Before Adriana Gonzalez packed a small bag for her three-week trip to Baltimore, she described her family’s plans as a “visit” in a paper she wrote for school. And why wouldn’t she? Adriana would be away from her home in Puerto Rico and her seventh-grade classmates for only a short period of time to support her parents while Johns Hopkins Hospital oncology doctors evaluated her father’s latest cancer recurrence.
That was 2014. Her family never went back – they couldn’t go back.
Johns Hopkins was her father’s last hope, but treatment was too expensive. He found his way to the Baltimore VA Medical Center where he was treated for free as a U.S. Navy veteran. The Gonzalez family settled here, making a new home in the Armistead Gardens neighborhood of east Baltimore.
Adriana’s father fought the disease for two more years.
He would have been so proud to see Adriana graduate from Mergenthaler Vocational Technical High School this past June. It was there she discovered her passion in the construction trade, specifically electrical. She’s now midway through her second BGE internship and hopes to transition into a full-time job.
“I’m becoming independent,” said Adriana. “My mom’s happy, so I’m sure my dad would be happy.”
Adriana is learning the utility electrical trade by shadowing BGE substation maintenance employees. “I experience something new every day,” she says. “We could be in the Buena Vista substation control house wiring up a panel one day, and another day we can be getting oil samples from the transformers and breakers.”
Her BGE journey began shortly after her junior year through BGE’s Smart Energy Workforce Development Program.
“At first I was very scared because the majority of my coworkers would be men. But everybody was so nice and welcoming,” said Adriana. “They encouraged me to have a questioning attitude – because you could touch something and potentially die! So, it’s important to ask questions. There are no stupid questions.”
Adriana enjoyed her first Smart Energy internship so much she requested to come back for an extended stay after her senior year. She continues to learn and has already passed the Construction and Skilled Trades (CAST) and Technician Occupations Selection System (TECH) tests, utility industry standards that are first steps on the path to a career in energy.
And in a field with such a high ratio of men to women, the prospect of being a role model means a lot to her.
“My being young, Latina, a woman, that can encourage other girls, other young people to pursue these jobs,” she said. “Hopefully another girl will see me and say, if she can do it, I can do it. Even just to put the thought in their mind – ‘I could do this’ – that would be great.”
She does want to move with her mom back to Puerto Rico one day, to the home they unexpectedly left frozen in time five years ago. They’ve only returned twice since they “started over,” as Adriana puts it. She has since rediscovered her seventh-grade paper about visiting Baltimore. It reminded her of her father, a life uprooted, and how much she’s grown since then.
Adriana, too, is proud of what she has accomplished. She’s excited for the future, and she has a message for other young women like her.
“If you have an opportunity, go for it.”