Compton College Students Awarded Year-Long Internship Aimed at Building a Pipeline of STEM-Trained Talent

Compton College Speech and Debate Team Wins Top Honors
Left to right, Tania Rameriz, Oscar Espinoza, Fernando Rameriz.

Compton College students Oscar Espinoza, Fernando Ramirez, and Tania Ramirez are completing year-long internships this semester at the University of California, Irvine and the University of Southern California thanks to the nonprofit workforce and entrepreneur development organization Base 11. The internship provides students with an opportunity to gain science and engineering skills at leading local universities, receive mentorship, and get real-world experience. Base 11 awards scholarships and academic internships to high potential, low resource college students with the STEM talent that industry desperately needs.

As a mechanical engineering major, Fernando Ramirez was looking for an opportunity to gain hands-on experience, so he jumped on the chance to participate in the University of California, Irvine's (UCI) Autonomous Systems Engineering Academy through the Base 11 Internship. The program has allowed him to gain valuable experience with equipment (such as a laser cutter and 3-D printer), programming, and teamwork. He is currently involved in helping a team at UCI build a rover. The 2014 Dominguez High School alumni plans to graduate from Compton College this spring and transfer to a California State University campus. "I hope to pursue a career as an aerospace engineer working for a company like SpaceX or Boeing," he said.

Tania Ramirez has the same future aspirations of working in the aerospace industry. The aerospace engineering major is participating in the University of Southern California's (USC) Liquid Propulsion Laboratory through the Base 11 Internship. "Hands-on experience is different than in class," said Ramirez, a 2015 Lynwood High School alumna. In the lab at USC, she is assisting with a rocket engine, known as Hydra, making changes to the fuel line. She goes to USC several times a week to participate in the program, gaining valuable hands-on experience. During this final semester of the internship, Ramirez must create and present her own project. "I plan to create a new fuel tank for the Hydra rocket engine," she said. Ramirez will also graduate this spring and plans to transfer to California State University, Long Beach. "I encourage others to apply for academic internship opportunities like this one, and don't assume you won't get accepted, because you never know!"

Student and veteran Oscar Espinoza is also working in USC's Liquid Propulsion Laboratory. The interns are assigned to teams who work on different engineering challenges. He and one other student are working on a modification to the test stand for the rocket engine. "We are basically designing a purge system for residual fuel that serves as a way to lessen the risk of fire after the engine is shut off," he said. Espinoza served in the U.S. Air Force after graduating from Centennial High School in 2010. He is an aerospace engineering major who will also graduate from Compton College in spring 2019 and transfer to continue his studies. He plans to earn his bachelor's and master's degrees, and is exploring fluid dynamics, orbital mechanics, or liquid propulsion for his engineering career options. "I have recommended this internship program to my friends and two have applied for an opportunity this summer! What excites me most about this program is that the lab treats its interns like university students," said Espinoza. "We are assigned responsibilities just like the USC students who are also working in the lab."

These students were introduced to the Base 11 Academic Internship through Compton College's Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Center. The center aims to expose Compton College students interested in STEM majors to related career options and academic resources like internships and scholarships. The three student interns credit Lorena Fonseca, Compton College MESA Center program specialist, for introducing them to internship opportunity and encouraging them to apply, while also guiding them through the application process. Fonseca also serves as an advisor during the internship, reminding the students of key deadlines and helping work through any challenges that may arise.

Since these are unpaid internships, Compton College's MESA Center also helps the students with transportation costs to and from UCI and USC through grand funding provided by the Student Equity and Achievement Program.

"Attending Compton College has helped me to think outside of my academic goals and to seek out extracurricular activities related to my interests and future career plans," said Espinoza. Most students never get to experience a hands-on work environment in the field they want to go into. My advice is to seek out these kinds of opportunities – there are resources on campus to help you!"

For more information about the Base 11 Academic Year Internship and to access the online application, students may visit

Students interested in STEM fields are also encouraged to take advantage of Compton College's MESA Center.

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