The student at graduation in her cap and gown.

Nancy Aguilera

Adaptive Optics Technician, National Eye Institute (NEI)
University of Rochester, '18
Optical Engineering, BS

As a first-generation Latina in Optical Engineering, being part of the STEM-Gem program was crucial to my success. As part of the program I had a Hajim advisor that helped me academically in challenging times, in particular my junior year which I considered to be the most difficult time. I was mentored on how to strategically go about my classes to make sure I did well in them. Furthermore, I was advised in internships and the importance of networking in my field. Thanks to this program, I am the first person in my family to go to college and obtain a degree in Optical Engineering. I encourage students that need that extra push to take advantage of STEM-Gem.

The student in front of a lectern giving a speech.

Kharimat Lora Alatise

University of Rochester
Biomedical Engineering, BS (anticipated in 2019)

I am glad that I have the support of staff in the Hajim Dean's Office. In July 2015, I had the pleasure of meeting Nick Valentino through the Early Connection Opportunity Program where he became an advisor and mentor to me. I was nervous majoring in Biomedical Engineering. I did not have the same background and experience my peers did. Being a first generation student, I was not aware of all of the struggles and hardships that I was going to face. With Nick's support, I have gained tremendous confidence in myself and my capabilities. With STEM-Gems I learned skills that allowed me to navigate through college seamlessly. From connecting with professors, getting tutoring, being active in the National Society of Black Engineers, and performing research, I can honestly say that I could not have done all of this without the guidance that I received. Now that I am almost finished, I can honestly say that I have not only met my goals but I exceeded them. I can attribute a large part of my success to the support that I have received through this office. I am proud to be graduating with a degree in Biomedical Engineering. I am also proud to be pursuing a doctoral degree in the same area. I never thought I could do it, but I did. Thank you STEM-Gems!

The student with an academic counselor.

Abner Aquino

Software Engineer, JP Morgan Chase & Co
University of Rochester, '16 '17
Electrical and Computer Engineering, BS
Technical Entrepreneurship and Management (TEAM), MS

It is safe to say I would have struggled significantly more without the help of the Stem Gems program. Entering the University of Rochester as an ECE major and a first generation student I wasn’t necessarily sure what to expect. The STEM-Gem program provided guidance as well as a comfortable atmosphere with other aspiring engineers who looked liked me and shared similar interest. The program itself stands as a support and reminder that early struggles do not define your outcome, resiliency and determination do.

The student posing in her cap and gown.

Gina Bolaños

Leadership Technical Development Program, Caterpillar Inc.
University of Rochester, '18
Mechanical Engineering, BS

Being the first in my family to go to college, I never would've thought that my education would lead me to various opportunities. Thanks to STEM-Gems, I was introduced to the various resources the University of Rochester had to offer. I had the honor to get mentorship and advice from amazing faculty and staff that led me to never give up on my dream to become an engineer. I am grateful that the STEM-gems program exists because I got the support and some of my best friends out of it!