The kids from TechBridge Girls arrived at San Francisco International Airport on Thursday to a welcome by Golden State Warriors dance team members, and introductions to executives from both the Warriors and United Airlines who are women of color.
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"Having women who look just like them speak to them, talk about their careers -- that really brings a spark," said Bunmi Esho, the California executive director of TechBridge Girls.
TechBridge serves girls mainly in low income communities, inspiring them to take an interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Like their teachers, the executives who spoke encouraged the girls to aim high.
"I'm looking forward to the day that you come and take my job," United community affairs vice president Sharon Grant told them.
The girls got a VIP tour of the airport, and introductions to the careers they can have there. A bomb sniffing dog handler gave a demonstration outside security, a pair of female pilots showed the girls around the cockpit of a Boeing 777, and employees who travelers don't usually see explained everything else that goes on behind the scenes.
Eighth grader Jaylyn Saechao said the tour stood in contrast to the stereotypes she's grown up with.
"Oh, you're a girl, you can't really do these things, you can't run as fast, you can't participate in something," she said. "And it's really empowering and amazing to see all these women doing all these things that you wished you could."
Grant said it's a good chance to remind girls of the opportunity they now have thanks to brave women throughout history.
"Plenty of women long before me that took that very first step and really pushed the envelope," she said.
Women's history month isn't the only reason the girls' visit to the airport is timely. Middle school is often the time when kids start thinking in earnest about what they want to be when they grow up.
"This is the age where their minds are just expanding," said Warriors public affairs vice president Gail Hunter. "As I talked to them for five minutes, they had a thousand questions, and they're figuring out what they want to do."
One of the pilots explained that career and family are not mutually exclusive.
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"Michelle has two kids, I have three kids, so you can have your career and have your family too," she said.
"And you can live anywhere," the other pilot added. "We started our day in Denver today."
Of course, they're still kids -- and enjoyed playing in United's new international first class seats, replete with snack boxes and gaming consoles. But when they're ready, their instructors want them to know their futures are clear for takeoff.
"And I want them to know the sky's the limit," Grant said.