My Experiences Exploring: The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks

Written By Nicki Holm, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-17 Cal Poly San Luis Obispo

Nicki.jpgFrom an early age, cancer played an integral role in the lives of those closest to me. Her name was Megan, she was my best friend, and she was only eighteen months old when she was diagnosed with glioblastoma multiforme. Even though she passed just before her seventh birthday, we experienced together more life than I would rationally think possible in just over six years, and it was losing her that led third grade Nicki to start asking questions like: What is cancer? How could a disease be so indiscriminate that it affects such a wide range of ages, abilities, etc.? And the question seemingly everyone asks, what can we do?  

To set the foundation for one day hoping to have even the slightest understanding of this Emperor of all Maladies — the title and name given to cancer in Siddhartha Mukherjee’s Biography of Cancer — I attended California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo in pursuit of a B.S. in Biological Sciences, with a concentration in Cellular & Molecular Biology. Over the course of my time at Cal Poly SLO, I took invaluable classes like Genetics, Cell Biology, Virology, and Immunology, but it was not until taking Molecular Biology Laboratory in my fourth year that I ever heard the name Henrietta Lacks. Continue reading

VISTA Spotlight – Blake Lopez

Blake.jpgName: Blake Lopez

Host Site: California State University, Bakersfield (CSUB)

Alma Mater: California State University, Bakersfield

Major: Engineering Sciences

Background: Throughout my time at CSUB, I have worked as: a morning Dock Associate at FedEx Freight, an English and Math tutor for the Supplemental Educational Services, an Engineering Transfer Mentor at the local Junior College, and an intern at the CSUB Fabrication Lab. These positions, and my current CSU STEM VISTA role, have helped guide me toward my goal of becoming a teacher in STEM fields, especially mathematics. Ironically, I was the typical student who would go to class and leave immediately without spending unnecessary time on campus. Now, my position requires me to be involved with all of the STEM clubs for the School of Natural Sciences, Mathematics, and Engineering (NSME) and many other extracurricular activities on campus. Continue reading

Clínica de Migrantes

Kimberly Torres, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-17 CSU Long Beach, drew attention to resources for undocumented people through an on-campus film screening. Here, she describes what it took to pull it all together.

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What is the documentary about?

The documentary, Clínica de Migrantes, follows the stories of undocumented persons living in southern Philadelphia and the struggles they face when it comes to obtaining any form of healthcare.

How did you get the funding for the documentary and event?

My supervisor and I discussed what the process would be like being in charge of the event, the event itself, and the outcomes we would like to see. Once we had a basic plan of the event we asked BUILD and other student and campus partners if they would co-sponsor the event, which they agreed to do. I contacted the Long Beach Trauma and Recovery Center, Center for Latino and Community Health, Health Resource Center, Counseling and Psychological Services, Health Services Student Association, and the Office of Multicultural Affairs to participate in a panel discussion after the event to discuss the resources available to students on campus. Community health organizations were also invited to speak about the health services they provide to Long Beach residents. Continue reading

VISTA Spotlight – Miriam Ureno

Miriam.jpgName: Miriam Ureno

Host Site: CSU, Stanislaus

Alma Mater: CSU, Stanislaus

Major: Psychology with a minor in Chemistry

Unexpected Results: It doesn’t matter how well organized an event, a routine, or life can be, always expect the unexpected. When I joined AmeriCorps VISTA, I was aspiring to make a difference on my campus, CSU Stanislaus, and in my local community. As a K-12 STEM Outreach Coordinator, my main focus was to reach out to students from traditionally underrepresented backgrounds in the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). My resolve to complete this purpose and my passion to reach out to K-12 students was extremely strong and everything else just disappeared. I was not aware of the impact that serving would have on my family and myself. Now that I am getting close to the end of the year, I realize that our spheres of influence as VISTAs tend to interconnect and affect each other. I am extremely pleased to say that even when my programs reached out to close to 2200 participants in our community, it also positively helped to mold the lives of two young girls: my daughters. Continue reading

A Journey That Found Its Purpose

Written By Nam Kang, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-17 CSU Bakersfield, Fabrication Laboratory

14517481_1128013860568525_815002108047413197_n.jpgWe all wonder which kind of journey our life will take us on, where will we will be, and what we will be doing in the future. Like everyone else, I have been on that journey, unsure of what my future holds. Then one day, I wandered down a path that helped me realize what my future will look like.

I have always enjoyed being a mentor to others. Perhaps, it was the influence of great mentors that I have been blessed with in my life, or how easily I can connect with others. But my passion for becoming a great mentor has always been inside of me. Thus, wanting to pursue a career in teaching came naturally for me. Continue reading

VISTA Spotlight – Lillian Senn

IMG_9089Name: Lillian G. Senn

Host Site: California State University Fresno, College of Science Advising Resource Center

Alma Mater: California State University Fresno

Major: Biology

Background: After high school I went to Fresno City College (FCC), as opposed to many of my friends who immediately went to 4-year institutions. I felt embarrassed by the choice, compared to my friends who went directly to UC’s and CSU’s. Looking back, I am so happy I waited. I saved so much money, had smaller class sizes, and my professors were solely focused on teaching me rather than also doing research. At FCC, I was a part of the TRiO Student Support Services program which provided me the advising I needed to navigate the process of transferring. Continue reading

VISTA Spotlight – Jessica Garcia

Name: Jessica Mary Garcia 

Host Site: Humboldt State University, Klamath Connection Program

Alma Mater: Humboldt State University and College of the Siskiyous

Major: Wildlife Biology

jess tree.jpgBackground: The road I took to becoming a CSU STEM VISTA was filled with crossroads, new experiences, ups and downs, tons of self-exploration and self-reflection, ah-ha moments, and new discoveries. The paths I took to get to where I am now really helped shaped me as an individual, as well as opened my eyes to a world of socio-economic and environmental justice issues.

I suppose I will start at the beginning of my undergraduate career. Spring of 2010 was when I enrolled for the Fall 2010 semester at my local junior college, College of the Siskiyous (COS). At the time I was still working for Wholesale Solar, Inc. I worked at Wholesale Solar, Inc. for almost 4 years, and wore an array of hats while I was there. I managed the wholesale accounts to small businesses/installers/contractors, and worked as a sales representative for the company. I continued with this job through my first semester in college and then decided to stop working there to focus solely on my education. This job really opened my eyes to the “real world,” and what I really wanted out of life and for myself. I was exposed to a lot of environmental justice and political issues stemming around renewable energy, and wanted to continue my education in science. Continue reading