White House fellow. The first female president of the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. Outstanding Hispanic Woman of the Year.

Meet Sacramento City College alumna Margarita Colmenares.

Colmenares was the first Hispanic female engineer named a White House Fellow. And for good reason. The Sacramento City College graduate has worked as a political appointee with the United States Department of Education, among other federal agencies, to improve math and science education. And while working with Chevron, she headed a major environmental cleanup at the corporation’s plant in El Segundo. She is now the vice president of business development for Growing Energy Labs Inc., (GELI) a clean-tech start-up based in San Francisco.

While at Sacramento City College, Colmenares received a General Electric scholarship and several others. She completed her studies in civil engineering at Stanford University, where she was the only Latina in her class.

“I learned early on that the community colleges could be an important stepping stone to my dreams,” Colmenares wrote in Hispanic Engineer magazine. “I found a supportive learning environment, a concerned faculty, guidance for scholarships and mentors from both the University of California, Davis and California State University, Sacramento, and related work experience that convinced me that I could succeed in my chosen field.”

Colmenares has successfully developed strategic public/private partnerships that create synergy, momentum and leveraged resources. Her energy sector experience ranges from traditional energy to new and emerging renewable technologies and advocating for public policies that make existing systems more cost-effective.

At Chevron, she worked on a project to replace underground tanks to prevent leakage of harmful chemicals throughout Northern California, Idaho and Utah. She was later named environmental compliance specialist and was based in Houston, covering a five state-region. In Southern California, she led a multi-million effort to remove hydrocarbons from the groundwater at the one of the largest refineries. She has also worked to reduce emissions of harmful air pollutants.

Colmenares was the first female elected by her peers to lead the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers. The organization mentors Hispanic students interested in engineering and offers scholarships. She is a motivational and inspirational speaker and has delivered keynotes at several college and university campuses.