VISTA Spotlight – Kimberly Torres

Name: Kimberly TorresIMG_8524.JPG

Host Site: California State University, Long Beach BUILD

Alma Mater: California State University, Fullerton

Major: Political Science

Background: Since my freshman year of high school, I had a clear understanding of what I wanted to do in life. Fast forward to the junior year of my undergraduate career, I had mixed feelings about my major and career choice. I dedicated my undergraduate career to studying political science in order to learn the law and the inner workings of the government while pursuing a law degree. Continue reading

VISTA Spotlight – Natalie Hambalek

Natalie.jpgName: Natalie Hambalek

Host Site: California State University, Monterey Bay School of Natural Sciences Internship Program

Alma Mater: Sonoma State University (B.A.), Oregon State University (M.S.)

Major: Biology, Zoology

Background:  I graduated from Sonoma State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. Outside of the classroom, I was involved in many facets of campus which gave me experiences that have been instrumental in shaping my personal and professional lives. As a freshman, I became an active member of the Biology Club, a service-oriented club where I found my tribe of nerds which I am happy to call my lifelong friends. I volunteered at Kid Street Learning Center mentoring at-risk youth for two years. I was a McNair and LSAMP Scholar, starting my path in scientific research and dissemination. I looked forward to the CSSA-sponsored California Higher Education Student Summit (CHESS) every year, where my peers and I headed to Sacramento to lobby State Legislators for bills to increase accessibility and affordability to the CSU System (like the CA DREAM Act). I was a part of National Model United Nations, where I participated in the annual international conference in New York City representing Venezuela. I was also fortunate to have been able to work for the Center for Community Engagement at Sonoma State University for all four years of my undergraduate career. Housed in Academic Affairs, I had a first hand view of the behind the scenes of the University, tasked with helping to implement service-learning courses and strengthen partnerships between the University and the Sonoma County community. Observably, I was what some would call “all over the place”; in the lab, the field, the classroom, the office, the playground, in a CA Assemblywoman’s office —  I loved every minute of it. These experiences not only fostered my growth as an individual, but they nurtured my need to give back and fulfilled my desire to be a part of something bigger. Continue reading

The Long Rollercoaster Ride

Written by Blake Lopez, CSU STEM VISTA 2016-17 CSU Bakersfield

IMG_8403.JPGThis 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.

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The True Mission

Written by Jessica Garcia, CSU STEM VISTA 2016-17 Humboldt State University Klamath Connection

Education is.jpgI first met Sarah during our program’s check-in for the school year. She was nervous and
excited to be arriving as a freshmen student, but I saw a small crowd of support behind her, her family. After checking her into the program, giving her the summer immersion itinerary, as well as her Klamath Connection mug and plate (we promote zero-waste on campus), I watched her turn towards her family and give them the biggest smile, an ‘I did it!’ smile. Her mother and father were already getting emotional, and her younger siblings were watching their sister check-in to college with looks of admiration.

Later that day we had major specific open houses, and a welcome social for the incoming Klamath Connection students and their families. It was at the beginning of the welcome social that I interacted more with Sarah and her family. While Sarah was still participating in her open house, her father and younger brothers (I found out they were her family members later) came to the events field where the welcome social was being held. The father was in a panic because they drove all day from Los Angeles to make it to the first day of summer immersion, and they had no time to eat once they got to Humboldt State University. Needless to say, his young sons were starving and starting to get moody, and the dad was on the search for food. Continue reading

Oh My Bog, A Blog!

Written By Sheina Vogt, CSU STEM VISTA Leader 2016-2017 CSU Chancellor’s Office1925311_10153173283821834_2786357534146407444_n.jpg

A satisfying slurp came every time any of us unstuck our gumboots from the mud. A herd of students slurp-stomped our way through the thick mud between the stand of trees hiding the housing development where we had parked, and the bog ahead of us.

In imagining my first trip to a bog, I had conjured images of stagnant swamp water with lily pads and hordes of mosquitoes. This was far from the case. Rather, it was more like the strangest field I had ever seen. Bogs like the one we went to are becoming rare as they are cleared to make space for roads, buildings, and agriculture.

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Our Background Experiences Shape our VISTA Year

miriam 2.jpgWritten By Miriam Ureno Moreno, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-2017 Stanislaus State University

When I was really young, I used to follow my grandfather into the fields.  Every afternoon after school, we worked in the fields picking apples, walnuts, quince, and jalapenos.  During the walnut season, he would hand me a “vara” (long piece of wood) to hit the walnut’s long branches and force the fruit to fall to the ground.  Now, as a responsible adult, I ask myself “how could he allow me to climb 40 to 60 feet up when I was just 8 years old?”  The answer is very simple, he was somebody who was not afraid to empower me and absolutely trusted my skill to climb in defiance to the adversity that is gravity.  Little did I know that this learning experience would stay with me for the rest of my life and influence my VISTA year.  My personal philosophy is to empower college and K-12 students to climb the tree of scientific knowledge as they fight the invisible barriers of fear and injustice. Continue reading

Initiated by Chance, Nurtured with Intentionality – My Journey with Social Justice

Written By Nicki Holm, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-2017 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

IMG_8702.JPGMy four years at Cal Poly seemed to last forever, but looking back, it seems like only yesterday I was graduating from high school anticipating the adventure to come. I embarked on my journey as a Biological Sciences major, and little did I know, the department would come to have such a profound influence on my path.

Partially through my first year and already overcommitted – intramural sports, club leadership roles I decided would look good on my resume, and 16 units with two labs while still acquiring the ability to learn in college – a Biological Sciences department email captivated my attention. It was nothing profound, just a simple advertisement recruiting applicants to work for a student-run volunteer organization in the Center for Community Engagement. Continue reading