By Robbie Owens

DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Making STEM careers look more like America. That was the end goal of a gathering in Dallas Thursday as local advocates hosted female students from the engineering program at Kimball High.

“Most girls don’t like to build and do stuff like that, they’re kind of shocked,” said senior Diamond Lewis, who adds that she responds to that shock with, “girls can do the same things that boys can do.”

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It is a mantra that made it to the big screen in 2016 in the hit movie “Hidden Figures.” The movie helped to ensure that the contributions of three brilliant African-American women at NASA were hidden no more. On Thursday, students heard from Christine Darden, PhD, who knew them all, saying she stood on their shoulders during her 40-year career at NASA.

Dr. Christine Darden (CBS11)

“They experienced discrimination,” said Dr. Darden. “But, they did good work… and that’s probably why I was hired.”

Dr. Darden’s trailblazing career was included in the book that became the template for the movie. She told students that she became a aeronautical engineer — but, she was born curious.

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“Mother told me she gave me a doll when I was 5 years old, she said I didn’t play with the doll very long; but, the next time she saw it, I had cut it open to see what made it talk,” said Dr. Darden.

On Thursdy, Dr. Darden did the talking, encouraging the girls in the engineering program to be curious, prepared and persistent.

“I’ve never had a boy tell me that I can’t do something. I would deny it because I know I can,” said freshman Leslie Franco, who insists that she doesn’t let gender shape her goals.

Indeed, times have changed. Still, history’s trailblazers play a critical role in helping future generations dream without limits.

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“I feel like if you want to build cars, you should go build cars,” said Lewis. “If you want to walk on the moon, try to walk on the moon, if you want to do anything, just go out and do it.”