Orange County

Puerto Rican UCF grad student paving way for women in aerospace industry

ORLANDO, Fla. — A University of Central Florida graduate student from Puerto Rico is paving the way for women in the aerospace industry.

“I lived in the mountains, there’s not a lot of light pollution, so you can see the sky very clear,” Perla Latorre-Suarez said.

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Growing up in Puerto Rico, Latorre-Suarez said her curiosity for space was sparked at a young age.

Family trips to the Kennedy Space Center fueled her passion.

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“My first time was when I was 5 years old,” she said. “I was always intrigued.”

Now, she’s pursuing a master’s degree in aerospace engineering at UCF.

“My main focus right now is structural materials for the spacecrafts,” she said.

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She’s receiving global recognition and is named one of the 20 “most promising graduate students in the world who are likely to change the aerospace industry.”

“It means a lot,” Latorre-Suarez said.

The journey here wasn’t easy. At 16 years old, she moved to Florida, leaving her parents and brother behind.

“After those first six months, I still get emotional when I talk about that,” she said.

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She overcame every obstacle.

“(The) language barrier was a huge one,” she said. “I almost didn’t graduate from high school.”

Latorre-Suarez credits her family for her success.

“They left everything in Puerto Rico for me and my brother. And for me to give back to them, it’s huge,” she said.

Now, she hopes to inspire more young women to join the aerospace industry.

“El cielo no es el limite,” she said. “The sky is not the limit.”

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Sarah Wilson

Sarah Wilson, WFTV.com

Sarah Wilson joined WFTV Channel 9 in 2018 as a digital producer after working as an award-winning newspaper reporter for nearly a decade in various communities across Central Florida.

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