Across the room there were broad smiles, and for good reason. An important journey was coming to an end for 56 students of Bakersfield’s South High School.
Since its 1997 founding, Aera Energy has backed South High’s prestigious MS3 program, designed to give students a broad exposure to science, technology, engineering and math opportunities, while pairing them with Aera employee mentors. The program has continually produced some of the school’s finest graduates, and the class of 2018 was no exception.
Of the 56 students in the program, 40 said they will pursue a STEM path in their college career, and considering many of their college choices they were headed in the right direction with 20 students being accepted to University of California campuses, including six who were accepted at UCLA.
Part of that success is related to the mentoring students receive from Aera employees.
“For the students (the mentoring) is a key part of the engineering academy,” said Stacey Fuentes, a South High mathematics teacher, who coordinates the program. “The Academy is very much a holistic approach to education and the mentors provide a piece where the students get to work very closely, over a long period of time, with highly successful, high achieving adult role models.
“Many of our students come from impoverished backgrounds, and while their parents are extremely supportive of their education they don’t always know the pathways to get their children into college, and careers.”
As part of the program four students were given scholarships and four were given internships – a major prize among those graduating from the program.
“Aera is really opening a door for me,” said graduating senior Noe Garcia, who will intern with Aera’s IT department this summer and attend UCLA in the fall.
Garcia joins classmates Mar Castillon, Kimberly Guzman and Malcolm Francisco as Aera’s interns.
And the work with the students has been just as rewarding for Aera’s mentors.
“I would guess that I have mentored around 100 students from their sophomore year through their senior year with the goal of attending the best and most appropriate college for their career aspirations,’’ said Aera’s Dave Miner, who helped start the mentoring part of the program more than a decade ago. “I think the program has significantly increased the likelihood that these 100 South High students will attend college.”
The Aera employees who gave their time to mentor students this year are: Jonathan Rojas, Kevin Reiser, Rita Waugh, Dave Miner, Mayuri Murugesu, Simmie Chehal, Beau Gentry, Laura Martinez, Johanna Hoyt, Dinah Mande, Andy Jerrett, Matt Lusk, Ariya Burana, Gaylyn Thompson, Amir Khan and Christine Birkholz.
The graduates of the program were:
- Mar Surichaqui, who has been accepted at three University of California campuses, who was South High’s drum major and who wants to become a computer engineer.
- Kenneth Reyes, a member of South’s state championship soccer team, who wants to become a history professor, and who plans to attend Bakersfield College before transferring to a UC.
- Rosario Aguilar, a member of South’s Robotics Team, who will attend Fresno State to study animal sciences.
- Manuel Mojica will attend Cal State University Bakersfield to study mechanical engineering.
- Alexandra Ruvalcaba will attend CSUB to study electrical engineering.
- Anthony Lemus wants to student business administration and will attend Bakersfield College.
- Daniel Villareal, who said he was inspired by his Aera mentor, Jonathan Rojas, and will attend Bakersfield College.
- Mario Maciel, who wants to study electrical engineering and plans to attend UC Irvine, UC Santa Barbara, Chico State, CSUB or Bakersfield College.
- Juan Cubillo Casillas is planning to study biology at CSUB.
- Natalie Zavala Garcia said she plans to work after graduation, but still has her sights set on college.
- Noe Garcia will intern at Aera over the summer, but will attend UCLA in the fall.
- Jennifer Reyes was involved in a wide range of school activities and will be attending UC Irvine in the fall to study biomedical engineering.
- Michael Martin was busy in high school as a founding member of the math club, member of the geology club and he will attend UC Santa Barbara, where he will major in physics.
- Sofia Lopez will attend UCLA and will attend psychology and environmental science.
- Kimberly Guzman plans to study electrical engineering and has been accepted at CSUB, Fresno State and Cal State University Channel Islands.
- Sheran Gill made a name for herself on the golf course for South High, but she intends on majoring in engineering at CSUB.
- Lisbeth Reyes will attend either UC Davis or Fresno State in the fall.
- Jonathan Quintana will be attending Bakersfield College in the fall.
- Isaac Elias will attend CSUB to study marine biology.
- Diana Guzman will attend UC Davis.
- Magaly Jurado will be majoring in biology at UC Davis.
- Enrique Medina will attend UC Santa Barbara.
- Jacquelin Reyes has been accepted to CSUB, Fresno State and Cal State University Northridge.
- Mariana Morales will attend CSUB.
- Benjamin Guinto will attend Bakersfield College and later Cal State University Northridge.
- Katherine Garcia will attend UC Riverside and major in biology.
- Bryan Flores has been accepted to UC Davis, UC Santa Barbara, Cal Poly Pomona, CSUB and Fresno State. He plans to study mechanical engineering.
- Zenson Ponce was involved in South High’s ROTC program and has enlisted in the US Marine Corps.
- Jacqueline Cortes will attend CSUB and plans on becoming an elementary school teacher.
- Luis Medina will attend CSUB and major in computer engineering.
- Fernando Argueta has been accepted to UCLA, UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis and wants to pursue a career in medicine.
- Heavenly Ford will major in political science at Fresno State.
- Shania Espinoza will study psychology at San Diego State.
- Samantha Miranda will study biology at UC Davis.
- Jerry Vasquez will major in brain and psychological science at UC Santa Barbara.
- Armando Romero will attend CSUB to study mechanical engineering.
- Jose Hernandez has been accepted to Fresno State and CSUB, and plans to study criminal justice.
- Isaac Espinosa will attend Bakersfield College before transferring to Cal Poly San Luis Obispo to study architecture.
- Henry Salguero will attend CSUB to study engineering.
- Jennifer Azamar has been accepted at UC Davis and Cal State University Northridge and plans on majoring in biology.
- Steve Flores will attend UCLA and plans on becoming a pharmaceutical scientist.
- Kiara Avila will attend Humboldt State and plans on being a geologist.
- Santos Banuelos will attend Bakersfield College before transferring to the University of California, where he will study biomedical engineering.
- Stephanie Equivel has been accepted to San Francisco State, Humboldt State and CSUB. She plans on majoring in computer science.
- Jacqueline Aquian will attend Bakersfield College and pursue a career in journalism.
- Malcolm Francisco has been accepted to UCLA and is planning to major in electrical engineering.
- Angel Guzman will attend Bakersfield College and become a financial advisor.
- Abraham Castaneda has been accepted to UCLA, Harvard and Dartmouth. He plans to study neuroscience and biochemistry.
- A two-sport star for South High, Jakelyne Amezcua will attend CSUB and study architecture or mechanical engineering.
- Alonzo Espinoza was a swimming standout for South, but wants to become an epidemiologist after completing his education at CSUB.
- Agustin Mata will attend CSUB to pursue a career in nursing.
- Rebecca Martinez earned a 4.3 grade point average and will study at Bakersfield College and CSUB to become a speech pathologist.
- Abraham Ibarra will attend Fresno State or UC Merced and study engineering.
- Genesis Beleche Gonzalez will attend Bakersfield College before transferring to Cal Poly Pomona. She plans on becoming an architect.
- Denise Rios has been accepted at UC Davis and plans on a career as veterinarian.
- Mayra Miranda will attend UC Davis and study animal sciences.