in attendance to prioritize developing their skills. Opportunities will come, she promised, but it is important to be prepared for those moments. Passion for the work, backed by the skills to execute and a willingness to learn, is the key to success in any industry.

Sinéad concluded by describing what empowerment means to her. Empowerment is felt not in the moments of stability, but in the moments of confusion and transition when she has the ability to make choices for her own life. “Do what you have control over right now, and trust yourselves, and talk to the people around you,” she encouraged students. She was met with a big round of applause.

Esperanza High School Assistant Principal, Leigh Ann Swarm, then invited the panelists and student moderators to take the stage for brief introductions before the question and answer portion of the evening began. 

Eight students who participate in the district’s multitude of Career and Technical Education Programs were selected to serve as moderators. This included Maggie Grijalva and Tahlia Pompel from El Dorado High School, Reese Canfield and Giselle Mendez from Esperanza High School, Ava Preibe from Parkview High School, Madison Perez-Fernandez and Mayra Ruiz Martinez from Valencia High School, and Nikita Gupta from Yorba Linda High School. 

The panel was composed of keynote speaker Sinéad de Vries, Paola Suchsland, Valencia High School Assistant Principal, Dr. Tiffany Berry, Dean of the School of Social Science at Claremont Graduate University, McKenna Lumley, El Dorado Alumna and Author, Erin Kelly, El Dorado Alumna and Employee Rights Lawyer, Karen Rabrizio, Sales and Marketing Manager, and Melanie Santos, Surgeon and Medical Director of Pelvic Health at St. Jude.

The Q&A kicked off with questions asking panelists to share, “When you were a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?” “How do you stay focused on your career in the face of distractions and competing priorities?” and “What is one piece of advice you would give your younger self?”

The panelists answered each question thoughtfully, offering their experiences and advice as the crowd listened attentively. After the Q&A portion concluded, the panelists received a loud round of applause and cheers from the crowd.

Beth Scott returned to the stage to thank the panelists, students, and various individuals who made the event possible once again. She then presented two lucky students with brand new Google Chromebooks donated by event sponsor, USA Softball of Southern California. The event concluded as the crowd was invited to enjoy a reception with the panelists and desserts prepared by Valencia’s culinary students and their teacher Chef Gary Bradshaw.

Exiting the auditorium, the audience was buzzing with energy. Attendees were able to meet the panelists and reflect on the impact that the Women in Industry event had on all.

The sixth annual PYLUSD Women in Industry event was possible thanks to the willingness of the panelists, students, and a large committee of district personnel including Beth Scott, Leigh Ann Swarm, Susan Sawyer, Mark Switzer, Rod Boaz, Marie Shirran, Gary Bradford, Jenni Messick, Kelly Fritz, Brian Johnson, Dan Eliot, Christopher Canchola, Racheal Schiff, Joanna Cruz, and more.

This event was sponsored by The Reach Foundation and USA Softball of Southern California.

You may watch the entire event on the district’s YouTube channel at the link below.

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