RANCHO BERNARDO — For six years, Denise Fernandez attended Palomar College as a military spouse, balancing a growing family and military life with demanding STEM classes. On a Monday morning in October 2019, all of her hard work began to pay off when she reported for duty at the renowned aerospace and defense technology company Northrop Grumman.

The 26-year-old mother was one of two Palomar students selected for a new “talent pipeline” program at the large technology company and defense contractor with several locations clustered around Palomar College’s Rancho Bernardo Education Center.

“This is my chance to do my part,” said Fernandez, adding that “this is not a go-get-coffee internship. They’re throwing us right in.”

Fernandez and Jacob Zeferino were selected for a pilot program at Northrop Grumman providing community college students with work-based learning opportunities and career development in the aerospace and defense industries. They joined the company as Electronics Technicians and worked 20 hours a week until the end of 2019.

“It’s pretty cool they’re having us work on real projects,” said Zeferino, 20, who plans to transfer to UC Irvine to pursue computer engineering after he graduates from Palomar next spring. “Just the name of the company is going to look good on my resume.”

“For me, as a beginning software engineering student, I didn’t even think internships would be possible until my first year at Cal State San Marcos”—where she plans to pursue her bachelor’s degree next year, Fernandez said. “Palomar definitely opened this door for me.”