You never know where inspiration will strike.

As Alondra Arciga was getting ready to graduate from Curie High School, she started applying to four-year universities with the goal of majoring in business. While she researched programs, she stumbled across a description for an engineering major, which made her recall a engineering project she worked on for a national science competition she participated in in middle school, and how much she had enjoyed it. Deciding to switch up her search, Alondra learned that the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) had an excellent engineering program. After talking with the admissions office, however, she also learned that her ACT scores were not high enough to be considered for admission.

Not deterred, Alondra started researching other engineering programs and found the engineering pathway at Wright College. She also qualified for the Star Scholarship, which would pay for her tuition and books while she completed her associate degree. She applied to the program the day before the deadline and was accepted. It seemed like this was meant to be, so she commuted to Wright College from her home on the south side of Chicago.

Alondra was busy during her time at Wright. At first, she struggled with math, physics, and chemistry. Her teachers in those subjects helped her after class, during office hours, and even when she was no longer in their classes. She also made a point of hitting the Tutoring Center as often as she needed. She found time to get involved on campus as a part of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, by helping to found a chapter of the Society of Hispanic Engineers, and helping to found the Society of Women Engineers.

Being a part of the Engineering Pathway at Wright brought other opportunities. An undergraduate research program at Princeton University, for example, came to talk to students about a summer opportunity for high achieving students. When she first heard about it, Alondra thought there was no way she would be accepted and decided not to apply. The next year, with encouragement from classmates and Dr. Espiritu, who heads up the Engineering Pathway, she gave it a shot. Her effort paid off – Alondra will spend this summer at Princeton and next summer in the Czech Republic working on a physics research project.

Looking back on her time at Wright, Alondra wanted to thank Dr. Espiritu, saying “Dr. Espiritu made it happen for me. Without her guidance and her connections, I wouldn’t have had any of these opportunities. She helped me grow mentally and academically. She’s made a huge impact in my life.”

And at the end of her journey at City Colleges, Alondra will end up right where she originally wanted to go. Wright College’s Engineering Pathway also has a component that guarantees admissions to UIUC’s engineering program – and that is exactly where Alondra is headed in the fall, with a full scholarship that will cover her room and board. She won’t be alone as she starts classes – her younger brother will join her as a freshman.

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