From the age of 9, Alejandro Sanchez knew he wanted to be an aerospace engineer when he grew up. The Costa Rican immigrant who came to the United States in second grade, now is a Freedom High School senior, and a Rensselaer Medal winner who has vowed that nothing will stop him from attaining his goal.
"I really want to build something NASA-related," Sanchez said.
Sanchez has long known that if he wants to attain his goal he will have to work hard. So far he has shown that he can do just about anything that has been presented to him. Since his freshman year at Freedom he has taken an active interest in several different clubs and taken on leadership positions in many of them.
He is an active member of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program, he is the vice president of the German Club, vice president of the Ping Pong Club, treasurer of the Aerospace, Engineering and Robotics Club and treasurer of the Professional Human Development.
He is also a member of the National Honor Society and the California Scholarship Federation. Last year the school's career counselor, Nancy Yarbrough, encouraged Sanchez to apply for the Rensselaer Medal, a prestigious scholarship opportunity that is only open to one student per school.
The Rensselaer Medal is a $15,000 a year and up to $60,000 overall scholarship to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y.
While the award is a great opportunity to help pay for part of Sanchez's college, Yarbrough said that it also recognizes the student's outstanding academic achievement in science, engineering and technology.
"Alejandro is just such a go-getter," Yarbrough said.
Sanchez said that he isn't sure if he wants to attend Rensselaer, which is located in Troy, N.Y., and offers an impressive aerospace program. He has also been offered an interview with Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), another prestigious college in his field of interest.
"I really want to go to Stanford," he said and is hoping to receive an offer from that university before the end of the school year.
Last year Sanchez went to Florida, where his uncle lives, and was able to work with NASA building small rockets on his two-week break.
In his spare time, when he isn't playing varsity tennis and being involved with the Immaculate Heart of Mary's youth group, Sanchez volunteers with the Patriot Jet Team at the Byron Airport. He is spending his time learning about jet engines and helping to fix them when he can.
"I really like doing mechanic-type work," Sanchez said.