Regina Washington is a non-traditional student who enrolled at Compton College with the goal of obtaining a degree in geology and a minor in computer science. She envisions adding value to her life and the lives of others by conducting environmental research and finding solutions that make a significant impact on society.
“I have been on an educational journey for many years and continuing my education is definitely a personal choice that has impacted my life greatly,” said Washington. I believe in personal growth, and it is always good to have a backup plan because we never know the different changes life will present to us.” Washington is currently working full time as a cosmetologist/image consultant and has been a business owner for many years.
Compton College’s STEM Center has become Washington’s “home away from home” as the geology major from Los Angeles prepares to graduate with an associate degree next year and continue her studies at a four-year university. She is considering a career in environmental conservation and protection.
The study of geology examines one of the most important issues in society today, including energy sources and sustainability, climate change, the impacts of developments on the environment, water management, mineral resources, and natural hazards. Geology is also unique in that it integrates the study of many science disciplines including physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and astronomy.
One aspect of her studies that was new to Washington was adding the use of technology and computer science to her skill set. She attended a “Make It Happen” workshop hosted by the STEM Center that introduced her to a whole new world of technology. The “Make It Happen” workshops are designed to expose students to computer science and mechanical engineering. Students learn basic principles of coding and how to engineer/build a project such as data loggers, robotic arms, or a remote-controlled car. Students collaborate in teams to get hands-on engineering experience using an open-source Arduino software/hardware kit. Arduino consists of both a physical and programmable circuit board and computer software used to write and upload code to the physical board. “Our team learned to use the Arduino kit, breadboard, and sensors,” said Washington. “I had never worked with a breadboard and didn’t know how the breadboard made the sensors work. We learned coding and programmed the sensors to read the environmental changes. Without coding technology to make the connection between the Arduino board, the sensors, and the breadboard, there would be no communication to gain data.”
Washington has had a few personal setbacks during her studies but says that Compton College has been there for her and offers many resources to help students stay on track. She struggled at times to balance home life, working full time, and attending college part-time. “The COVID-19 pandemic has presented my family with many challenges, but happily God has provided a way to help my family continue to thrive,” Washington said. “Times have changed dramatically. Independent business owners don’t want to turn down business, which might mean working extended hours in some cases.”
An evening Apple Swift coding course proved to be difficult for Washington while working full time. She will need to repeat the course but is not deterred because she can receive tutoring, counseling, and guidance through the Compton College STEM Center and from her professors. Washington says she has received support that went above and beyond the norm from her professors that has proven to be invaluable. “I love Compton College because the professors cater to the individual students,” she said. “My calculus, physics, and computer science professors explained in laymen’s terms which made it easy to grasp the concepts and understand the material. They want you to be able to absorb and learn the material. The professors at Compton College are superstars in my eyes.”
She takes advantage of all the programs offered at Compton College related to her major and she finds out about most from the STEM Center, where she was also introduced to a program called Pathways to Computing for Women of Color. The goal of the program is to expose women of color to computer technology and help with any student needs related to obtaining a bachelor’s degree in computing. Support provided through the program includes mentorships, funding and stipends, academic workshops, and more.
In addition to taking Apple Swift coding classes at Compton College, Washington was recently invited to attend a Python coding mini bootcamp at the University of California, Irvine. The Pathways to Computing for Women of Color program offered Washington the opportunity to participate in Python coding and a one-on-one Q&A with a mentor in the industry. Another highlight was attending the annual Grace Hopper Celebration last fall, an event that brings the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront and highlights the contributions of women in the tech world. “Introductions to all of these programs and organizations provide a pathway to learn more about your field of interest, get some hands-on experience, learn from those who are doing what you want to do, and provide valuable networking opportunities,” Washington said.
Washington is currently researching four-year universities and would like to transfer to a university that is known for its environmental science degree program. “I’m excited about my future career where I can help find solutions to some of the challenges we have in the world,” she said.