Kylee Baker, firefighter from the Pierceton Fire Department, leads a “try-it” activity dealing with her field at Thursday’s Nontraditional Employment for Women Opportunities Workshop at Quaker Haven Camp, Syracuse. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
Kylee Baker, firefighter from the Pierceton Fire Department, leads a “try-it” activity dealing with her field at Thursday’s Nontraditional Employment for Women Opportunities Workshop at Quaker Haven Camp, Syracuse. Photo by Jackie Gorski, Times-Union.
SYRACUSE – Sophomore girls from six local high schools attended the 17th Nontraditional Employment for Women Opportunities Workshop Thursday.

The event, held at Quaker Haven Camp, 111 EMS D16C Lane, Syracuse, targets sophomore girls going into their junior year.

“The purpose of this event is to inspire young women to think they can do anything and expose them to careers they’ve never even thought of,” said Ronna Kawsky, director of Warsaw Area Career Center.

During the event, students were able to do five round-table sessions to speak with women in jobs that are considered nontraditional for women. Some of the jobs represented included animal nutrition, machine operation, optometry, environmental science, architecture, research science, meteorology, poultry science and mortuary science.

In total, the event had 41 women discuss their careers with attending students. Kawsky said the event usually has between 40 and 50 women.

The women who come to the event aren’t exclusively from Kosciusko County. Some are from cities like Fort Wayne, South Bend and Chicago.

Kawsky said when one workshop ends, they start working on the next one.

There are ways women are recruited for the workshop.

“We speak with them one on one,” said Kawsky.

The career center posts the event on Facebook, looking for women in nontraditional job roles, as well as looking at the list the United States puts out on which careers are considered nontraditional.

During the workshop, students were also able to participate in various “try-it” activities revolved around the various women’s jobs.

The keynote speaker for the event was Maria Vega, who is now the parent liaison at Warsaw Community Schools.

Vega was born in Columbia and got her bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. After college, she worked for P&G for 10 years, starting out as a sales representative. She then worked for Mars-Wrigley for five years as a regional sales manager.

She and her husband then decided to quit their jobs and move to Barcelona, Spain. Then they moved back to Columbia to be closer to family. Vega and her family moved to Warsaw after her husband was offered a job with DePuy Synthes.

Vega said she had to Google Warsaw, and when she was looking at pictures she thought the town looked very European, only to realize she was looking at pictures of Warsaw, Poland.

“Google took me to Poland,” she said.

After a time as a stay-at-home mom, Vega became the parent liaison for WCS.

“In this role, she is able to use her first language – Spanish – to help Hispanic families and students feel supported and valued in our school system,” said a synopsis of Vega in the workshop’s pamphlet.

Vega said there are jobs that are considered nontraditional, but as the years go by, more women will become part of those fields.

She said when she was born in the 1970s, it was thought it was crazy for women to become scientists. Now she said there are women in the science industry.

She also brought up going for your dreams.

“You can be whatever you want to be,” said Vega.

She brought up a page in her PowerPoint presentation of female entertainers as examples for the students at the event. She said there were times they all felt they were horrible at something, however they “snapped out of it and they did what they needed to” to go for their dreams.

Vega used examples from her own life. She said she used to be horrible at cooking. However, after working on it, she’s better at it.

She also said she kept making mistakes when she started out at P&G.

“All that could go wrong went wrong,” she said. “I thought I was going to be fired every day.”

She snapped herself out of that mindset and worked on improving, whether that was with her boss or other things.

She said there are points where everyone thinks they’re horrible at something, whether it be running, math, art, etc.

She also said how important education was. She said in Columbia, education is a privilege, not a right. She worked at a part-time position to help her father pay for her education.

“Seventy percent of (Columbia’s) population is dying to have an education,” Vega said.

A degree is the most common way to get a good job, she said. Once you are able to make more, you are able to become financially independent.

She said being able to become financially independent has helped her do things, such as travel and go to concerts.