Written by Blake Lopez, CSU STEM VISTA 2016-17 CSU Bakersfield
This time last year, I didn’t even know CSU STEM VISTA existed. I was a few months away from earning my Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering Sciences, was just accepted to Iowa State for Graduate School in Mechanical Engineering, recently proposed to my girlfriend of five years during Christmas, and had no way to pay for the wedding. Little did I know, my life was about to change forever. As a way to pay for the wedding I had taken two more jobs on top of my current job as a morning Dock Associate at FedEx Freight while still taking a full-time academic load. The first job I had accepted was a STEM Transfer Mentor at Bakersfield College, where I would help Engineering Students transfer to the University of their choice and help guide them through the obstacles of being an Engineering major. The other job was to tutor low income K-12 students in the subjects of English and Mathematics. With these new jobs, I realized that I had a passion for helping young adults and teaching anything STEM related. Shortly after, I submitted my application to the California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB) Fabrication Lab (Fab Lab) and became a Student Intern. This is where I had met Cheyanne, the 2015-16 CSU STEM VISTA member placed at Bakersfield. Her role was Fab Lab K-12 Outreach Coordinator, and from our conversations, she quickly sold me on AmeriCorps and being a CSU STEM VISTA.
Fast-forward a year. I am a recent newlywed. My wife and I have moved into our first apartment. I have dropped out of Graduate School from Iowa State because my heart wasn’t in it. I am starting to take the fundamental courses for the Credential Program at CSUB this upcoming spring semester, so that I may become a high school teacher. I still work three jobs: FedEx Freight, Bakersfield College, and AmeriCorps CSU STEM VISTA, because even though the wedding is paid for, being a provider in an aspiring growing family doesn’t come cheap either. There is also the Honeymoon that my wife would like to have sooner rather than later even though financially, I’m guessing it will be later. And to throw a nice little cherry on top, I am still recovering from an ACL reconstruction surgery that I had in May.
Entering this year with AmeriCorps I expected myself to be challenged mentally to where it would help me prepare for the future of my career. Little did I know it was going to challenge me emotionally with regards to the relationships that I have made. Throughout my VISTA project, I have managed to meet a lot of wonderful and interesting people due to the nature of my position which requires quite a bit of networking and outreach. From all of the people I have met this year, the two people that epitomize wonderful and amazing also share an office with me. Jake and Nam are the other two AmeriCorps CSU STEM VISTA’s at CSUB. Even though a few months ago they could have walked past me down the street and I wouldn’t have looked twice, this year would not have been the same without them here. What makes CSU STEM VISTA so special from other volunteer groups is instead of volunteering your time to make a difference in someone else’s life, you also make a difference in your own life.
This past year has been a rollercoaster ride. I have been pushed physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. With every rollercoaster there are ups and downs with very few flat spots in between. This rollercoaster ride is no different from most. Right from the start there is a long uphill climb, but before you know it you have reached the peak and the scary part is about to start, the decent. Going 100 mph straight down as if in a free fall, but little did you know, the decent provided you enough speed to make it through the multiple loops of life and turns of exciting change. Though the ride is far from over, I learn from the loops and turns in the past to better prepare for them in the future.