San Diego (KGTV)---UC San Diego engineering professor Olivia Graeve knows she's more than just a teacher.
As the university's first ever Latina engineering professor, she also recognizes, she's a role model for young people who might not think they have a career in science, technology, engineering or math.
"If you don't see somebody like yourself as an engineer you are just not going to pursue that, you don't recognize yourself in that position," Graeve said.
Graeve grew up across the border in Tijuana, Mexico but always wanted to be a an engineer.
She attended UCSD as an undergraduate, quickly realizing there was a need to get more
Latinas and other under-represented minorities involved in higher education.
That's when she started working with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers.
"That's really what allowed me to build community and to start seeing what were the needs and so slowly I became more familiar with some of the concepts to promote the success of Hispanics in higher education," said Graeve.
As she progressed in her field, she made it her mission to help the university develop opportunities for students of every background.
Graeve also started a summer research program called Enlace, which means to join.
It brings together students from both sides of the border to not only develop their interest in engineering but facilitate friendships.
For her work, Professor Graeve was given the Presidential Award for Excellence in STEM Mentoring from the White House this year.
"It is recognition that opens doors and when you have doors opened you can do more," Graeve explained.