How four female HVAC students are leading the way


At first glance, Madeline Gutierrez, Danielle Grant, Maria Sespene and Monique McDuffus don’t seem to have much in common. Gutierrez was a security supervisor, Grant a low-voltage technician, Sespene was a cosmetics salesperson in Dubai, and McDuffus a flight co-ordinator in the UK. They also range in age from 24 to 48 years old. What binds these four women together today, however, is a shared passion for heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) and refrigeration — a calling they are all currently chasing, and excelling in, at George Brown College. 

Gutierrez, Grant, Sespene and McDuffus first met through one of the YWCA’s pre-apprenticeship skilled trades Open New Browser Window programs, which provide women access to occupations they might not traditionally pursue.  

After completing the pre-apprenticeship program (which was offered at the Casa Loma Campus at George Brown), they decided to further their education in the trades. 

“We all just really liked the program — and HVAC,” says McDuffus.  “And our pre-apprenticeship instructors were great. So we had a good sense of what we’d be getting into.” 

Paul Needham, Senior Industry and Student Recruitment Officer, says all four women have gone “above and beyond” in the short time they’ve been at the college.  

“They’re amazing! All of them,” says Needham. “They’re doing really well in the program, and they’re super involved.” 

The four women have joined the Dean’s Ambassador Program, volunteer at the career fair, are involved with our student chapter of ASHRAE, and somehow find time to help each other and their classmates. 

Gutierrez has become the “glue” in the group; she’s an organizer, an instigator, and an unwavering supporter of her peers. 

“They’re my family now,” says Gutierrez, pointing to her three fellow female classmates. “We do everything together.”  

This circle of support has also helped them weather a few minor bumps in the road.  

“Do you remember when we first walked into the classroom?” says McDuffus. “The guys thought we were in the wrong place.” 

“Yes!” laughs Gutierrez. “They were like: are you really in HVAC? Are you sure?” 

Now there’s no question whether these four phenomenal women belong in the HVAC classroom. Their commitment, campus involvement, and academic excellence has shown that these women are the real deal.

(Students pictured left to right, Danielle Grant, Maria Sespene, Madeline Gutierrez and Monique McDuffus)