Can you imagine living with seven people in a small bamboo hut? Such experiences can have a profound impact on an individual’s positive outlook on life. I was born in Nepal as a Bhutanese Refugee, after my entire family along with many other families were exiled from Bhutan for raising their voices against the injustice of equal rights and dress code systems. We languished in these camps for years before moving to the United States, where I began my quest and passion for education.
The United States offers the best educational system and gave me hope to dream. I started my American education in middle school, and it was quite difficult for me at first but by the grace of God and hard work, I was able to get my high school diploma from Central High School. It was in my final year of high school that I met the STEM Starter Academy staff from Springfield Technical Community College. I was very impressed by array of programs STCC offered and hence decided to pursue my college degree here.
I firmly believe that scholarship can help students to be more encouraged towards attaining their goals and continue schooling. I vividly remember the day when the staff of the STEM Starter Academy was publicizing this program at my school. The program was for STEM majors or students who were leaning towards STEM and with good academic standing. We were also asked to write an essay and among all applicants only a small group was accepted. I genuinely felt apprehensive about the result but deep down I had faith that I might get into the STEM Summer bridge program of 2018. It was a joyful day for me when I was selected to be a part of this program. My educational journey suddenly become crystal clear as I participated in this program since I was exposed to different STEM majors. That summer was the best memorable time. The program started with an intense weeklong Math bootcamp to prepare us for the challenging Math class. I was excited to see a diverse group of students from different schools participating. We were offered daily team-building activities such as bridge building, sports, competitions, games, and a free lunch. We also went on several field trips that was fun and educational. I enjoyed our trip to UMASS and Mystic aquarium the most. We had guest speakers who took us on a STCC campus tours to show library, advising, and career counselling resources. I was very impressed to see the dedicated and caring faculty and staff at STCC.
So, I was enrolled at STCC that Fall where I majored in AS Computer Information Technology and Security. I was able to graduate without college debt because I learnt about STCC campus resources, opportunities and how to apply for scholarships or financial aid. I am a very shy and nervous person by nature, but as I participated in the STEM Starter Academy, I became confident and made several friends.
The STEM Starter summer bridge program offered my first Math class and English class tuition free (7 credits) and a generous stipend. They also encouraged and guided the students to apply for Scholarship which helped me a lot. I met Prof. Brian Candido that summer who invited us to apply for the NSF STEM Scholars grant, which provides tuition scholarships to students in STEM field. I received this scholarship and since I was a full-time student, this helped me tremendously. Later, I also received funding from FAFSA that covered my college tuition and fees. Because I knew how to advocate for myself and search for resources, I did not have to pay a penny to graduate from STCC!
Being a student of STEM Starter not only lays out a way to amplify my skills, but also learn about various career fields. I met many new friend and professors that helped and encouraged me in my Major. I really enjoyed our Friday field trip which helped me to know about my career and explore various things. I also like to share my experience taking Biology Research class. I was chosen to participate in SSA’s Research Methods class taught by Prof. Timothy Randhir. This was also tuition and supplies free during summer 2019 and earned me another 4 free credits.
My research was on ‘Preventative Measures to Enhance Cybersecurity’ which further fueled my interest in digital forensics and cybersecurity. This class was different from my other classes. We learnt the scientific method by conducting online research and interacting with several guest speakers, activities, and field trips. It helped me understand the world in a much clear way and got to know what is happening around the world. I was accepted to present my research at the Undergrad Research Conference at UMASS, but due to COVID-19 it has been postponed. In addition, the program offered peer- mentoring and tutoring which was very useful. I also attended several of their events such as Drones, STEM Symposium, Robotics and Hackathon which kept me persevering and connecting with my peers. I am honored to have graduated successfully from STCC through the great help from STEM Starter Academy. Therefore, I want to encourage my fellow students to be confident about this program and give it a try. This program supported me as a youngster to go after my ambitions and pursue college and I promise it will be applied to you the same. I really want to thank STEM Starter Academy who supported and guided to persevere in a challenging STEM major and Prof. Reena Randhir who always helped me and was there for me.
To learn more about the STEM Starter Academy, visit stcc.edu/explore/stem/starter-academy/. If you have questions, email Dr. Reena Randhir at firstname.lastname@example.org.