Minerva Muñoz and Maria Medina Alva are studying engineering at prestigious Cal Poly Pomona in suburban Los Angeles thanks to a scholarship program that seeks to increase the number of women, especially Latinas, in the profession.

"You don't think about the effort it costs to get here, but about the great benefits that can be achieved once you've reached the goal," Muñoz, who was born in Los Angeles to Mexican parents and who will graduate in June with a degree in industrial engineering, told Efe on Wednesday.

"You don't think about what you're battling now, but about all that you're going to achieve when you finish," she said.

For Medina Alva, whose parents are also Mexican, being the first in her family to go to college has opened the doors to her two younger brothers.

"My 15-year-old brother is in the first year of high school and he's always talking about going to college, studying engineering at Cal Poly Pomona," Maria told Efe.

The economic factor brought up frequently as the reason why many people don't aspire to get a university education has not been an insurmountable obstacle for these two young Latino women in reaching their objective of studying engineering in a very competitive environment.

Muñoz and Medina have benefited from the "Women in Engineering" program.

Southern California Edison donated $100,000 to the program at the Engineering School at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona.

"Our philosophy is that everyone should have an opportunity to work and especially women, minorities and the less advantaged," the director of Philanthropy and Community Investment at SCE, Tammy Tumbling, told Efe.

Women represented 14.7 percent of the first-year engineering students at Cal Ply Pomona in 2011, while in the fall of 2013 the percentage had increased to 21.5 percent.

For Muñoz and Medina Alva, being female and Latino has been more of an advantage than an obstacle.

"Although the majority of those who are studying engineering are men, being women and Latino (means that) the university helps us with programs and there are companies in different parts of the world that are looking for Latinas to work for them," Medina Alva said.

In addition, the pair are participating in programs at Cal Poly to motivate high school students to aspire to continue with a career in engineering or the sciences. EFE