Written by Jaklen Keshishyan, CSU STEM VISTA 2014-2015
In 1988 my parents left their home town in Armenia and made the courageous journey to the United States of America with the hope of a better tomorrow for my sisters and me. Growing up I was always expected to go to college, but no one ever knew how to help me navigate my way to higher education. By trial and error, I found my way to California State University, Northridge (CSUN), where I earned my Bachelor’s in Child and Adolescent Development. During my time at CSUN, I took part in multiple internship and outreach opportunities like; The Blues Project, Jointed Advocates on Disordered Eating, The Peer Health Exchange, and The Child and Family Guidance Center. My internship experiences connected me to the populations of students that were from similar backgrounds as me. Being from a first generation, underserved, underrepresented population, I understood the obstacles that the students were experiencing and therefore wanted to help them find their way to higher education. What better way to do this than to serve as a VISTA member? I was selected by the CSU Chancellor’s Office and AmeriCorps*VISTA to serve at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona to support and develop K-12 outreach. As the STEM Student Success Coordinator and Community Liaison for the College of Engineering, I have the privilege of reaching out to the local community and connecting organizations with our faculty, staff, and students. My role as a VISTA member isn’t just to provide support to those I cross paths with today, but it also builds a foundation for future projects.
Young women’s self-efficacy will impact many of their life choices, including their choice of college and major. To increase self-efficacy amongst young women, it is important to have mentorship and an open dialog so conversations about education, especially STEM education, are possible. I was never introduced to engineering because my community and my mentors were not well-informed. To give local young women the opportunities to increase their STEM self-efficacy, Cal Poly Pomona will be hosting events like; E-girl, Introduce a Girl to Engineering, Women in Engineering talks and presentations, and much more. These events will help us integrate mastery experiences and strengthen the foundation for many students.
I would not do my work justice if I did not mention the Femineers at Fremont Academy. The Femineers are twenty-four 10th and 11th grade girls that have expressed interest in STEM fields. This collection of ambitious girls are why I do what I do. Faced with social, environmental and structural obstacles, the Femineers truly emphasize what girl-power is. To give the Femineers a safe place to harness their skills in engineering, Dr. Cordelia Ontiveros, Scott Lukesh, and I have created a program that meets once a month and connects the Femineers with industry professionals and CPP students and educates them on career development, public speaking, and other helpful topics. The program will provide the Femineers with a light push, which is all they need to begin propelling themselves to success. With the help of Dr. Jawa, the Femineers will soon begin their Femineer Project, which is creating wearable technology. It is my hope to build the capacity of the Femineer group to consist of not only 10th and 11th grade girls, but of 9-12th and even 6th-12th grade girls. In order to expand the Femineer program it is vital to have incentives for the students, and to do so, we are currently making plans to allow the girls to travel to the Project Lead the Way State conference in February, where they will present their work. This exciting opportunity will introduce the girls to the unlimited possibilities that await them. By being a strong mentor, I am able to help the Femineers realize that STEM fields are a place that they can feel comfortable.
My position as a CSU STEM VISTA would not have been as successful if not for Dr. Ontiveros, the Associate Dean for Academic Programs & Student Services for the College of Engineering. Dr. Ontiveros has helped me navigate my way, and has connected me with staff, faculty, alumni, community and students that share our passion of engaging historically underserved, underrepresented populations, including women. It is the effort of the entire college that allows ideas to take their own breath and come alive. I consider myself very fortunate to be serving at Cal Poly Pomona. I would finally like to thank all that Judy Botelho, Kristina Barger, and of course my fellow VISTA members. I truly have embarked on the journey of a lifetime.
Cal Poly Pomona College of Engineering :
Femineer Facebook :