Aztec overcomes obstacles, receives outstanding honor

Aztec overcomes obstacles, receives outstanding honor

by Thane Hale, Contributor

Mechanical engineering senior Sergio Juarez recently won the California State University Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement at San Diego State.

This award is in contrast to his humble beginnings in his hometown of Stockton.

“It is definitely a rough town,” Juarez said. “When you are a kid, you see that a lot of kids are lost.”

He referred to “Mexican Monday” and “White Wednesday” at his old high school, on which members of those particular ethnicities going to the bathroom would be beaten up.

“I was very, very afraid to use the bathroom,” he said.

According to him, for some of his peers, the problems don’t stop in high school.

“Going back as an adult, you go to see your friends kind of just laying around,” Juarez said. “It’s kind of depressing.”

Juarez had to work hard to overcome these obstacles. After high school he went to the local community college, San Joaquin Delta College, which he described with great affection.

“I really, really enjoyed my time at the community college. My director, she was like my mom,” Juarez said. “I’ve always had someone guiding me. The words of my mentors carry a lot of weight in my world.”

The CSU Trustees awards are given to 23 students throughout the CSU system. Each student receives a named scholarship. Juarez received the TELACU Scholar Recognition for Outstanding Achievement.

According to the CSU website, financial circumstances, academic records, service to community and personal accomplishments are factors that go into deciding who gets these awards.

Juarez excels at engineering and academics. He has interned at the Idaho National Laboratory, which works on issues relating to energy, national security and the environment, is an active member of SDSU’s Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement Program. He also works at SDSU’s Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering where he works on prosthetics and other health devices for people with disabilities.

Juarez is passionate when speaking on social justice issues.

“I feel really strongly about gentrification,” he said. “I understand being displaced.”

For this reason, he is active in the Save Our Barrios Coalition through his membership in Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan. He also participates in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers and Latinos in Engineering and Science. The strong presence of these organizations at SDSU, he explains, is one of the main reasons he chose the school.

Juarez discussed how he thinks it’s necessary to make a contribution to the world outside of SDSU. After he graduates, he hopes to have an even greater impact on the world, even if he doesn’t yet know how this will happen.

“I thought I wanted to make my contribution through technical input,” Juarez said. “Lately, though, I think I want to contribute through economic forces. I might be overly optimistic, but I kind of like everything.”

On a more definite note, he is interested in being an entrepreneur.

“I’m leaning away from the corporate-ocracy,” he said. “I’m looking into starting my own business, either with electric cars or the energy auditing and retrofitting of homes. I am really interested in being able to form the culture around me. It’s even more important than the work, sometimes.”

He explained his activism and his interest in political science has given him the managerial skills he will need. Meanwhile, his degree has provided him with the technical expertise. He hopes that he can do good work while also being a positive force in other peoples’ lives. The 2014 CSU Trustees’ Award is sure to help him with those goals.