Los Angeles resident Erik Aparicio graduated from Compton College with an associate degree in June 2020 and transfer to a local four-year university in fall 2020 to major in electrical engineering. He is waiting to hear about his financial aid award before making his final decision on which of three CSU and UC campuses he will attend. He is interested in work involving small electronic circuitry and hopes his entrepreneurial spirit will lead him to one day own a technology business that creates products or solutions for businesses.
As a California Dreamer, Compton College and the campus STEM Center have served as vital resources for Aparicio to build a solid foundation for his future. "In my situation, it is not easy to ask for help, but the staff let us know that they are here to help all students," he said. "It was reassuring to hear that from a college. I had also done research and was aware that the California Community College system offers numerous services and protections to undocumented students. I know I can go to anyone at Compton College for help."
Last October, Aparicio was selected to travel to Kansas City to attend the Men of Color Leadership Institute, hosted by the Presidents' Roundtable of the League for Innovation in Community College. The four-day conference focuses on academic excellence, personal and professional development, leadership development, the role of men of color in society, community service, peer support, and cultural enrichment.
"I was encouraged to apply for this leadership institute through the Compton College STEM Center," said Aparicio. "The conference gave me an incredible opportunity to network and talk with so many people who are business leaders, executives, and thought leaders who gave me tips and advice that was not only career-related but useful information about life in general." Some of the best advice he received that really resonated for him was to 'pay it forward and help someone else.' "Be generous to others because the overall payback is greater over time," Aparicio said. "I truly believe it is through generosity and helping others that we all grow."
Aparicio is a member of the STEM Club and regularly uses the STEM Center as a place to study, get tutoring if needed, and generally, any type of assistance he might need. STEM Club members work on a variety of projects and activities such as working in the campus greenhouse and on the compost boxes, partnering with the Reaction Research Society in Gardena, Calif. on a rocket engineering project, participating in Compton College's High Altitude Balloon project, and collaborating with Loyola Marymount University on CubeSat, a type of miniaturized satellite that will orbit the Earth for research purposes. "I like that the students lead all of these projects on our own with guidance from advisors if we need it," said Aparicio. "STEM Club has really helped me advance as a student and makes me appreciate all of my classes."
Aparicio says he always knew that he had a chance to create a positive future for himself and Compton College helped facilitate that dream. "Compton College has taught me so much," said Aparicio, a first-generation college student. "Before, I thought that earning a degree was the most valuable aspect of a college education. "But what I have come to realize is developing the skills to learn on your own and be a self-directed individual is most valuable. I've received the guidance here to learn how to help myself and grow on my own."