When Sylvia Acevedo was a young girl, she had an epiphany that made her realized that science was just like cooking.
“I had a big aha moment when I realized when you cook, you put ingredients together, you mixed them all up, and put heat to them, and that was the exact same thing I was doing when I was creating rockets,” Acevedo said. “And that gave me the courage and the confidence to study sciences and math and, therefore, I became an engineer and rocket scientist.”
Acevedo, an engineer and rocket scientist was honored on May 1 at the State Capitol by the California Latino Legislative Caucus with the 2017 Latino Spirit Award in health and science.
“I was so grateful to state assembly person Monique Limón from Santa Barbara. She knew of my background as a rocket scientist, she knew all the work I did as a technologist and working on grass group mobilization around education and she is the one who nominated me and I am very grateful for that,” Acevedo said. “To be in this amazing company of such super starts I am deeply honored.”
Acevedo, interim CEO of the Girl Scouts of the USA, is a longtime advocate for underserved communities, including girls’ and women’s causes.
“Girl Scouts changed my life because learning to sell cookies taught me to set goals, and it taught me that I could create possibilities for myself,” she said. “And that was a shift in mindset, that I could create possibilities and opportunities for myself.”
“I am really grateful for my experience with the Girl Scouts because of what it taught me,” said Acevedo.
Acevedo, who was born in South Dakota and raised in Las Cruces, New México, began her career as a rocket scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratories in Pasadena. She is a talented technology executive who has held positions with some of the world’s most respected companies, including REBA Technologies, Dell Computers, Apple, and IBM.
On a national platform, Acevedo has championed issues such as the Presidential Initiative for Hispanic Educational Excellence, where she serves as a White House Commissioner and as Chair of the Early Childhood Subcommittee.
She is also a national advocate for STEM education and is a strategic consultant to national organizations that strive to improve outcomes for America’s rising generation of youth.
“I am very passionate about Girl Scouts and about education, in particularly science, technology, engineering and math, what they call STEM, because in the 21st century that’s what students need to know to be able to have a high wage career,” Acevedo said. “And we need more of our rising generation of youth to have those skills.”
Acevedo earned her Bachelor of Science with honors in Industrial Engineering from New Mexico State University and was one of the first Hispanic students to earn a graduate engineering degree from Stanford University, where she earned her Master of Science degree in Industrial Engineering.
“Science is just like cooking. It’s putting ingredients together, chemicals, mixing them, applying heat, weather you are creating rockets or cooking, it’s the same kind of procedure,” Acevedo said as she encourage young Latina girls to pursue careers in the STEM field. “Girls need to believe that they can do it.”