Following her graduation from Sequoia High School, Lisa Torres learned that she had not been accepted to her first two college choices – UC Berkeley and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. But after spending three years studying mechanical engineering at Cañada College, the San Carlos resident learned she will be accepted to Cal this fall.
“Community college can really make a difference and if you are an engineering, math, or science major, Cañada is the place to study,” said Torres. “The school was instrumental in helping me get admitted to Berkeley. I was also admitted to Cal Poly so Cañada gave me a second chance to attend my top two universities that I didn’t get into after high school.”
Torres was an excellent high school student who excelled in math and science classes and was accepted to UC Santa Cruz, CSU Northridge and San Diego State. Unfortunately, her parents could not afford to help pay her tuition and the cost to leave the area to attend college was prohibitive.
That’s when she heard Cañada College Professor Amelito Enriquez speak in one of her high school classes about the opportunities for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) students at community colleges. “As soon as I heard Dr. E speak, I knew Cañada was a good fit for me. I attended the Summer Engineering Institute at San Francisco State University through Cañada and I received a scholarship. That made it even easier to decide to attend Cañada.”
Torres said the atmosphere at Cañada is centered on learning which has helped her succeed academically. “Students here have amazing access to the Learning Center, library, tutoring and their professors. They are given the tools to succeed both in and out of the classroom and they want to transfer to good universities. That culture is motivating.”
As an active member of the Women in Science and Engineering (WISE) and Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) clubs at Cañada, Torres has attended national conferences. “All of my conference costs were paid for and I was exposed to opportunities I couldn’t get in a classroom,” she said.
As a member of Cañada’s MESA (Mathematics, Engineering, Science, Achievement) Program, Torres was eligible for conference reimbursement. MESA Coordinator Cathy Lipe called Torres a model student. “She has always been a joy to be around and she really loves learning,” Lipe said. “Lisa truly represents the type of student we have in MESA at Cañada.”
Her exposure to academic subjects outside of math, science, and engineering helped Torres determine her future career goal. “When I came to Cañada, computer engineering was my first love,” she said. “But then I took a history course from Professor (Michael) Stanford and he talked about the modernization of the Western World and the use of natural resources, especially coal, and how it hurt the environment. I wrote a research paper on the topic and it angered me and that’s when I decided to switch my major to mechanical engineering and focus on renewable energy. We can capture so much clean energy from other sources, especially the sun.”