Engineer sisters show Yuma can provide complete education


YUMA — Yuma, Ariz. is a small city, and many believe they need to go elsewhere to achieve their educational aspirations.
Daniela and Maria Villegas, sisters, and engineers at U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG), prove that is not always the case.
The sisters were able to attend community college and university in Yuma County and both feel there are perks of not leaving town.
“We didn’t have to move or pay for rent in a different city,” explained Maria. “Not everyone has the means to do that. For us it was great. It was a wonderful option.”
“We are close to our family we like to stay close to them and see them often,” said Daniela.
The sisters, who are 14 months apart in age, lived their early childhood in Mexico, then moved to San Luis, Ariz. a small border community south of Yuma. From early on their father focused on teaching them math.
“I remember he bought us a small board and markers and he put that in our room. He would teach us addition, multiplication and all those things before we learned them at school,” recalls Maria.
That instilled a foundation of understanding of math and helped them excel in the subject, which is a gateway to engineering.
“I guess that’s what we really like about the subject, because engineering uses a lot of math,” said Maria.
By the time Maria, the older sister, reached high school she become interested in industrial engineering, then decided to focus on systems engineering. Daniela first had an interest in architecture but soon came around to the idea of engineering.
Maria and Daniela were able to take most of their engineering classes at Arizona Western College and the University of Arizona-Yuma together.
“Being a university student is overwhelming because most of the time you are doing homework, studying, and preparing yourself,” said Daniela “So having someone that totally gets it is helpful.”
“She was like my roomie that was going through the same things that I was going through,” added Maria, “We were helping each other.”
The sisters earned a Systems Engineering degree from the University of Arizona-Yuma and are thriving as engineers in the Instrumentation Division at YPG. Both work in the Engineering Support Branch: Daniela in optics and Maria in the tracking radar section.
The Villegas sisters hope they can inspire other students to push past obstacles and pursue their path.
Daniela says, “Don’t give up. I know it gets hard, I know it’s a struggle. But don’t give up. Give your best: at the end, it will be really worth it.”
Maria advises, “Keep your final goal in mind, keep working towards that. It’s going to get hard, but it’s not going to be hard all the time.”