CCSA continues its Face of Charter School Success alumni series as part of its yearlong 30th anniversary celebration of charters in California. This week, we introduce you Stephanie Orozco – an environmentally-conscience engineer from the Class of 2017 at Math and Science College Preparatory near downtown Los Angeles.Stephanie Orozco wanted to be an environmental engineer the moment she began an internship at Los Angeles Sanitation and Environment.
At the time, Stephanie was a student at Math and Science College Preparatory (MSCP), where students are required to participate in a community service project to earn their high school diploma. The STEM-focused charter public high school offers students three main pathways to focus their studies: computer science, engineering, and biomedical science.
Stephanie chose the engineering pathway.
“MSCP’s engineering program really opened my mind to other possible engineering careers that I had no idea existed prior to attending the high school,” Stephanie said. “I got to learn about mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, chemical engineering, and even marine biology. The coursework really did prepare and lead me to my major in college.”
Stephanie’s academic journey at MSCP began in 2013 when the charter public school first opened its doors to low-income families of color in downtown Los Angeles. The school’s goal then and today has been to disrupt the status quo of inequitable access to high quality STEM pathways for women and minorities by “cultivating a family of students and staff who solve problems through collaboration, innovation, passion, and perseverance.”
MSCP partners with Project Lead The Way to offer its High School Engineering Program, which is a four-year sequence of courses. That focus of study, combined with traditional mathematics and science courses in high school, introduces students to the scope, rigor, and discipline of engineering prior to entering college. Take a look at some of this year's current students in action:
Before attending MCPS, Stephanie felt disconnected and disengaged as a student. The small and rigorous learning environment that MCPS creates for students helped her succeed during and after high school.
“Charter schools provide a small environment for students who get lost in public schools because charters give students the attention they need,” Stephanie said. “I was on the road to getting lost before MCPS. Being part of this charter school helped me focus and stay on track … some people need that extra support.”
Getting hands-on, real-word engineering experiences during high school also kept Stephanie interested and engaged as she was able to see the direct impact of what she learned. Check out some of this year's students in action:
For Stephanie, at the beginning of her internship with L.A. Sanitation, she helped plan regional street cleanings and trash pickups. During the second phase of the internship, she partnered with an environmental engineer who brought her to off-site locations where she learned about landfill management, sustainability, and water conservation projects, such as flowerbeds that capture and filer water and rainwater into the L.A. River.
“I got to know about fluid mechanics, chemistry, and a little bit of biology and math. That’s why I love environmental engineering because it’s interdisciplinary,” Stephanie said. “When you’re an engineer with a background in environmental issues, you have the engineering capabilities to create a solution for all types of environmental problems.”
Once Stephanie graduated from MSCP in 2017, she was accepted at UC Merced, where he was able to follow her passion. She became an active member on the university’s Natural Resources and Ecology Association, raising awareness among college students about how they can live a more sustainable lifestyle. She also worked at UC Merced Recycling, which is committed to ensuring the university fulfills its zero-waste goal. For example, here's a quick video that takes students step-by-step through the university's composting procedure:
“Most people just throw their trash away and forget there's a whole process behind processing that trash,” she said “For example, a lot of plastics that we're throwing away don’t decompose. Plastic takes hundreds of years, even trillions of years, to decompose. All of that is hurting our ecosystems. I want to make sure people understand through education.”
Stephanie says of all her work in the field thus far, the most important project has been conducting undergraduate research with the Geospatial Energy Resources & Life Cycle Assessment Research Group at UC Merced. As a member of this group, Stephanie modeled bioenergy systems and emerging renewable energy systems to assess their climate change impact.
The MSCP alumna graduated from UC Merced last year, earning a Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering. Stephanie said it was an “unbelievable experience” since she is the first person in her family to graduate high school and college.
She is now committed to securing a job in which she can combat climate change through science and education.
“The climate is changing. And it's not just because it's deciding to change. It's changing because a lot of a lot of human action. We need to understand that we're here because the Earth allows us to be here, and we shouldn't be hurting it. We should be helping it.”
TUNE IN: Stephanie Orozco explains how her experience at Math and Science College Prep led her to major in environmental engineering on this episode of CCSA's CharterNation Podcast:
LEARN MORE: Interested in learning more about Math and Science College Prep? Check out its website by clicking here.
This blog story was written by Ana Tintocalis, CCSA Senior Director of Media Relations and Editorial Content. She is a frequent contributor to the CharterNation Blog. Got a good charter school story? Contact her at email@example.com.