Hundreds attend inaugural PYLUSD Women in Industry Conference established to empower future leaders

A picture from the Women in Industry Conference.Fourteen esteemed panelists and six stellar Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District students took the Valencia High School Auditorium stage on Tuesday, October 17, to participate in the inaugural Women in Industry Conference.

On Tuesday, October 17, the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District (PYLUSD) hosted the inaugural Women in Industry Conference, an inspirational event geared towards empowering the next generation of female leaders through 21st century learning.

Hundreds of students, families, community members, and district employees gathered in the Valencia High School Auditorium in order to learn from an esteemed panel of female captains of industry who represent diverse professional sectors.

The evening began with a powerful video highlighting a group of young girls and their dreams to make the world a better place using Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). The video also went on to share that only 6.7% of women graduate with STEM degrees. It served as a powerful message in opening up the evening’s program and inspiring those young women in the room to pursue STEM.

Following the video, Dr. Nancy Watkins, Administrator for Secondary Curriculum and Instruction, 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. In addition to honored guests, Dr. Watkins also introduced the six PYLUSD Career Technical Education (CTE) academy high school students that served as hosts and moderators for the evening – Caroline Bostwick (Valencia HS), Emilee Carr (Esperanza HS), Ashley Martinez (El Dorado HS), Kate Smith (El Dorado HS), Allie Gardiner (Yorba Linda HS), and Kelly Kudlik (Parkview School). Ms. Gardiner then had the honor to introduce the evening’s first keynote speaker, coaching legend, Sue Enquist.

Student representatives of the Women in Industry Conference.

Students pictured left to right are Kelly Kudlik, Emilee Carr, Kate Smith, Caroline Bostwick, Ashley Martinez, and Allie Gardiner.

Enquist took the stage with an upbeat energy as she expressed how honored she was to be a part of the inaugural event. She then shared with the crowd her thoughts on what drives success such as mindfulness, enthusiasm, and most importantly, determination.

Key note speaker, Sue Enquist.

Key note speaker, Sue Enquist.

“In the areas of science, technology, engineering, and math — if you have that interest, go for it. And don’t let anyone say that you don’t have the aptitude,” Enquist shared to the girls and young women in the room. “Leaders want both men and women that raise their hand and say “I’m going to go for it!”

Enquist ended her keynote address with an important reminder that progress takes time. She was met with a loud round of applause.

Dr. Watkins then invited all 14 conference panelists to take the stage for introductions prompted by Valencia High School (VHS) student, Ms. Bostwick. Panelists included Enquist, Candy Plahy, Valerie Larsen-Campbell, Robin Osborn, Linda Greer, Kathy Johnson, Erin Underhill, Jennifer Wilson, Megan Rabin, Millicent Lumley, Michelle Barlow, Mary Miller, JoEllen Pitzer M.D., and Kate Schreurs.

Following introductions, the question and answer portion of the evening began with a speed round question asking panelists to answer, “What did you want to be when you grew up?” The panelists’ answers ranged from veterinarian to astronaut to orthodontist to “awesome,” as stated by Ms. Osborn.

Panelists enjoy answering students' questions during the Women in Industry Conference.

Panelists enjoy answering students’ questions during the Women in Industry Conference.

The students then went on to prompt individual panelists with individualized questions such as, “Did you ever have anyone doubt your qualifications because you are a women and if so, how did you overcome that?” and “What is one skill you believe young women should master before entering into industry?”

Question after question, the crowd listened attentively in order to absorb the thoughts, experiences, and advice that the panelists so eloquently shared. Following all of the individualized and speed round questions, the panelists received a large round of applause and cheers from the crowd.

Next, El Dorado High School (EDHS) student, Ms. Smith, introduced the night’s final keynote speaker, PYLUSD Deputy Superintendent, Candy Plahy. Plahy began her address by thanking the panelists and students for such an inspirational night. She then went on to emphasize the importance of developing leadership opportunities for students, who are tomorrow’s leaders.

“In our district, one of the ways we’ve infused more exposure to career options and leadership opportunities is through our high school CareerLink academies and pathways, and our elementary and middle school science, technology, engineering, and manufacturing, or STEM labs.” Plahy expressed. “We offer academies in the digital media arts, law, medical sciences, engineering and manufacturing, technology, culinary arts, and business. Students have the opportunity to apply for any of these academies and other career technical education courses to explore interests through the use of industry standard equipment and development of important professional and life skills. Our ultimate goal is to prepare students to be future-ready leaders.”

Deputy Superintendent, Candy Plahy, offered closing remarks at the Conference.

Deputy Superintendent, Candy Plahy, offered closing remarks at the Conference.

Plahy ended her remarks by encouraging girls and young women to work hard and become leaders in the career path that they are truly passionate about.

“Become the women you want to be, and inspire others to greatness,” Plahy shared in closing.

PYLUSD Teacher and CTE Instructional Coach, Susan Sawyer, then thanked the panelists, students, and various individuals in attendance once more. Sawyer also presented one lucky student in the audience with a brand new Google Chromebook donated by event sponsor, USA Softball of Southern California. The crowd exited the auditorium to enjoy a small reception with baked goods prepared by the Valencia Culinary Arts program.

Following the Women in Industry Conference, smiles of newfound empowerment and determination could be seen on the faces of all individuals, both women and men, who attended.

The inaugural PYLUSD Women in Industry Conference could not be made possible without the willingness of the panelists, students, and following individuals — Cary Johnson, Dr. Nancy Watkins, Susan Sawyer, Carey Cecil, Jamie Jauch, Alyssa Griffiths, Robert Arauz, Bradd Runge, Brenda Savedra, Rod Boaz, Fred Ronquillo, Brian Johnson, Thom Metcalf, Mark Switzer, Kayleigh Weingarten, Dan Eliot , Kim Voge, Dwight Osborne, Gina Aguilar, Olivia Yaung, Amy Madrigal, Dan Dupont, and Kim Goodwin.

Event sponsors included Liberty Mutual, the REACH Foundation, SPACE X and USA Softball.

To watch a replay of the entire conference courtesy of Valencia’s Tiger Tube, please follow the link below.

Women in Industry Conference Live Stream

To see additional pictures from the Women in Industry Conference, please visit

Pictures from the PYLUSD Women in Industry Conference. Pictures from the PYLUSD Women in Industry Conference. Pictures from the PYLUSD Women in Industry Conference.

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