Celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, the Atlantic County Branch of the American Association of University Women has named Heather Tomasello of Mays Landing its 2017 Woman of Distinction.
Tomasello is an engineer with Leidos Corporation at the Federal Aviation Administration's William J. Hughes Technical Center at Atlantic City International Airport in Egg Harbor Township.
The award recognizes her hard work and dedication to many area volunteer programs.
Since 2007 Tomasello has been an active volunteer with area middle and high schools for the South Jersey Robot Challenge. (For information see ewh.ieee.org/r2/southern_nj/wie/RobotChallenge.html). She also devotes her time to the annual Tech Trek and encourages other women in engineering to participate in providing robotics courses.
"In high school I had a math teacher who introduced the class to programming skills," said Tomasello. She went on to receive a bachelor of science from Stockton University and continues working to inspire students to consider careers in science, technology, engineering, mathematics and engineering, or STEM, including robotics.
"Girls should be encouraged to think outside the box, to challenge themselves and consider these fields," she added. "STEM programs are vital to our future."
Tomasello and her husband, attorney Frank Tomasello, are avid Civil War re-enactors at Batsto Village. She is also actively involved with the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Women In Engineering, Southern Branch.
But long before STEM and robots, when the technology of the day was limited to wristwatches, zippers and early radio transmission, the Atlantic County Branch of the American Association of University Women was established in March, 1917. Nationally, AAUW was officially founded in 1881 as a nonprofit organization that advances equity for women and girls through advocacy, education and research.
The Atlantic County branch sought to increase the number of girls attending college in New Jersey, and was soon able to offer college scholarships to local girls. Branch fundraising activities eventually took the form of large card parties held at hotels throughout Atlantic City. These events became major attractions for local residents and visitors.
Today the group continues to hold fundraising events that provide college scholarships to area girls and women. In the past year $8,000 was dedicated to scholarships.
The Woman of Distinction luncheon will be held at noon Saturday, March 18 at the Linwood Country Club on Shore Road. Tickets are $40. For information call 609-641-7085. The reservation deadline is March 11. See www.aauw.org or AAUW/Atlantic on Facebook.