Alexandra Medina is determined to prove that “engineering has a spot for everyone,” – and soon, she’ll take center stage to deliver that message. On September 10th, Alexandra, who earned her associate degree in science from Wright College this spring, will be one of the featured speakers at City Colleges’ first-ever TEDx Talk, set to take place at her alma mater.
During the event, she’ll join fellow Wright graduate Vasilios Soupos and a group of leaders in engineering to discuss how to promote equity in the industry – a topic she can to speak to on a personal level. In fact, while Alexandra is now well on her way to a successful future in STEM, participating in an apprenticeship at Accenture and starting bachelor’s-level courses at the University of Oregon in just a few weeks, there was a time when she struggled to find her footing in the field.
As a high school student at Loyola Academy, Alexandra says she didn’t have a real drive for academics. Instead, she spent her high school years, “going through the motions,” assuming a future in math and science was off the table based on her grades in the subjects. Those feelings continued when she started her college journey at Loyola University in 2016, and she ended up withdrawing from her courses after a month to focus on her mental health. When Alexandra was ready to return to the classroom a year later, she enrolled at Wright College, which was just down the road from her Portage Park home.
Initially starting in Spanish classes, Alexandra worked on gaining the confidence she needed to take on additional coursework – but she still didn’t know what she wanted to do and felt lost as her peers discussed their future college and career plans. It wasn’t until her college advisor, Yolanda Martinez, started questioning Alexandra about her interests and walking her through potential career paths that she realized she may want to explore a future in technology. After thinking about Yolanda’s suggestions and doing some online research of her own, she discovered a six-month coding boot camp at Northwestern University and decided to give it a try.
“[The boot camp] sparked a passion I didn’t know I had,” she recalled. “It was the first time in my life that I felt empowered by my education.”
From there, Alexandra set a goal to pursue a bachelor’s degree in computer science, and she took a first step by enrolling in introductory computer science courses at Wright, City Colleges’ Center of Excellence for Engineering & Computer Science. Alexandra credits her professors at Wright, especially Gustavo Alatta, for encouraging her and connecting her to high-quality learning opportunities both in and out of the classroom. In fact, Professor Alatta introduced her to the paid apprenticeship position at Accenture and the opportunity to be a part of City Colleges’ TEDx Talk.
“I’m at such an advantage now,” Alexandra said. “Being at Wright has given me time and space to mature and find out what I actually want to do with my life.”
By sharing her own stories of both struggle and success through her TEDx Talk, Alexandra hopes to show anyone watching that, regardless of an individual’s past experiences – regardless of their age, background, or whether or not they follow a traditional or non-traditional path – they can find success in STEM.
To learn more about the event, including details on how to watch it live, visit www.ccc.edu/tedx.