By Koryama Arevalo and Eduardo Avila
Last Friday, the Manual Arts MESA program was named Program of the Year at the year-end banquet held at the USC Galen Center. This yearly banquet is intended to celebrate the achievements of MESA students attending the high schools served by USC’s Viterbi School of Engineering.
“This is quite an honor for the MESA students involved in this program,” said advisor John Santos. “With L.A.’s Promise deciding to reassign most of the teachers involved in supporting this program, the students had to step up and take on most of the duties that used to be assigned to volunteer teachers….With the help of our mentors, we were able to make up some of the hours dedicated by our teachers, our MESA students stepped up and did the rest.”
“A large part is due to the dedication of our advisor,” said senior Korayma Arevalo. “Mr. Santos promised us he would not let the politics of the school influence the integrity of our program. He worked extremely long hours to make up for the lack of teacher support. When the school administration misplaced our funds, he went and found them and got them back for us.”
“We had plenty of obstacles to overcome this year,” said junior Eduardo Avila. “We had to learn how to purchase our materials, talk to vendors, set up our calendars and schedule our mentors so that we could use their time most efficiently. Some of our teachers who used to work with us were still willing to offer us some support and assisted us in preparation for the SAT test.”
This year the “Robo-skunks,” as they prefer to be called, hosted 54 teams at the JPL Invention Challenge Regional, supported two FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC) robotics teams at nearby schools, supported four local and two international FIRST Robotics Challenge (FRC) robotics teams, held four robotics workshops, made presentations promoting STEM education at seven sites including UC Riverside, LAUSD Linked Learning Symposium; and finished as a semi-finalist in the Las Vegas FTC Robotics Championship and a quarter-finalist in the Los Angeles FRC Regionals. They also competed in Pre-MESA Day, TEAMS National Engineering Exam, and Zerorobotics “Satellite Capture Challenge,” where they finished 8th in the world.
“Last year, in a Los Angeles Times article, the former CEO of L.A.’s Promise called this program marginal. These students were out to prove that L.A.’s Promise and its executive board of outsiders, have no clue as to what students of this community are capable of with the support of their caring teachers and mentors,” said Santos.
“They can’t see us as marginal any more,” said senior Sabas Garcia.
All Manual Arts MESA senior team members will be attending a university next year, including one Gate Millennium Scholar.