Looking for Adventure: Seniors seek faraway campuses, STEM majors

February 18, 2022

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Photo by Diana Gomez

Senior Melanye Cisneros finds her colleges on the map in Room 104.

What makes the Class of 2022 different from other classes before COVID? Their adventure-seeking in applying to colleges far from home, and their passion for STEM.

For many years, seniors visited colleges in Southern California and the East Coast and chose campuses all over the country. Since 2020, everyone has questioned what a college experience would look like in a pandemic. The uncertainty about safety and separation from family led many seniors to stick with colleges closer to home.

But this year, even though seniors haven’t been able to visit colleges back East, two years of lockdown has made them eager for a change of scenery.

“I feel like [they] have that adventurous streak where [they’re] kind of excited to go out and see something new and different,” said Senior College Prep teacher, Anna Takahashi.

Senior Lizette Hernandez has explored attending colleges far away from California. She has applied to Syracuse University in New York and Northwestern University in Illinois.

“I was born in Illinois, and I moved here like 11 years ago,” Lizette said. “I just want to explore other states, just explore what else is out there and kind of be on my own for a bit.”

As to the question of what major to study, Lizette knew from a young age that she wanted to go into STEM.

“I think middle school is when mechanical engineering and CS started getting into my brain,” said Lizette, who is President of the Refurbishing Club, where students repair donated computers and send them to developing countries.

Back in the fall, when seniors were deciding on their majors, Anna noticed that many seniors had taken advantage of STEM-related summer programs and college courses, leading them to develop an interest in STEM careers.

Senior Joshua Nickings has also explored the possibility of a career in mechanical engineering, inspired by his teachers, including math teachers Greg Avis and Juan Grau. The applications of math to real life problems and Greg’s regular updates on current events sparked a light in Joshua’s mind.

“I wanted to see if I could find ways to make machines more efficient, like energy-wise, or learn to make better batteries or build the next new electric car,” Joshua said.

Joshua also has a strong artistic streak, which he is learning to mix with his passion for mechanical engineering. He is currently a TA in Digital Art class, where he has seen himself grow as a leader and has gained experience in different art techniques.

“I would mix the creative process that comes with art and the practicality that comes with engineering,” he said. “That way I can kind of like, think of new ideas and better visualize how things will actually play out in the real world.”

Most of the colleges Joshua has applied to, including Harvard and Columbia University, are located on the East Coast where he hopes to grow independent and learn to do things on his own.

Senior Abigail “Aby” Zarza also plans to pursue a STEM career – in animal sciences and veterinary science.

Growing up, Aby always felt the need to help animals in need.

“One time when we were out in the street, we found this little bird with a broken leg and we ended up getting it to cure it,” Aby said. “To me it’s like animals are like humans who need doctors to help them so that’s what I want to be a vet in the future.”

In a home with three cats, two dogs and eight birds, Aby’s surroundings have only strengthened her love for animals. She plans to become a veterinarian and dreams of traveling the world to help needy animals

But for now, Aby wants to stay close to home. She has focused on schools in California, including Humboldt State University and UC Santa Cruz, so that she can still visit her family more easily.

“I don’t want to be too far from my family,” she said. “I have my baby brother and I want to see him grow up.”

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