"My parents gave up so much to get my siblings and me to where we are today. This piece of my success will also be a part of their success."
As a first-generation student and the proud daughter of Peruvian immigrant parents, Alejandra Zavaleta carries her heritage and passion for learning both on and off campus. Over the course of eight months, Zavaleta completed an internship with Jacobs in San Antonio, where she served as a roadway civil engineer intern. During this time, she was able to learn what a roadway civil engineer did on a day-to-day basis and apply the knowledge she gained from her classes and professors to her projects.
Zavaleta was inspired by her uncle in Peru, who has always been passionate about his career in civil engineering. From a young age, her uncle exposed her to the field and showed her how she could help her civic community by serving as a civil engineer.
After graduation, Zavaleta plans to return to San Antonio, TX, to take a full-time position at Jacobs. During her time at OU, Zavaleta has participated in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), Dean’s Leadership Council, Latinos without Borders, and more. She joined these organizations because they had the common goal of helping underrepresented students succeed at OU.
With graduation and life in San Antonio only a few months away, Zavaleta is fulfilling not only a life goal for herself but for her parents as well.
“My parents instilled within my older siblings and me that getting an education is imperative to succeed,” Zavaleta said. “Everyone has their own definition of success, and mine has consisted of going to college and completing an undergraduate degree in civil engineering. As any other first-generation college student, I think I am most excited to make my family proud. My parents gave up so much to get my siblings and me to where we are today. This piece of my success will also be a part of their success.”
"My parents moved to the U.S. to provide my brothers and I opportunities that would not be possible back home. Knowing all the struggles they went through to get to where we are today motivates me even more to better myself and give back to other students that are going through the same situation."
José E. Flores, a DACA student who grew up in southside Oklahoma City, not only strives to be a mechanical engineer, but also a mentor and inspiration for Hispanic youth. From June 2021 to the middle of August 2021, Flores participated in an internship with Duit Holdings, Inc., an Edmond-based company that specializes in fast, innovative, and safe infrastructure contracting.
During his internship, Flores saw what happened after engineers complete their jobs. He worked hands-on in the company’s mechanic shop, learned the technical side of engineering, and applied knowledge he gained from his professors when working on engines, air systems, and pneumatic systems in vehicles.
Flores’ passion for engineering comes from the cartoon, “The Jetsons.” The show featured flying cars, and a young Flores was inspired to design a similar invention when he grew up. In middle school, Flores discovered aerospace engineering, and later switched to mechanical engineering to gain more opportunities in the engineering field.
As an OU student, Flores serves as the community service chair for the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE), a member of the Hispanic American Student Association, and the secretary, Sergeant at Arms, and community service chair for the Omega Delta Phi Fraternity Inc. He believes it is important to not only earn a degree but also make lifelong connections and friends while on campus.
After graduation, Flores is looking forward to finding a good job that can pay for a long, well-deserved vacation for his parents.
“My parents moved to the U.S. to provide my brothers and I opportunities that would not be possible back home,” Flores said. “It is my responsibility to make sure their sacrifice does not go to waste. Knowing all the struggles they went through to get to where we are today motivates me even more to better myself and give back to other students that are going through the same situation.”
"The journey can be challenging, but it’s because of the people that came before me that I can be where I am today."
Alberto Alonso-Sandoval is a first-generation middle school, high school, and college student who aims to help pave the way for future first-generation students that come from low-income or marginalized communities. In June 2021, Alonso-Sandoval embarked on a 9-week internship at Goldman Sachs, where he worked under the Global Markets Division. Before Alonso-Sandoval applied, he didn’t know what work an engineering major could accomplish at the company. He quickly found the ideal opportunity with a team of eight individuals who focused on corporate loans.
Goldman Sachs is one of the top investment banking firms in the world with locations in nearly every continent, $1 trillion+ in assets, and a strong networking culture that allowed Alonso-Sandoval to meet with anyone in the firm. During his internship, he met with senior executives, vice presidents, analysts, and interns. These interactions helped him realize how humanity drives business and innovation forward.
Alonso-Sandoval made the decision to go to college and attend the University of Oklahoma after his middle school teacher organized a campus tour. From the school bus, Alonso-Sandoval took in Boyd Street and knew that OU was a place of knowledge, opportunity, and growth. Now as a senior and campus leader, Alonso-Sandoval is involved in three organizations: the Society of Professional Hispanic Engineers (SHPE), the Jeremy Holmes Leadership, and OU’s Colony of Phi lota Alpha—a Latino fraternity he co-founded his sophomore year.
“The journey can be challenging, but it’s because of the people that came before me that I can be where I am today,” Alonso-Sandoval said. “I hope to serve as that role model through my different involvements and relationships to others so that they can also do the same.”
After graduation, Alonso-Sandoval plans to work with a company like Goldman Sachs for his early professional career, but right now, he is focusing on making the most out of his senior year.