When Sinead Fernandes walks into her Digital Logic Design class at Florida Polytechnic University, she finally feels like she belongs. She is no longer seen as the techie foreign girl she remembers from middle school-but a bright student leader with a remarkable future.
Fernandes excels not only academically, but she is also a leader on campus as a Florida Poly Presidential Ambassador and International Student Ambassador. She is an ambassador to the city of Lakeland as well through the community effort YLakeland.
Achieving the level of confidence Fernandes enjoys today; however, hasn’t been easy.
“I’ve had to break more barriers than most females,” said the junior. “Some aspects of my culture were stuck in my head, and I’ve had to work hard to break those stereotypes.”
Fernandes, 22, is a citizen of India who grew up in Kuwait- and also spent time in India where some of her family still lives. She describes growing up in a very loving culture, but women were not always encouraged to pursue careers.
Her parents were determined to provide their two children with every opportunity possible, so they moved their family to Boston 10 years ago. Two years later, they relocated to Davenport in Polk County, Florida. Fernandez was in middle school at the time, and while the adjustment wasn’t easy, she was determined to shine.
“I knew I was different and seen as a nerd in school, but that never stopped me from being who I am and following my dreams,” she said.
Fernandes’ dream was to become an engineer like her grandfather. And, she started nurturing that engineering mind as a child, when she would spend her time building and repairing things around her house.
“My dad always encouraged me to fix stuff when I was growing up,” said Fernandes. “I learned how to do plumbing work, fixed fans, heaters, light fixtures, anything. I even remember working with an old cassette player to see what I could make it into,” said the computer engineering major.
That intense curiosity about the potential things she could create brought her to Florida Poly in the fall of 2017. From the beginning, the university offered her an environment where she felt empowered and equal to her peers.
Now, as an ambassador, Fernandes makes sure incoming students at Florida Poly also feel welcomed, valued and free to be themselves, regardless of gender.
“Society as a whole puts men and women in constrictive boxes,” she said. “But if you find yourself and what your interests are, the opportunities are endless. You just go for it.”
Assistant Director of Communications