How One PLTW Student Constructed Her Future

Exposure to new things is powerful, especially for students. New experiences pique interests, spark ideas, and open possibilities. For Cheyla Moranchel, a recent graduate of John F. Kennedy High School in Mt. Angel, Oregon, and Gates Millennium Scholar, an experience with Habitat for Humanity ignited a passion to learn more about engineering and architecture. Read Cheyla’s interview to find out how her volunteer experiences combined with her access to PLTW helped shaped her college choice and career path.

What inspired you to take PLTW Engineering?

I was first introduced to Habitat for Humanity in the summer of 2011 when I helped my friend’s family build their house. Habitat’s mission to help low-income families own a home inspired me to be a part of their work. I am now an active member of Habitat for Humanity at my high school, and throughout the year we volunteer at the hardware store and we fund-raise.  By volunteering, I had the pleasure of meeting architects and construction workers. I engaged with them and found out that I liked their jobs. They advised me to enroll in engineering classes, and I did.

PLTW Engineering and Design and Civil Engineering and Architecture were both rigorous courses that I have taken, and 90% of the work I did was on a computer. I didn’t own a computer when I was taking these classes but my science teacher knew how intrigued I was and helped me attain access to the library whenever I needed it. Taking these classes helped me conclude that I did want a career in engineering.

What did you like about taking PLTW Engineering classes?

I took Introduction to Engineering and Design throughout the entire school year, but Civil Engineering and Architecture was only offered on the weekends. Waking up at six am on a Saturday to take a four-hour class is tough and not ideal for many high school students, but I took initiative to seek out what I might be interested. In this class, our focal point was to design a Habitat for Humanity home on Revit, a software program that we used to complete our final project. What I enjoyed about these classes was the rigor and support we had from teachers. Also, the PLTW classes focus on hands-on and real-life experience. What I liked the most about these classes was having the freedom of designing my final project.

What was different about those classes compared to your other classes?

The differences between PLTW classes are that you apply a lot of concepts to actual life and possible careers that are related to them opposed to learning from a text book. So, this makes other students intrigued into taking these classes. The activities sheet we are assigned to do for homework give the students enough information to complete it but doesn’t make it an easy straight forward answer like some text books with key concepts highlighted.  Also, before teachers step in to help, they let students try to figure it out themselves, making students think critically.

What are your plans looking ahead to the summer?

The previous summers I’ve attended summer camps that have helped me learn more about engineering and other possible career choices.  A lot of camps offer scholarships, and if you apply for them by their deadlines, you can attend the camps for free. My plans for this summer is to work on week days and volunteer at Habitat for Humanity on the weekends.  I’m also planning to review a lot of the materials I’ve learned prior to starting college.

What about next fall?

I am a senior at John F. Kennedy High School; I will attend Oregon State University in the fall of 2014 to study civil and construction engineering. I know the transition to college will not be easy, but I’ve applied myself to my studies this far and plan to do this in college as well. My parents don’t have an education, and encourage me to attain one. I am a Gates Millennium Scholar and with this opportunity given to me, I know I can fulfill my dreams. I can only encourage other students to take PLTW courses, volunteer, apply to scholarships, challenge themselves, and to remember that no dream is unattainable.