All-female group of student engineers give Guatemalan village running water

An all-female group of student engineers from the University of North Florida are showing girls worldwide they can be whatever they want to be in life.

We open water faucets daily, for us it’s expected but for many around the world that’s not the norm.

Five students rolled up their sleeves and got to work in Guatemala in order to give hundreds of people access to a comfort we take for granted.

Sammy Kovalenko, Taylor Broussard, Rosie Pinto, Amber Slack, and Piper Austin gave up their break to travel to a remote village in the Central American country.

“I actually went into engineering with the hopes of helping humanity so to me it was a no brainer that I would rather go spend my spring break helping a community,” said Kovalenko.

The rural village is called La Esperanza which means hope.

Hope is exactly what the group of student engineers brought to the village of about one thousand people.

“To know that we made a change and we were able to bring not just water for the community there that’s existing now but also for the future,” said Pinto.

They took measurements, dug trenches, installed pipes among other tasks in order to the community access to clean water.

Using the skills they learned from their professor Dr. Chris Brown, the students were able to design and install a new drinking water distribution system.

Water was a resource that the villagers were having to hike miles for.

“They can turn on their tap and they have water in every home,” said Broussard.

The project took a year-long investigation to prepare prior to traveling to Guatemala.

Kovalenko and Broussard even traveled to the village months in advance to study the soil so that they knew what they were going to be building on top of.

The entire project cost around $95,000. The funds were raised thanks to the Ponte Vedra Rotary Club, Wisconsin Water for the World and the local village’s government.

Their trip also went beyond engineering water solutions. For many villagers it was the first time they’d seen female engineers.

“I think we really opened their eyes to what the women in their community can do,” said Broussard.

Because of their work, many villagers won’t have to spend hours out of their day to collect water for everyday needs.

While many college students relaxed on break, these women were out changing lives for the better.

“It was just really eye opening, but we were really grateful to be there,” said Pinto.

The group graduated Friday. All of them already have plans to continue working on water solutions as they enter their professional careers.

Kovalenko will be moving to Oregon following graduation where she plans to join the Portland chapter of Engineers Without Borders while searching for an environmental engineering job.

Broussard has a job lined up with a non-profit in the South Pacific where she’ll work on implementing water solutions.

Pinto has accepted a full-time position with the Army Corps of Engineers but plans on pursuing a professional engineering license to continue working on water projects.

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