You may have heard some of the statistics about women in STEM before. Such as only one in four college-educated women works in a science, technology, engineering or math-related profession. Or that only 2% of STEM professionals are Hispanic women.
Vanessa Perez-Robles heard all the numbers and decided to take action. She created the Women in STEM Club at Monsignor Pace High School in Miami Gardens. Vanessa wanted to send a message to her female classmates.
"Just to empower them and make sure that they know that yes, they're a woman and because of that they're stronger and they can succeed in those fields regardless," said Vanessa.
"I think she's made a major breakthrough in inspiring other students at our school to pursue careers in STEM," said one of the club members, Daniella Conde.
Vanessa is a billboard for STEM. She's aced every STEM class, including all the AP science courses. She's one of 100 students nationwide to win the Amazon.com Scholarship. She attends a private Catholic school on scholarship and she'll be studying engineering at Dartmouth College, all expenses paid. So Vanessa wanted to use her status as a minority from an immigrant family to inspire others at her school.
"I think it's kind of a cultural stigma, especially in the Hispanic and minority communities for gender roles for women and I kind of wanted to break that stigma and make sure they knew they could pursue whatever it was they wanted and that there are people who want them to succeed," Vanessa said.
Vanessa started Women in STEM in her junior year. The club now has nearly 30 members.
"Now they're looking to follow in her footsteps, so now I've gotten an interest that I didn't have before from the girls that want to participate," said science teacher Hedda Falcon, who calls Vanessa, "The epitome of the perfect student."
"She's always been the one to go the extra mile, to make you feel comfortable and to inspire you, so the fact that she did this is just an amazing example of who she is," said club member Arianna Martinez.
Ten years ago, Vanessa could never have dreamed of being where she is now, getting ready to go off to an Ivy League school, because she comes from a background of financial hardship, but she's never let that become an insurmountable obstacle.
"I want to show people that through any adversity and any strife that you might have in your life, that there's no reason why you can't go and work hard and still succeed," Vanessa said.
She's not just a straight-A, top of her class kid. Vanessa was captain of the volleyball team, a standout on the court and in the classroom.
Now she's leaving a legacy as a role model at her school.