College-Bound Alumna Shares Her Love for STEM & Community

College-Bound Alumna Shares Her Love for STEM & Community

In elementary school, Elvira was a shy, timid student. Although math was her favorite subject at her district public school, she frequently silenced her inquisitive mind and thirst for knowledge.

For middle school, her parents decided to switch from a district public school to a charter school, so they enrolled her at KIPP Adelante Preparatory Academy in San Diego. A decision that would profoundly impact their daughter’s life beyond middle school.

KIPP Adelante is a school grounded in the belief that students will “seguir adelante” (continue to progress) in pursuit of their dreams — and Elvira could see and feel the KIPP difference the moment she walked through the doors. 

“Before middle school, I really didn’t think about college. When I got to KIPP, they made me aware of college by naming classrooms after colleges and helped me see how college was an option for me,” she said. “If anyone has the opportunity to attend a KIPP school, they should take advantage of the opportunity because it will be helpful in their high school journey.”

Elvira (Center) with her Ballet Folklórico dance team

Throughout her middle school experience, she grew to embrace her ambitious spirit and her deep passion for learning. When asked about KIPP Adelante's impact on her educational journey, Elvira said one of the key things she learned to do best was to fearlessly ask for help, which is something she took with her to High Tech High Media Arts, a project-based public charter high school in San Diego. 

“One of the reasons I decided to attend a project-based school was because I knew I would have to use my voice a lot and do a lot of presentations and group projects. I wanted to challenge myself,” she said. “It’s helped me because I’ve learned how to voice my opinions and become more social and confident. It’s helped in many spaces of my life.” 

Elvira (far left) with her peers during a MEChA club fundraiser

Some of her proudest moments in high school included being a founding member of the Ballet Folklórico dance team, being a club lead for MEChA (a student club designed to empower the Chicanx community), producing a magazine on mental health disorders that was published on the San Diego Unified website, creating a podcast about air pollution disparities in under-resourced communities, and designing a campus mural based on immigrants perspectives of the American dream. 

Outside of school, she frequently sought out STEM opportunities, joined programs like San Diego Squared and Girls Who Code, and even took an engineering immersion course at Santa Clara University. She was also involved with Reality Changers, a nonprofit college program that prepares students to become first-generation college graduates and agents of change in their community.

Elvira participating in a STEM immersion course

Although she always knew she had a passion for STEM, a recent trip to her parent's hometown in Oaxaca, Mexico, solidified her decision to pursue a STEM career. While there, she volunteered at a community clinic and was deeply concerned about the lack of access to medical devices and services. To address inequities like this, she plans to use her degree to create affordable and accessible medical devices for under-resourced communities in Mexico and San Diego.  

When it came time to research her college and career opportunities, Elvira connected with her KIPP Forward counselor, who helped her navigate the college application process and explore her options. She also took advantage of numerous KIPP Forward resources and opportunities, such as the KIPPer text chatbot and campus tours to the University of Southern California, California State University San Marcos, and Point Loma Nazarene University

Elvira proudly holds a UC Irvine pennant in the KIPP Adelante library

“I noticed some of my high school classmates would be stressed because they didn’t have support. I also noticed I would understand more of the college process than my peers,” she said. “That was all thanks to KIPP Forward because of all the resources, presentations, and information they gave me. They made me more confident throughout the process.” 

It is reported that around 15.1% of women of color (4.8% of which are Latina women) were earning STEM bachelor’s degrees in the United States in 2019. In the fall, Elvira will attend the University of California, Irvine as a biomedical engineer and help close the gender gap for women in STEM. She will also be one step closer to living out her dream of fighting for healthcare equity and making a difference in her communities. 

Learn More About KIPP Forward