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Frances Rivera-Diaz

DATE: Tuesday, November 17, 2015

"The experience here is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It's tiring, yes, and I'm still struggling to get used to it because it is so completely different from what I was doing before."

Frances Rivera-Diaz

Less than two years ago, Frances was preparing to take her high school equivalency test through HCC's Adult Learning Center. Today she is a STEM scholarship recipient at HCC. 

Age:
30

Hometown:    
Springfield

Major:
Engineering

Activities/Employment:
STRIVE; STEM Club; manager, Spencer's Gifts (40-45 hours a week)

Favorite course & teacher:
I like Professor Onu for chemistry. He's very funny. He makes the labs simple so you can understand what you're doing. 

What classes are you taking this semester?
Chemistry, algebra, English composition, STEM seminar

What brought you to HCC?
I started out at HCC's Adult Learning Center at PAFEC (Picknelly Adult & Family Education Center) in Holyoke after I found out I couldn't be hired for a management job I wanted because I didn't have my GED. As soon as I finished my HiSET (high school equivalency test), I went straight to TCC (Transition to College and Careers). Last summer I took the free STEM Foundations course on campus. Then I applied for the National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship and got it. Now I'm an HCC STEM scholar. The experience here is the best thing that has ever happened to me. It's tiring yes and I'm still struggling to get used to it because it is completely different from what I was doing before.

What's been your most meaningful experience at HCC?
At PAFEC, I took a science class with Zizi Ansell and we took a lot of trips to Smith College and learned what it's like to be an engineer. We did a lot of labs. We saw cells – cancer cells, plant cells. We did a few projects. We watched student working under the vent hoods in the lab. It was so cool. I fell in love with that.  

What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome at HCC?
I think it was the HiSET. I didn't think I would ever need anything like that. I didn't think I needed education. I thought I knew what there is to be known. I thought, in my mind, the way we live is, you have a job, you keep the job, you work really hard, you provide and that's it. It doesn't really matter what job you have. You want flashy things, you get a bigger job. But, no, that's not how it works at all. I remember seeing the email about the HiSET results. I got them on my birthday, July 6, 2014. It was the best present I've ever received. I was so happy.     

What is your favorite thing about HCC?
The connections. I've never really connected with people in a way that I have here. I feel like I can let my guard down and trust myself with people. They've helped me a lot. 

What's the most important thing you've learned at HCC? 
Don't be afraid to ask for help. I used to have so much pride. I'm the person that would be lost and not ask for directions. I've learned to use the help that the school has. I've got a learning coach and I use the Writing Center and Math Center a lot. 

What are your plans after HCC?
I'd like to study mechanical engineering, maybe at UMass or Western New England. Ultimately I want to work with solar panels or maybe in robotics.