Sentinel News Service
When Community Build, Inc. President Robert Sausedo introduced Brian Grant to the Los Angeles chapter of Black Girls Do Engineer and asked him to partner with him to support the organization, Grant knew this was an opportunity to provide a lasting impact.
Black Girls Do Engineer was founded in 2019 in Houston, Texas and has four chapters – Los Angeles, Houston, New Orleans and a virtual chapter.
BGDE LA Chapter President Benicia Crooms said the organization focuses on exposing black girls and young ladies ages 6 – 21 to all areas of STEM and giving them a chance to interact with people who look like them who can share experiences and encourage them. BGDE’s goal is to advocate for two million Black-American girls to pursue STEM careers by the year 2050.
Grant is vice president of CRA Community Development at City National Bank and has been in the banking industry for nearly 25 years. As part of CNB’s Community Reinvestment Act Team, Grant interfaces with community advocacy groups, community faith-based organizations, non-profits and trade associations to develop and bridge opportunities that supports CNB’s CRA commitment to community development, small business lending, charitable giving and financial literacy related projects.
Grant provides assistance to organizations that positively impact underserved communities and service sectors. “It’s my responsibility to ensure that our financial support will lead to transformation,” Grant said.
In May, City National Bank and Community Build, Inc., hosted “Black Girls Do Engineer (LA Chapter) Industry Networking & Financial Literacy Workshop.” Grant convened a panel of professional black female engineers from five different sectors to share lessons learned and stories from their professional and college journey with 20 BGDE members, ages 8 – 12, interested in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM).
Four members of CNB’s Black Colleague Alliance – Marcus Johnson, Vanessa Sutherland, Heather Cunningham and Donna Spielberg – also gave the group financial literacy advice on saving and money management.
A recurring theme throughout each of the engineer’s presentations was finding a group of like-minded individuals, sharing knowledge and persevering through challenges.
Leah Mulat, civic engineering associate at Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, was born in Ethiopia and remembers her mother always telling her she would be an engineer. Coming from a third-world country, Mulat advised the group not to take what they have in the U.S. for granted and to take advantage of the opportunities that come their way. She also encouraged them not to fear failure.
“Failure is actually your best friend,” Mulat said. “When you fail, you learn from your mistakes, you grow, and you take action.”
Never be afraid to ask for help, advised Kandace King, a systems engineer at Northrop Grumman.
“Someone probably has the same question, but they may be too shy or timid to ask.” King said. “Speaking up not only gets your question answered, but it could also help someone else.”
Amani Garvin, the youngest of the panelists, operates Integrated System Electronics tests for SpaceX, the Space Transportation and Aerospace manufacturer founded by Elon Musk in 2002. Garvin said she is proud to be a part of something so revolutionary and encouraged the group to not to settle in their career pursuits.
“I don’t compromise on two things: being myself and doing exactly what I want to do,” Garvin said. “If you’re not doing something you absolutely love, then what’s the point?”
Boeing Project and Certification Engineer Jennifer Walters and SoCalGas Company Field Commissioning Engineer Lorna Holt also shared valuable lessons and experiences with the BGDE group.
Marcus Johnson, senior vice president and head of CNB’s Client Contact Center introduced the financial literacy segment of the workshop. Johnson is also co-chairman of CNB’s Black Colleague Alliance where employees receive guidance, support, mentorship and prepare for the next level.
In deference to their audience, CNB BCA members summarized money management in a simple terms. “Don’t spend more than what you earn,” CNB Senior Program Director Donna Spielberg said. “Keep a journal and know where your money goes.”
Spielberg recounted to the group her first important money management lesson at age 13. “When I got my allowance, I learned not to spend it all at once,” she said. “I had to make it last until my next allowance and I had to save some of it.”
In his closing remarks, Robert Sausedo reiterated the importance of the workshop. Community Build, Inc. has a long history of developing partnerships and providing programs that serve South Los Angeles, including its Women and Girl’s initiative, Gang Reduction and Youth Development (GRYD) Intervention and Prevention program and the SAFE Passage program.
“This information is incredibly valuable, especially to our young girls. It shows that with determination and laser focus, anything is possible,” Sausedo said.
“The financial literacy education is equally important. Like they say, ‘It’s not what you make, it’s what you keep.’ The earlier in life you learn that lesson, the easier it will be for you in the future.”