Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum Field Trip with Burton and John O’Connell High Schools

On March 12, 2024, students from Burton High School and John O’Connell High School were invited to an IGNITE Field Trip with Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum (WWLF) to Verizon Innovation Labs in San Francisco, CA as part of the WWLF’s Trailblazers initiative. The event aimed to introduce students to the dynamic world of telecommunications. With a warm welcome from WWLF President Lynn Whitcher, WWLF Vice President Carolyn Hardwick, and President & CEO of Wireless Infrastructure Association (WIA) Patrick Halley, alongside a team of enthusiastic Volunteers from Verizon and WWLF, the event gave students an inside look into the world of how we connect with each other through technology.

The day kicked off with a tour of Verizon’s Innovation Labs, where students were introduced to cutting-edge technologies, including robotics, automation, and augmented reality. Guided by professionals like Ian Ramskov and Dan Setterby, students delved into hands-on experiences that showcased the power and potential of connectivity in shaping our future with the help of Activity Leaders Venky Konanur and Jordan Austin.

After the tour, students gathered for a panel discussion featuring accomplished women telecom professionals, including Talisha Germain, Crown Castle Utility & Permitting Specialist, Beth Yglesias, Jacobs National Sales Director & WWLF Board Member, and Rachel Spencer-Hadrych, Verizon Sr. Real Estate Project Manager. Facilitated by Taylor Sierra, the Panelists shared personal anecdotes and insights into their STEM journeys, inspiring students to envision themselves as future leaders in STEM. The interactive session allowed students to ask questions about career paths, challenges, and the significance of women in STEM fields.

The Panelists imparted advice to the students, drawing from their own experiences. They emphasized the importance of perseverance and adaptability and encouraged students to pursue their passions while remaining open to unexpected opportunities. Addressing concerns about gender disparity in STEM fields, the Panelists underscored the significance of women’s contributions and urged students to carve their own paths. They advocated for seeking out mentors, networking actively, and exploring diverse experiences to fuel personal and professional growth. Ultimately, the panelists emphasized the power of continuous learning and resilience, urging students to embrace challenges and seize every opportunity to make a positive impact in the ever-evolving landscapes of STEM.

Throughout the event, students were encouraged to engage with the professionals throughout the entire experience, fostering meaningful conversations throughout the day. The students were particularly interested in the demonstrations of emerging technologies like Virtual Reality (VR) and robotic innovations, such as the charismatic robotic dog, Spot.

The Educators and chaperones echoed students’ enthusiasm, noting the invaluable exposure to real-world applications of technology. Informal interactions with the Volunteers and the hands-on technology experiences are significant and pivotal moments for students’ learning and inspiration.

The event not only provided a glimpse into the exciting world of technology but also instilled confidence and ambition in the students present.

Photo by Brand Awesomeness

Thank you to all the Volunteers and Educators who made this event a success. Special thanks to Lynn Whitcher and Carolyn Hardwick for leading the event, and Patrick Halley for warmly greeting the students and engaging in the equipment demonstrations. Thank you to Taylor Sierra for skillfully facilitating the panel discussion and to Beth Yglesias, Talisha Germain and Rachel Spencer for sharing insights as Panelists. Thank you to Irene Mak, Christine Keener, Ian Ramskov, Dan Setterby, Venky Konanur, Jordan Austin, Ginbar Ketema, Alina Boltunova, Jolly Mateo, Henry Movses, and Karen Groppe for their various Volunteer roles that made this event truly unique. Additional thanks to Educators Julianna Mululu, Mark Daquisto, Sara Kong, and Audrey Portley-Bernstein for their dedication, expertise, and enthusiasm in making this an unforgettable experience for the students.

