For Alejandro Mundo the reality of immigrating to California from Mexico at the age of 12 could not have been farther from the idyllic American Dream he had conjured up during his childhood. His family settled in Hesperia for a short while where he began middle school and suffered from culture shock, language barriers and puberty, agonizing in his displacement and alienation.
High school was a turning point for Mundo when he decided to use his negative experiences to propel him forward toward academic success. He focused his energies on advanced placement and honor classes, AVID, and was involved in academic and extracurricular activities. Within three years of moving to the U.S. Mundo was receiving accolades for his academic achievements.
Mundo attributes his success to the immense support he received from his family, and the continuous motivation from his teachers at Hesperia High.
He went on to earn his bachelor’s degree in Geological Sciences from Cal Poly Pomona last year, with a minor in Science, Technology and Society, cultivating his passion and fascination for earth sciences. It was during this time that he tutored students and acted as a teaching assistant that he discovered his love of teaching.
“My focus changed when I decided to not only be a geologist, but to dedicate my knowledge, experiences and time to inspire and educate the following generations about the geosciences,” he said. “When I communicate and teach science, it becomes a fascinating journey, and I became captivated in education after discovering that my call was about teaching students about Planet Earth.”
In June he began his master’s degree (MAT) at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City; he is only one of 15 students nationwide accepted. The 15-week program is unique in that not only will he have earned his degree, but he will also be certificated as a teacher.
“When I received the acceptance letter I was amazed and couldn’t believe it right away,” Mundo said. “I never imagined I could go this far in my life, and the fact of being accepted to this graduate program is one of the best things that has happened in my life.”
There were some reservations. Mundo had never left his family for such a long period of time, and he would be leaving everything familiar behind and beginning anew in an intimidating city. But he knew it was an opportunity he could not afford to pass up.
“I’m hoping that during the MAT Program I will gain as much knowledge and many skills that will prepare me and enable me to develop further scientific research at a graduate level,” he said. “In addition, I’m also hoping that I will acquire the knowledge and skills to efficiently teach geosciences in high-needs secondary schools.”
According to Mundo his minor degree will be an advantage in the classroom.
“I have acquired knowledge about how to connect society with science through the effective use of technology. I have understood the relationship of science in today’s society, and have received particular guidance when linking both,” he explained. “This is a great advantage as a future science teacher, because I’ll be able to interact with students from different backgrounds and teach them remarkable lessons about science through high-quality technology.”
During this past year he presented his research thesis in California, Baltimore, Minneapolis, Washington D.C., New Orleans and Montreal, Canada courtesy of travel grants.