"Coming to HCC was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Here people actually wanted to get to know me. I wasn't any different than anyone else. Once I got here there wasn't any doubt that I'd continue at HCC."
Noah is a mechanical engineering major and National Science Foundation scholarship recipient from Russell. On top of that, he was selected for a prestigious winter internship at the renowned Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island, N.Y. The mini-semester internship is designed for STEM undergraduates and sponsored by the U.S. Dept. of Energy. For one week during January break, he attended lectures, interacted with faculty scientists, toured the facilities, and participated in a team research project.
Russell; born in Albuquerque, New Mexico
What do you like about engineering?
In high school I had wanted to do something with architecture and interior design. That was something that had interested me from a young age, but I don't consider myself an artistic person so that was a part of design I didn't think I'd be able to succeed in. But I also enjoyed engineering. I'm a very hands-on person. I loved building things when I was a kid so I thought maybe I could make a career, maybe I can make myself a path, out of that.
Activities and other interests:
HCC Dance Club (Dance Team), Green Key Honor Society (2015-2016); tae kwon do (black belt); music (played euphonium for six years)
Awards and honors:
Winter 2017 mini-semester internship, Brookhaven National Laboratory, Long Island, N.Y.; National Science Foundation STEM Scholarship; HCC Foundation scholarships: Marguerite Lazarz Memorial Scholarship (2015-2016); John Sullivan Memorial Scholarship (2016-2017)
Favorite course or teacher:
The first teacher that really made an impression on me was Robert Greeney. I had him for Physics I and II, and he is just one of those professors that really cares about how his students do. He's not the type of professor who is okay with you just passing. He will do whatever it takes to make sure you succeed. And also my STEM advisers - Ileana Vasu (math), Steven Winters (science) and Diane Stengle (chemistry) - have all made such an impression on me.
What classes are you taking now?
U.S. History II (Honors), Engineering with Computer Applications, Introduction to Robotics, Linear Algebra, STEM Scholars Seminar
Why did you choose HCC?
I chose HCC because the school system I was in - the teachers were fantastic, but there was a lot of racial tension there. I was one of five non-white students including my sister and then she graduated and with that I really had no one my age to look to. I had no real support network. Back in high school, in addition to being one of the only non-white students, I was also at the top of my class, so a lot of people felt threatened by that. They didn't understand how this non-white person could be at the top of a class of all white peers, so they just didn't talk to me much. They didn't really want to have anything to do with me. My guidance counselor recommended HCC's Gateway to College program, which is typically for students at risk for dropping out academically, but they decided to take me on anyway given my situation, and it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Here people actually wanted to get to know me. I wasn't any different than anyone else. After I got here there wasn't any doubt that I'd continue at HCC.
What's been your most meaningful experience at HCC?
I think my most memorable experience was going to my Introduction to Sociology during my first semester as a Gateway to College student because that was where I first felt that I fit in with everybody else. I came home that day - this is what my mom remembers - I just came home with this giant smile on my face. It was like, people actually want to hang out with me and sit with me. And it was just a major shock to me. My teacher, Tracy Ross, she was amazing. Pretty much every teacher I've had here has been amazing and supportive and very helpful.
What is your favorite thing about HCC?
People here pull their weight. They are really committed to their educations. They're not looking to get by. They're not looking to coast through life, taking the easy road.
What's the biggest challenge you've had to overcome?
Probably opening up. I'm a very reserved person. Plus, given my experience in high school, I never had the option to really be open with people, and so I think that has been one of my biggest struggles, just learning how to interact better with my peers and my teachers, but I'm learning.
What's the most important thing you've learned at HCC?
Time management. I always felt I was pretty good at time management in high school but with college classes, if you fall behind then you are behind, so finding the balance of how to get this stuff done so I'm not stressing and I still have time to enjoy life.
Why is education important to you?
To succeed you need to have an education, so I want to give myself the best possible chance in life and that really does start with my education. My family doesn't have a lot, and this is sort of my way of taking responsibility and being able to give back.
What are your plans after HCC?
I plan to go to Commonwealth Honors College at UMass-Amherst to study mechanical engineering. As far as a career goal, probably something in manufacturing. I like to really throw myself into my work, so I want to do something where I can have a direct influence on it.
Any advice for your classmates?
You're not doing this for anyone else; you're doing it for you. You should strive as far as you are capable, cause you don't want to look back and think, oh, if I had just done more, if I had just put more effort into this, maybe things would have been different.
PHOTO by CHRIS YURKO: Noah Paradis-Burnett