Club Spotlight: AAUW Poway-Peñasquitos branch dedicated to helping women and girls – The San Diego Union-Tribune

The Poway-Peñasquitos branch of the American Association of University Women is continuing its mission of promoting women and girls amidst the pandemic, said President Cathy Burciaga.

The group is a branch of the AAUW’s national organization, which was founded in 1881 to promote gender equity in the classroom and workplace, Burciaga said.

“We’re all about gender equity and promoting women and girls,” she said. “Our primary goal is advocating for, creating and maintaining a level playing field for women and girls.”

Burciaga said the national organization does legal advocacy, fundraising and support.

The Poway-Peñasquitos branch undertakes several projects to support the organization’s mission. These include fundraising for scholarships and sending several local middle school girls to Tech Trek each year.

Tech Trek is a science camp for eighth grade girls held on the UC San Diego campus. Burciaga said it helps keep teenage girls interested in science, technology, engineering and math at a time when many fall away from the subjects, because they are deemed too difficult or uncool. The week-long summer camp includes subjects like marine biology, math and rocketry.

Research showed if girls can experience something like Tech Trek just when they are transitioning from seventh to eighth grade, it is a pivot point for keeping them interested in STEM, Burciaga said.

“That’s when they start saying they don’t like math and science and falling away,” she said.

Teachers recommend students who are good at math, science and engineering for the program. Burciaga said the group focuses on girls without opportunities, like those who cannot otherwise afford to attend a math summer camp.

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“Tech Trek changes their lives,” Burciaga said. “By the end of the week, they know just about anything is possible for them.”

The group supports women in politics and does direct advocacy, Burciaga said. Members interview legislators and lawmakers, so they know who the AAUW members are and what is expected of the politicians, she added.

Philanthropy is also an important aspect of AAUW, Burciaga said. The national organization raises millions of dollars each year to support research around the country. The Poway-Peñasquitos branch also fundraises so it can offer three $2,000 scholarships for women in North County looking to re-enter education and complete a college degree.

The branch has 140 members, Burciaga said. It draws from around San Diego County, including Poway, Rancho Bernardo, 4S Ranch, Rancho Peñasquitos, Scripps Ranch, Carmel Valley and Escondido.

Aside from its work promoting women and girls, the club has several special interest groups that meet independently. These include book discussion, travel, gardening and hiking groups, Burciaga said.

“We’re always thinking of new, fun ways to get together and support our mission,” she said. “It’s a good way to make new friends.”

The club has been meeting virtually during the pandemic, but Burciaga said the members are all looking forward to being able to get back together again in person.

Burciaga said she has been a member of AAUW for 30 years and a member of the Poway-Peñasquitos branch for three years. She previously belonged to a branch in downtown San Diego.

“It’s a great group,” she said. “I wouldn’t belong to something for 30 years if it didn’t keep me moving forward.”

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The branch is always looking for new members, Burciaga said. While the Poway-Peñasquitos branch does not have any male members, men are welcome to join.

It holds a general meeting at least monthly, Burciaga said. Prior to the pandemic, the meetings were often held over breakfast or lunch and included a speaker. Sometimes, the meetings are held at members’ homes. Special interest groups meet two or three times a month, she added.

Members pay national, state and local AAUW dues, which come out to $97 a year, Burciaga said.

To join, fill out the application at

Club Spotlight is a way our readers can learn about community organizations in Poway, Rancho Bernardo and 4S Ranch. If you would like your organization featured, send an email to



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