The high school students were told to stick to their goals.
By IAN HILL
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Laura Pettler was a 17-year-old single mother living in Charlotte, N.C., and facing an uncertain future.
"I had a choice: At that time, I could sink or swim," she said.
Pettler chose the latter, leaving her hometown to attend college to improve her life and the life of her young daughter.
"Yeah, I'm a girl; yeah, I'm by myself; yeah, I have a child, but you know what? I can do anything I set my mind to," she said.
Now 28, Pettler will earn master's degrees from Youngstown State University in forensics and criminal justice in three weeks. She has a bachelor's degree from Geneva College in Beaver Falls, Pa., and is considering working toward her Ph.D.
"It can be done. I am living, breathing, sitting-here proof," Pettler told a group of local female high school students at YSU's Kilcawley Center.
About 60 female high school students were at YSU on Saturday for the university's sixth annual Women in Science and Engineering Career Workshop.
Amanpreet Kaur, a 16-year-old junior at Canfield High School, said that listening to Pettler and other workshop presenters helped her realize that anything is possible when it comes to her future.
"If you're determined to do something, you can do it," she said.
Here was purpose
The event was designed to introduce students to careers in science and engineering, said Courtenay Willis, an assistant professor of biology at YSU and workshop director. The students also met the women working in those careers during the workshop, Willis said.
She said 45 women attended as presenters who worked with the students on experiments and talked about their lives and careers during panel discussions. The students received a list of the presenters' e-mail addresses, Willis said.
"It doesn't just stop here," she said. "Now they have role models."
Maureen Galka, an 18-year-old junior at Poland Seminary High School, said she attended because she wanted to learn about various careers.
Tiffany Sokol, 15, a sophomore at Austintown Fitch High School, added that she was nervous about her future because she didn't know what career she wanted to pursue.
"Look around -- there are a lot of things that they say women can't do that you can do," said Ruth Ralston, a licensed massage therapist at Kent State University's recreation center and a workshop presenter.
Dr. Darrell Lynn Grace, a specialist in internal medicine who practices on the North Side, added "If you want it bad enough, stick with it."
Dr. Grace told students that it took her seven years to complete nursing school, 10 years to earn her bachelor's degree, and four years to complete medical school.
She said that while working toward her bachelor's degree, she retook a physics course three times because she felt it might help her get into medical school.
"Even if you do get a D or an F, take it over again," Dr. Grace said. "Don't be afraid to fail."