After attending this event:


of students are interested in STEM

Take STEM Class


of students know more about STEM career choices and the benefits of working in a STEM field

Ask Teacher about Additional STEM Activities


of students feel more confident in pursuing STEM


of students gained perspective and feel more hopeful about the future

Here’s what the students thought of the event:

I learned more about different projects that technology could help with. I also saw different projects built. I liked everything from today; everything was familiar yet different as well.” – 12th Grade IGNITE Student

Seeing other women in the industry made me feel a lot better. I also got to see a lot of cool stuff. The VR headset was super cool. I also liked seeing the face recognition iPad.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“I enjoyed hearing about people’s journeys to their careers. It makes me feel less nervous about not knowing exactly what I want to do yet. My favorite thing was seeing the VR. I thought it was cool that something that seems like a game can help someone.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

This event made me want to work here.” – 9th Grade IGNITE Student

It inspired me to be in STEM. My favorite thing was learning about how it all works.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to go for things. It’s never too late. So much science—it was interesting. My favorite thing was seeing how technology works. Thanks to everyone who made us feel welcomed and explained everything so well.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

I loved learning about the VR and the rover.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

With all the great things I saw, I realized what engineering could help people. The VR things really made me think about what you could program. My favorite thing that I learned today was how the VR headsets could help doctors. It’s so cool how they can make the 3D model of someone’s head.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me to think that, in STEM, you can learn a lot. My favorite thing I learned was that the VR can help surgeons. Another thing I learned is that there are a lot of different electronics.” – 12th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to pursue a degree in marketing. I found out that selling things is interesting after hearing from women in STEM. My favorite thing I learned about today was the technology that makes most of our cell phones work.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

Listening to the panel speakers talk about how they didn’t start with engineering/STEM but they still ended up in these fields made me feel less forced to go down a certain path. It was also fun to look at several different aspects of things. My favorite things were learning about AR or VR. I thought it was an interesting idea to implement in school.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me by introducing me to the tech world. It showed me how tech is an essential thing in life. My favorite thing that I’ve learned today is how much AI has been developed, like facial recognition. I would like to thank the volunteers.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“It showed us that there are many different types of jobs. We can work in sports, medication, education, and more. I liked being able to hear different people’s stories. Thank you, volunteers!” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

Today’s event inspired me because it was interesting seeing how stuff works. I also liked seeing the building. My favorite thing I learned about is the robot. It was cool to see how it works.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

It showed me that it’s okay to not know what you want to do. There are a lot of different paths. I would like to thank the presenters. They kept the event very engaging and interesting.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today’s event inspired me to actually pursue a career in STEM. My favorite thing I learned today was that your future doesn’t depend on your major. There should be more women in STEM and there will always be opportunities waiting out there.” – 11th Grade IGNITE Student

“Today was fun! I learned a lot about careers and STEM! I might want to design or build a robot in the future. I learned that everything has a job behind it. The phone, chair, everything you own had a hundred people designing or building it.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“It was really fun. My favorite activity was the VR. My favorite thing was learning about the VR. It was interesting hearing from the volunteers.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

“This event helped me understand how Verizon functions. I also learned how it takes a lot of people to make everything work well. I liked the VR and the robot.” – 10th Grade IGNITE Student

About Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum:

The Women’s Wireless Leadership Forum (WWLF) is an all-volunteer organization for professional women in the wireless communications industry. Through WWLF’s events, members share their expertise, broaden their contacts, and advance their career opportunities.

About IGNITE Program Field Trip Events:

IGNITE Field Trips offer a memorable, behind-the-scenes look at STEM in action and the wide range of career opportunities at the host company. Company employees interact directly with the students through an office tour, hands-on STEM activities, and IGNITE Panel and Q&A discussion.

About IGNITE Worldwide:

IGNITE Worldwide is a 501(c)3 nonprofit STEM education organization that aims to change gender and racial equity in STEM permanently and systematically. We work directly with teachers during the school day to provide programming that promotes gender equity and representation in STEM academics and careers. Through our award-winning program, IGNITE provides engaging, hands-on events that connect students with STEM professionals from industry leaders from around the world. Learn more at www.igniteworldwide.org.

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