By Troy Wilde
February 15, 2017
Phoenix, AZ – Leonor Amaya is pursuing her lifelong dream of working for NASA and learning more about the Final Frontier, Space.
Leonor explains, “I’m very interested in working for NASA and helping to design the space machinery used throughout the government’s space program. I’ve always been curious about space and I believe that we’re not the only beings in the universe, and the fact that we don’t know a lot is intriguing. What we do know is that there is a lot of black space out there that needs to be explored. The curiosity of space is driving me as an adult to become a mechanical engineer, and work for NASA.”
Leonor, age 23, was born in Palo Alto, California but was raised mostly in Phoenix where she graduated from Maryvale High School. Leonor is currently attending Glendale Community College and plans to transfer to Arizona State University, and earn a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering.
As she pursues her dream, Leonor says that her family has been a source of ongoing strength and encouragement, “I grew up in a big family. There’s eight of us and I am the youngest, and my parents have worked really had to support all of us. My parents have always been supportive of my education, and my mom would always attend my guitar concerts and support me in my schooling. They tell me every day how proud they are of me, and encourage me to keep on going and fulfill my dreams. I am so grateful, because sometimes people don’t have their parents to back them up in college, and in life.” Meanwhile, Leonor is among the hundreds of students who are part of the EXCEL program, which is a student success program developed in collaboration with the Helios Education Foundation at both Estrella Mountain and Glendale Community Colleges. College Success Arizona partners with EXCEL by providing “Success Advisers” such as Matt Sotelo who works Leonor, “I meet with Matt two or three times every semester, and I keep him up-to-date on which classes I’m taking, and he makes sure that I’m on the right path, and that those classes are going to transfer to ASU. Matt also asks about my personal life and makes sure that everything is okay, and asks how I’m handing stress, and life in general. He also keeps me informed about workshops that are happening on campus or at another location, and he’s just a great guy who has relieved a lot of stress that I’ve had.”
Before deciding on becoming a mechanical engineer, Leonor considered becoming a professional musician after being a performer in an ensemble of advanced guitar players at Maryvale High School. Leonor says the experience helped her grow, “We traveled a lot, and I made a lot of friends there, and it was a great time, and it also helped me to overcome being shy. Since we were always in groups, it taught me how to communicate with other people. That’s a great asset to have, because in engineering a lot of the work you do is going to be in groups, so communicating and having that background is super-helpful right now.”
For middle and high school students considering college, Leonor offers the following advice:
“Get involved in a college, such as joining a club or the Excel Program. There are so many things that students will miss out on if they don’t join these groups and programs. You can go on a field trip related to the career you want to pursue, and have access to a bunch of opportunities that can help you gain and grow.”
So far as the best part of college, Leonor says, “It’s the journey – the ups and downs. The semesters that I didn’t think I would be able to get through, but yet, here I am – and I’m pounding through it. The achievement at the end of college is going to be great, but for me, the best part of it is the journey.”