WATSONVILLE—Every Monday at lunchtime, a group of Watsonville High School students file into a small classroom on the edge of campus to talk math, engineering and science.
M.E.S.A. (Math, Engineering, Science Achievement) is a California program which aims to prepare and inspire students—particularly those in underrepresented groups—for careers in these subjects. Schools across the state take part, organized by nearby universities.
“It takes real dedication on these kids’ part,” said Watsonville High School (WHS) M.E.S.A. advisor Carlos Patino. “They self-select to be here.”
Last Saturday, these students, along with a group from Alianza Charter and other local schools, took part in M.E.S.A.’s regional championships at Google’s campus in Sunnyvale. One of the main events was a bridge-building competition. Alianza won first place in its division and WHS placed second in its division.
The students also were given opportunities to talk with Google employees, take a virtual tour of the campus and more.
“They had a blast,” Patino said of WHS representatives Perla Lutsre, Angel Garcia and Brooke Moreno.
The M.E.S.A. program at WHS has been active for about 30 years. Patino has been the advisor for nine years, and said that his mother had been the advisor for 20 years before him.
That type of legacy is not uncommon within the M.E.S.A. community at WHS.
“Many students here have have older siblings who were members” Patino said. “Some have young sisters and brothers who are planning to join. It’s really been a family affair.”
Saturday’s championship saw the WHS team earn second place after their bridge held 226 pounds of weight.
“We were really nervous,” admitted Moreno, a junior at WHS. “There were so many people, and it was nerve-racking at first because we heard all of these kids, even some middle schoolers sounding really intellectual. But then we were like, ‘We got this!’ and it ended up going really well.”
Moreno added that she was glad she built the bridge with a team, as some people select to enter the competition individually.
“It was better that we all got to share the experience together,” she said.
WHS and Alianza’s M.E.S.A. teams are headquartered at UC Santa Cruz, along with other schools across the county and the Salinas Valley. Patino explained that despite things tending to slow down after the championship, they try to continue offering activities. So far this year, the group has gone on a field trips to UC Davis, participated in technology software trainings and even attended stargazing events.
Funding is still tight, however, and Patino said they are always looking for ways to fundraise.
“We do have a lot of help,” Patino said, citing in particular former WHS athletic director Brad Hubbard as a longtime supporter. “I’m glad that people recognize the importance of this program in our community.”
To learn more about and donate to Watsonville M.E.S.A. visit https://sites.google.com/pvusd.net/whsmesaclub.
Editor's Note: This article will publish in the April 19 edition of the Register-Pajaronian.