Opportunities Fuel Potential
From SMASH to an Engineering Career – Profiling SMASH alum Ingrid Verastegui
By Frieda McAlear, LPFI Research Associate
It was no surprise when SMASH alumni Ingrid Verastegui graduated with her bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and went on to receive a master’s degree in engineering science and began a career as a design engineer. Ingrid’s interest in engineering was sparked and nurtured throughout her three years as a SMASH scholar and was solidly in place by the time she graduated from high school.
Ingrid’s story is not unusual for alumni of the Level Playing Field’s SMASH Academy. For Ingrid and so many other participants, the program helped cultivate the drive and preparation to pursue STEM fields in college and beyond.
That’s why when Ingrid graduated from high school in in Modesto, she already knew she wanted to major in civil engineering at the University of the Pacific (UOP). Her interest in hydraulics and environmental engineering blossomed in her first two years in college and she focused on water resources and environmental engineering. “SMASH helped me develop a stronger self-confidence in my potential as a Latina and woman in the STEM field. The rigorous math and science classes allowed me to learn of my abilities for understanding and applying physics and math concepts,” she said. “Group participation, presentations and public speaking classes taught me to have a voice in the community and know that my opinion matters. I am the first woman in my family to graduate with an engineering degree. No one really had talked to me about engineering. Now looking back at why I chose engineering and felt very confident in my decision is due to the people I met at SMASH.”
At the early stages in her career, Ingrid appreciates her experiences at SMASH. “I am thankful for the opportunities and life-long lessons learned at SMASH. I can definitely say SMASH was an important influence in my professional and personal development. Furthermore, I continue to be motivated and inspired by my SMASH peers and staff whom are pursuing bigger goals each day. My next career goals include my professional engineering license and a second Master’s Degree or Doctorate Degree.”
This summer LPFI launches its Summer Math and Science Honors (SMASH) Academy at the campuses of UC Davis and Morehouse College.
In a partnership with the University of California, Davis and LPFI, SMASH Academy will be hosted on the UC Davis campus this summer June 25 – July 30. Thirty students are expected to participate in the inaugural class. UC Davis will be the fourth host university for LPFI’s signature program, joining UC Berkeley and Stanford University in the Bay Area and UCLA in Southern California.
Morehouse College will be the fifth university to partner with LPFI. Morehouse will be the first university outside of California, and the first historically black college/university (HBCU) to host SMASH programming.
The SMASH Academy is a free-of-cost, STEM-intensive residential college preparatory program targeting 9th grade high school students from traditionally underrepresented communities interested in pursuing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers. US News and World Report called the SMASH Academy “Perhaps the most ambitious program to encourage African American and Latino students in STEM fields.”
Learning by Giving
Thanks to Haas Business School student, Cynthia Hearn Roy and her team, LPFI receives $10,000 grant
By Samantha Smart Merritt, LPFI Corporate & Foundation Relations Officer
LPFI was recently granted $10,000 in a most original and exciting way. As a student at the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley who was enrolled in a Leadership in Philanthropy class, Cynthia Hearn Roy formed a team to fulfill a class objective to research and advocate for a high-impact nonprofit in the Bay Area. Cynthia found LPFI in Oakland, thoroughly researched our mission and programming, and came in to meet with our Development staff. She proactively and passionately formulated a multidimensional presentation on LPFI, our Founder and our work with underrepresented youth.
Thanks to Cynthia and her team, LPFI won a grant of $10,000 to support SMASH. This grant originates from the Learning by Giving Foundation which was founded by Doris Buffet, sister of Warren Buffet. The Learning by Giving Foundation only funds undergraduate courses at colleges and universities across the country that offer high-quality experiential for-credit courses in philanthropy (i.e., those that combine the study of theory with the practice of philanthropy). Since 2003, this organization has made grants to more than 500 nonprofits with the goal of teaching philanthropy and giving in a more strategic manner to students in schools across the country.