This program is so much more than preparing you for college, it can provide you with a lifetime friend which I find so valuable.Kimberly Uhls, Escondido Charter High School, UC Irvine
Q: Can you tell us about your childhood and family life growing up?
My family is kind of complicated. I grew up with two of my brothers and one of my sisters. I do have more siblings than that but it’s a very disjointed family. My parents are both very loving but they had to work a lot when I was younger so they were never really involved with my school life even now, so they never knew much about my education. It’s not that my parents weren’t supportive, it’s that they didn’t have time to be. I grew up in a way that made very independent.
My mom is from the Philippines so she doesn’t really understand the American education system and my Dad didn’t got to college here so my family wasn’t really able to help me apply to college. So A Bridge for Kids was my guiding light through that whole process because I was able to take SAT prep classes, I was able to afford practice books and the registration fee. ABFK was the main program I used to prep myself for the SAT.
Q: What is one piece of advice that you would give to a current high school student applying to college?
Be open minded. A lot of times people get to college and they have a certain idea of what’s going to happen depending on their personality, but college is such a life changing experience that it’s really difficult to go in with that kind of mindset because you will be shocked at what’s ahead of you.
Q. What are you currently studying in college and do you have an idea what you’d like to do career-wise?
I’m currently studying Chemical Engineering with a focus on Energy and the Environment. I’m actually at work right now. I’m interning for the Department of Energy at the National Energy Technology Laboratory. I’ll be applying to graduate school this Fall and I’m hoping to first get my Masters in Chemical Engineering and from there, fingers crossed, get my PhD.
I’m really passionate about research, I love discovering new things. While I really value what this industry does, I just don’t see myself going into that because I value discovery and a different type of lifestyle everyday. I love studying different methods we can use that are much less harmful to the environment. At my internship I’m doing research with computational fluid dynamics, basically that’s modeling fluid flow with computers. That can be used in a lot of different processes like biofuel, nuclear power, hydraulics, etc. That’s what I’m doing research on and how it can apply to the energy sector.
Q. You said you are interested in applying to graduate school in the fall. Do you have a specific program in mind?
I’m hoping to stay on the West Coast because my family is here. My top school right now is USC because their program for green technology is really good.
Q: Are there any clubs or programs that you are involved in at UC Irvine?
I chose UC Irvine because they have a great Engineering program. Since being here, I’ve been involved with a lot of programs. I’m president of my sorority and held the position of Vice President of Public Relations last year so I’ve been on the executive board for quite some time. Since my first year, I’ve been working at the Division of Continuing Education.
Each week I meet with a group of international students where I’m essentially a conversation partner for them. I help them improve their English speaking skills. They aren’t here at UCI students, they’re here on study abroad to improve their English-speaking skills. They are either going to other universities in the U.S. or they’re trying to improve their speaking skills for international jobs. That has been a really cool experience. I also participated in a program last summer called the University of California District of Columbia where I participated in an internship in Washington D.C. and I recently studied abroad at The University of Edinburgh in Scotland.
Q: Do you have a vision of where you see yourself in 5 or 10 years?
There are two paths that I can see myself going on. I for sure want to get my Master’s and if I go through my Master’s and decide that I don’t want to get a PhD, I can see myself working in an industry towards a management position because I’ve been a leader at heart since I was a little girl. That’s how I tend to work in groups, I’m always the leader. But if I decide I do want to pursue a PhD, I would like to eventually pursue being a professor, doing research at a big university and teaching because I love working with people. I love engineering but I can’t sit behind a computer all day in an office.
Q: Is there any specific challenge that you had to overcome while in college?
Something that I still struggle with today is Imposter Syndrome, getting a position or receiving something good and wondering how I got it, thinking I’m not good enough. That has been a huge challenge because it really affects the way I do my work and the way I approach my work in college. My biggest advice for that, and it’s something I still have to tell myself is that it’s not true. You’ve been given that position or opportunity for a reason so just take it and run with it. That’s the same thing for getting accepted into a university in the first place but that mindset is toxic.
Q: Bringing it back to A Bridge for Kids, is there any aspect of the program that was most impactful to you, any memory that stands out?
The college trips were very impactful in terms of helping me apply to schools and helping me understand what that process is and what college even was. That all has greatly shaped me into the person I am today but to be honest, more than anything, my sponsor [Elayne Nance] and I stayed in contact for the past five years, and she is such an amazing friend to me, that has been very impactful. We email each other at least once a month and we send each other cards and gifts.
It’s crazy to me that that one day I was sitting in my school and my high school counselor called me out of class to tell me about this cool program and I have stayed in contact with Elayne ever since. My favorite memory from ABFK is getting to meet Elayne for the first time. I was with my mom and she came with her husband. This program is so much more than preparing you for college, it can provide you with a lifetime friend which I find so valuable. I really value human relationships and talking to people so being her friend has been one of my favorite parts of college and high school and everything.