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Renee Horton, of NASA; Fiona Tully, a senior at West Feliciana High; and some of the student participants of the Women in Science and Engineering Career Fair pose with NASA items at West Feliciana High School on Jan. 26, 2018.

Provided photo

Inspired by the challenge of leading a service project and passionate about ensuring all girls have an introduction to possible career paths in STEM-related fields, West Feliciana High School senior Fiona Tully decided to spearhead a Women in Science & Engineering Career Fair.

On Jan. 26, 20 professional women from industry, business and academia visited the high school for WISE. Representatives from Albermarle, Audubon Animal Clinic, St. Francisville Animal Clinic, BASF, Entergy, Exxon, NASA, LSU, LSU Society of Women Engineers, LSU Veterinary School, Louisiana Tech, Southeastern Louisiana University and the University of Louisiana at Lafayette attended. Engineering and science students from ULL and LSU also attended.

The 100 girls in attendance received information in a meet-and-greet session followed by a panel discussion.

Students posed questions to the panelists such as “What advice would you give your younger self?” and “What was the most exciting thing you have been able to do in your career?”

Jada Lewis, a chemical engineer and assistant dean of the LSU College of Engineering, told the girls to learn to be “comfortable being uncomfortable.”

Renee Horton, space launch specialist lead metallic and weld engineer at NASA’s Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans East, shared stories of her experience at the NASA factory. As a female in a male workplace, she has had her challenges. She said her love of what she does and her focus on getting the job done has helped her succeed. She encouraged the girls to never doubt themselves.

In addition to soliciting area companies and the region’s universities to participate and help sponsor the event, Tully designed T-shirts for the student attendees to commemorate the event. She formed a committee of underclassmen to work with her in the hopes that they will be inspired to put on the event annually.

Tully said, “I am extremely grateful to Principal Abby Cochran and Ms. Georgia Dudley for having faith in me and allowing me to pursue this special event. I personally learned so much, not only from the event itself, but from the planning process. I had no idea initially how many details would be involved, but with the help of my family, school, and committee, we made this happen.”