VISTA Spotlight – Christa Cheung

Christa with kid.pngName: Christa Cheung

Host Site: San Jose State University Jay Pinson STEM Education Program

Alma Mater: University of California, Santa Cruz

Major: B.S. Biomolecular Engineering and a Minor in Bioinformatics

BackgroundI graduated from University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) with a degree in Biomolecular Engineering. It was quite an overwhelming and a difficult degree, but it was very rewarding. I learned so much by being a STEM major. I learned to advocate for myself, be independent, and to analyze scenarios critically. Outside of working and studying, I participated in two student organizations over my undergraduate career that brought balance to my time at UCSC.

One was the Society of Women Engineers (SWE) Santa Cruz Chapter. This organization represented supporting women and the members were incredible individuals. Over the years, I held officer positions, first as a secretary and then as a vice president. I enjoyed supporting the other officers for events, conferences, and meetings throughout the year. Through SWE, I was able to organize outreach for the national Engineering Week. This outreach was to a 2nd grade class and we discussed how to design a balloon powered car. I thought it was a success because a handful of students stayed after the school day ended to talk and test out the cars. In addition we were invited back by the teacher for future events.

img_7636The second organization that I was part of was UCSC Ballroom Team. This team was my family and was how I was able to unwind every week. I started during my freshman year and I competed in Newcomer Rumba, East Coast Swing and Nightclub Lindy Hop. My partner and I placed in East Coast Swing and I was very proud of this achievement, but I also learned from this experience that competing was not for me. I tapered off my activities after that until my senior year when I stepped in to support my friends in teaching our social dance portion of the club. I greatly enjoyed social dancing and learning how to teach through that experience.

These two organizations really helped me to become who I am today. They taught me how to step up for your team, how to be supportive, and that I loved teaching. I would have never gotten these experiences in any other way.

Why I serve: I serve to think beyond myself and appreciate what I have. It was a big part of my life throughout high school and my first year at UCSC. Unfortunately, I was unable to continue throughout the rest of my college career because of time constraints. I lost that perspective because in engineering, you are surrounded by individuals that value personal achievements going forward. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but for me it made me lose my sense of social responsibility and contribution. I wanted to do something that mattered beyond me. After I graduated, I realized I missed it dearly and decided that I should seek out service oriented positions.

IMG_7579.JPGI chose and luckily got placed in the SJSU Jay Pinson STEM Education Program (JPSEP)
through the AmeriCorps CSU STEM VISTA program. I choose this position out of all the other amazing positions available because I wanted to serve within the realm of K-12. I thought that this would have the largest impact on these children’s future. I want to encourage, excite, and support these students’ love of STEM. The best part is that because it is mainly indirect service, the programs that I am part of and create will have larger repercussions in the long run.

Legacy: I want my legacy to be that I was able to bring unity and growth to the program.
The JPSEP has just hit the 4th year mark, and has done so many different and wonderful things. As we look forward, we are parsing down the activities and focusing on supporting teachers in order to implement programs in their classrooms and schools. I hope to communicate and unify the teachers with our program so that the students are able to get the most out of what we as a group can offer. I want to plant the seeds in the handful of teachers we are working with and fostering them to grow to spread their ideas and implementation throughout their districts in the following years. I want to be remembered as unifying the JPSEP and these districts in order for both to grow into bigger and better collaborations and partnerships.

Christa.jpgFuture Goals/Plans: My future goals are to find where exactly I fit into the realm of science education. I don’t know if I would want to work as a STEM advisor or as a teacher in the classroom. As a STEM advisor I would want to make lesson plans and advise on how to make the STEM content more informative, rigorous, and accurate. As a teacher, I would like to teach as a high school biology teacher as well as participate as part of Advanced Placement (AP)/International Baccalaureate (IB) biology and AP capstone. I love biology and teaching it would be so much fun and rewarding. I would also enjoy teaching AP capstone because I would like to expose students as early as possible to research like I had to do for my undergraduate thesis. I am figuring out how I fit into the realm of science through my experience in the JPSEP as I am helping to create lesson plans, interacting with students, teachers, and administrators. This will give me a better understanding of what I enjoy and where I best fit in. But whatever it may be, I am ready to jump into that with everything I have. 



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