Here at Saturday Academy, we have just wrapped up our 2018 Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering (ASE) Symposium. At the end of the summer we reflect on our experiences, ASE interns and Saturday Academy staff alike. This blog post from 2017 ASE intern Kaylee Vasquez recollects her summer one year ago at the Portland VA Medical Center, and helped us think about the big picture after a summer of successful ASE internships.
Hello my name is Kaylee Vasquez, I am currently a junior at Woodburn High School and I participated in the Saturday Academy Apprenticeships in Science & Engineering (ASE) program. I found out about the internships through Susan Shugerman on a field trip with the On Track OHSU program. We were learning about colleges and what we could do in the medical field and I recall her saying she attended Brown University which made me want to learn how she got in. She began to tell me her experience and after, she said that a Hispanic female like me was more likely to get admitted than someone like her, and for a moment those words felt so real, it felt like I could actually have a possibility but I was still sort of stuck on the idea that a person like me wouldn’t be capable of such. Towards the end of the session she gave me information about the internships with Saturday Academy and said that she didn’t know when the deadline was and so we decided to check and saw that it was in a week. Realizing that the deadline was just a week away I really contemplated on whether to apply or not because there were so many things that I had to take into consideration. For example, are my parents going to be able to drive me to Portland every single day? And more importantly, was I going to be intellectually capable of accomplishing the internship if I was to get one? Clearly I decided to apply, and thanks to my amazing teachers, I was able to have my letters of recommendation done in less than a week along with all of the application.
A few weeks later and I got an email for an interview. I remember it was 10pm when I got it, and it was the most amazing feeling. Another couple of weeks later I found out I got the internship and it made me so delighted, but I knew it wouldn’t be easy. I hadn’t ever been exposed to a challenge or environment like that since I come from a family that didn’t get much of an education.
While being at the VA I learned about circadian gene disruption and the effects it had on alcohol drinking but I was also able to learn so much more, from science and the medical field to people’s different cultures and lives. I did data collecting and analyzing but also got to do the experiments with the mice alongside some of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met. Many times I was explained things that I never would’ve thought about, but the people in my lab took the time to make sure that I understood everything that I had to. They also went, and still go the extra mile to check in and see how I’m doing and if I need help with anything. The Symposium was also a great experience to get to present my work in a proper manner.
Overall, the internship was life changing for me. I came to the internship thinking that a person like me who was Hispanic, considered a minority, whose parents hadn’t gotten much of an education wouldn’t be able to do much, but after the internship that definitely changed. Having a mentor like Angela Ozburn was truly empowering. By giving me the opportunity to work in her lab I was able to realize that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind to regardless of my circumstances; as long as I was passionate about it I could accomplish it. For this experience I will always be grateful to my mentor Angela Ozburn and Saturday Academy for making it possible.