Martha Pena

I loved how this program combined the fun aspect of an afterschool program with a structured curriculum.

My name is Martha Pena, Techbridge program manager. I am the first in my family to go to college, and now I have a master's degree in Educational Technology. Growing up, I didn't think college was an option. My parents didn't have a college fund set aside for me and since nobody in my family had ever gone to college, they didn't see it as a priority.

It wasn't until high school that I began to think about college. Great teachers and motivated friends inspired me to apply. When the acceptance letters began to arrive my mother couldn't believe that I had done all this on my own. Like many families, my parents were scared to let me go away to college, so instead I went to a local college.

College was an amazing adventure. I changed my major six times and took as many classes as possible. I figured something would click and I would find my calling.

During my senior year I volunteered at an afterschool program for middle school students in a low-income community. I loved working with the kids and I saw a lot of my personal experiences in them. These students had little career guidance, no aspirations to go to college and parents who did not know how to cultivate their college aspirations. I wanted to be there for those students and help them find their way, so I decided I wanted to get my masters degree in Educational Technology.

After I graduated with my master's I got a position with Techbridge as an afterschool coordinator. I loved how this program combined the fun aspect of an afterschool program with a structured curriculum. I have seen the difference Techbridge has made in so many of my students. I remember asking one of them what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said she wanted to be an electrician because they made a lot of money. I asked if she had ever considered electrical engineering. She had never heard of electrical engineering, let alone considered it as a career option. That year she met electrical engineers from UC Berkley and learned what electrical engineers do. Today she is enrolled at San Jose State University studying engineering. By learning about a new career option she was inspired and motivated to apply to college.

I see a little of myself in all my students. When I talk to their parents about college and going away to school, I feel like I am talking to my parents. I see the fear and frustration in their eyes. They want to do the best for their daughters but at the same time they are scared to let them go. I not only help students find their path to new options but help reassure parents that college is the right choice for their daughters. Being with Techbridge I have had the opportunity to impact many girls and see the difference I have made. I have worked with students in fifth grade and seen them through middle- and high school. Now they are in college or graduating college. Who else can say they have architects, electrical, civil and mechanical engineers as friends on Facebook?

Techbridge introduces hands-on activities to make engineering and science accessible and engaging, and offers girls a network of support that helps them succeed in school and aspire to careers in science and engineering. Techbridge has served more than 10,000 girls in afterschool programs in grades 5-12 in the San Francisco Bay Area through partnerships with Girl Scout councils, Society of Women Engineers, universities and science centers across the country. Recognizing the importance of building a network of adult support for girls, Techbridge offers trainings and resources to teachers, role models and families.

To find out more about Techbridge, visit

America's Afterschool Storybook tells the stories of people and communities transformed by afterschool programs.

The Afterschool Alliance launched the Storybook to help commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 21st Century Community Learning Centers, the only federal initiative dedicated to supporting community afterschool programs.

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Gretchen Wright