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Margarita Colmenares - Engineer, clean energy advocate - Sacramento City College

Margarita Colmenares is the first Hispanic female engineer named a White House Fellow. 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. She also is 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. While studying engineering, 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 senior leadership experience that spans the public, private and non-profit sectors. She has served twice as a political appointee in two presidential administrations in Washington D.C. She 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.

While at Chevron, she worked on a project to replace underground tanks to prevent leakage of harmful chemicals into the environment throughout Northern California, Idaho and Utah. She was later named environmental compliance specialist and was based in Houston, Texas 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.

She 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.

Colmenares is passionate about creating more sustainable, equitable and secure communities through the large-scale deployment of energy resources, electric vehicle networks and alternative transportation options that create healthy and sustainable communities with green-tech job opportunities. She also believes that more public outreach and education is needed to ensure that all consumers increase their understanding and participation in the benefits provided by the smart grid, renewable energies and evolving energy storage technologies.

In the emerging field of energy storage, GELI is developing software that can enable energy storage systems to become smart and connected to the grid. As energy storage increases on the grid, so will the amount of renewable energy that can be fed to the grid. The Energy Operating System is a unique software platform that recognizes multiple cost-effective revenue streams for energy storage. Colmenares continues to be active in cultivating Hispanic students in the engineering disciplines.

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