LOS LUNAS — Maya Gomez, an ambitious 10th grader in Los Lunas, is inspiring girls far and near to shoot for the stars after being recently selected as a youth ambassador for the Million Girls Moonshot Flight Crew program.  

Felina Martinez | News-Bulletin photo
Maya Gomez, pictured, has been selected as a youth ambassador for the Million Girls Moonshot Flight Crew program.

“I was pretty surprised,” said Gomez. “I honestly was thinking there’s a bunch of kids who signed up for this, so it’d be kind of like a one in a million thing and it was!” 

According to a press release, Million Girls Moonshot is a national program launched in 2020 by STEM Next Opportunity Fund that “partners with 50 State Afterschool Network to empower and support after-school and summer STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs in every state across the country.” 

The program is also dedicated to “shining a national spotlight on girls in STEM, spurring actions and solutions aimed at positively changing the way girls engage in STEM, and inspiring them to become builders, innovators, makers and problem solvers.” 

According to the United States Census Bureau’s website, women are still vastly underrepresented in the STEM fields despite making up nearly half of the U.S. workforce. 

“Women made gains – from 8 percent of STEM workers in 1970 to 27 percent in 2019 – but men still dominated the field,” the website read. “Men made up 52 percent of all U.S. workers but 73 percent of all STEM workers.” 

As such, Gomez and the rest of the 2024 cohort’s goal will be to “elevate youth voices to break down stereotypes and spark their peers’ curiosity in STEM.” 

“These young leaders embody the Moonshot mission to engage millions more girls in STEM learning opportunities and inspire more youth to pursue a STEM career,” the press release stated.  

The 2024 Flight Crew cohort includes 51 youth, ages 13-18, from all 50 states. One girl from each state was selected from those who applied, except for California, where two were chosen, to be a part of the program which began in February.  

Gomez, who recently turned 14, will be representing New Mexico throughout the duration of the eight-month program to serve as a role model for youth throughout the state and nation to show what is possible through STEM. 

Gomez has been home-schooled since third grade and currently attends school online through MiaPrep. She has always been interested in STEM, particularly in robotics and medical science. 

“I’m currently in Explora’s First Robotics Competition team right now. There’s actually a competition we’re going to in Amarillo at the end of March,” she said. “We practice twice a week and I usually do the building and electronics with our robot.” 

Gomez was also involved with R4 Creating’s girls in tech program as well as their VEX robotics team, which won at state and participated in the international competition in Dallas, Texas, last year. She also enjoys attending acting classes with New Mexico Young Actors.  

Maya maneuvers a robot around a course at one of her out-of-school robotics clubs she attends. Submitted photo. 

Gomez recommends youth to get involved in out-of-school programs because it provides valuable exposure and sets you up for a bright future. 

“For example, R4 Creating has helped me with networking, I’ve been to conferences, I’ve been to a lot of things that have helped me grow as a person,” she said. 

In the coming months, Gomez will be involved in more extracurricular activities as an ambassador for the Million Girls Moonshot Flight Crew program to inspire girls in particular to get more involved in STEM.  

“(Girls) are kind of pushed to be hair salon people and nurses, but we’re not really pushed to be scientists — at least not till recently,” she said. “I think it’s good for more diverse opinions to be in your company, especially in something like engineering, because it’s a team-based type of work environment.” 

Gomez will also be given leadership development and public speaking training applied in a real-world setting through the program. This will be accomplished through partnering with the New Mexico Out-of-School Time Network to develop these skills. 

For example, Gomez said NMOST invited her to the annual Women in STEM Summit held in Albuquerque in April to be a part of a panel discussion. She will also assist them at various events by helping at information booths as a youth ambassador and champion of STEM and after school activities.  

The 2024 cohort will also meet virtually once a month during the duration of the program to receive resume and interview coaching, connections with STEM professionals and social media training to bolster their communication skills.  

Maya’s dad, Roberto Gomez, said he is very proud of Maya and thinks it’s awesome she’s being recognized for all her hard work both in and outside of school. He hopes her story will inspire girls, and especially girls of color, to consider pursuing STEM.  

“If they see somebody who is like them doing something that they didn’t before see themselves doing, they’re like ‘hey, girls that look like me can do this, so maybe I can do it, too,” Roberto said. 

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Felina Martinez was born and raised in Valencia County. She graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2021. During her time at UNM, she studied interdisciplinary film, digital media and journalism. She covers the village of Los Lunas, Los Lunas Schools, the School of Dreams Academy and the town of Peralta.