Geek Activist Shares College Aspirations
By Hector Marin-Alcantar
Greetings fellow students! My name is Hector Marin-Alcantar. I'm a senior at Coachella Valley High School, a science fanatic, a community organizer, and a soon to be freshman at the UC San Diego Jacobs School of Engineering.
My education doesn’t only happen in the classroom, it happens in the community. I've been a community organizer for three years now. Specifically, I volunteer for Inland Congregations United for Change, or ICUC. I help develop youth in the Coachella Valley to stand up to injustices that occur here. I've also been involved with many other organizations across the Valley. I have attended school meetings, school board meetings, state school board meetings, city council meetings, research meetings, and the list keeps going. I volunteered at two Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals clinics where we helped undocumented applicants apply for a two year, deferred immigration status.
Something I am very proud of with ICUC is the work we did to win the implementation of a District wide A-G policy in our high schools that requires all courses qualify for acceptance to a UC or Cal State. It may surprise you to know that until this change the requirements for graduation were at a lower standard than those required to apply to colleges. The implementation of A-G requirements to graduate will give all students an equal opportunity to apply to colleges. There is so much more to discuss concerning our education, our school, and our community…and so much more work to be done. I've even had the privilege and the honor of flying to Sacramento—twice—as a constituent to speak to our assemblyman about education policy and reform.
My work in the community has led me discover many things, not only about my culture and family, but also about myself. Relative to other cultures, within my family education is not necessarily a sacred philosophy. However, what is sacred in my culture is how one shows exceptional hard work and determination in the face of a great challenge. For example, my parents are immigrants from Mexico and have worked in the agricultural industry for over twenty-five years, harvesting grapes in the blistering heat of the desert summers and the bitter cold of its winters. I too have worked in the grapes for a paycheck to buy supplies for school. Seeing the sacrifices my parents have made only deepens my resolve to work harder than they have, so I can provide a much better life for my future family and become a role model for others like me. A role model that shows that education has a place in my culture, especially for those who are first generation college students who never had such examples of higher education. With today's increasing demand for new technologies, more diverse engineers with new ideas will be instrumental for scientific innovation and economic growth.
My inspiration for becoming an Aerospace Engineer began in elementary school. I was in the fifth grade and summer was approaching, a group of students and I where going to a place called Balboa Park in San Diego. There I spent hours touring the park and seeing the many museum exhibits, until I stopped by the Air and Space Museum. I was awed by the spacecraft and the stealth planes and I thought to myself, "I want to build something like that!" Ever since then, I've been fond of rockets and planes and I will seize any opportunity to expose myself to this curious topic. I applied and attended COSMOS at UC Irvine so I could learn what engineering is and learn the basic principles of plane design. I got to design, build, and fly my own plane. That experience was priceless. These events have lead to my resolve to study in the field of engineering. As an engineer, one builds something, or rather creates something that leaves a legacy. I wish to leave a legacy for my family and for the good of the nation.
Hector Marin-Alcantar is pictured here with one of his science idols: astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson.