Since its unveiling in January 2020, the on-campus center is about much more than snacks and computer access – it’s broadening career opportunities in an underserved community
Growing up in Coalinga, Jazmin Murillo’s career options could have been considered limited. That was until she was exposed to Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement (MESA) as a member of the robotics team at Coalinga High School.
That interest grew when she entered West Hills College Coalinga, where she joined the MESA program.
In January 2020, Murillo began to take advantage of the resources and amenities provided by the Aera Energy MESA Lab and Study Lounge. The on-campus lab and study lounge was made possible by a partnership between the college and Aera Energy, and a donation Aera made late last year. The center quickly became a welcoming and inviting space for students to study, access the computer and spend time between classes.
The Aera Energy MESA Lab and Study Lounge became the sophomore’s home away from home and an essential resource when her laptop was stolen, supporting her with computer and printer use when she needed it most. It has opened her eyes to so many more opportunities.
“Growing up in Coalinga where a lot of our parents are agricultural workers, we didn’t have much exposure to other career fields,” said the 19-year-old, whose parents speak little to no English. “The MESA program enables you to explore career options that you didn’t even think of such as engineering or science.”
Murillo’s father did not complete elementary school, and her grandma was illiterate. At a very young age, Murillo says she knew she had to work harder than some of her peers to reach the level expected of her. She hopes to pursue a career in the technology field, possibly product design, showing a little support can go a long way.
“When resources get introduced in rural areas, it makes kids think, ‘Wow, I can do that too – and it’s not too far out of reach,’” she said. “The resources available through MESA can get me where I want it to be. Now it’s not too far off of a dream.”