How I Learn by Doing

De Ir Hacia Adelante

One student finds his purpose introducing high schoolers from a Central Valley community to the marine sciences.

Andres Rocha Jayasinha
Andres Rocha Jayasinha

By Andres Rocha Jayasinha, second-year mathematics student. Photos by Joe Johnson.

Lindsay, California.

It’s probably not a place you’ve heard about. I was surprised that I didn’t know anything about it even though I have lived in California my entire life.

But when I started learning about Lindsay, three facts told me everything I needed to know. First, the town’s population is smaller than the student population here at Cal Poly. Second, it is home to students with incredible ability across a variety of disciplines. Third, and most importantly, these students have a calling: “de ir hacia adelante.”

Students explore touch tanks

Mustangs introduce Lindsay Learners to local sea animals like urchin and sea stars in touch tanks on the Cal Poly Pier in May.

This term holds a lot of significance. The literal English translation is simply “to move forward.” But in Spanish, we typically use the phrase to refer not only to ourselves moving forward, but our families and communities moving forward as well.

My job as an ambassador for the Marine Science program embodies this calling in every aspect.

Three Cal Poly Marine Science Ambassadors

Jayasinha and his fellow marine science ambassadors: Shefali Venkatramani (left) and Crystal Castillo (center).

I helped Cal Poly welcome dozens of students from Lindsay High School, called “Lindsay Learners,” to our campus, the Cal Poly Pier and our research labs. In total, I helped plan and facilitate five tours and two summer camps in April, May and June, hosting more than 100 learners, some of whom had never seen the ocean before.

By giving students opportunities to learn about Cal Poly and its Marine Science programs with the team of great people I work with, I hoped to show them that pursuing higher education at Cal Poly can open many doors. I come from a very similar community as the students from Lindsay High School, so there is nothing more fulfilling than this.

Every interaction we have with the students and people from Lindsay has been an opportunity for us to make a positive impact on their community. We build connections with students in many different moments, including touching a sea creature for the first time, using scientific methods to explore a tide pool, seeing otters and seals in their natural habitat, going behind the scenes at our research labs, or helping students settle into living in the dorms during summer camp. With every group, our two goals are to expand on educational opportunities and to build a meaningful bond with the students.

Personally, I feel the best connections I have built with students stem from our shared backgrounds and my understanding of the difficulties they face in and outside the classroom.

This experience has made it clear to me that my purpose is to be an advocate.

Students explore Cayucos tide pools

Professor Nikki Adams (right) explores a tide pool in Cayucos, California, during a summer camp for Lindsay High School students in June

We also connect with parents and faculty from Lindsay High. Our programs are in the best interest of students, and being a presence to the people who are with these students the most is an integral part of what we do. Seeing young college students like us inspires, reinforces and reminds them that their students’ futures will be a reflection of what is being done for them today.

Being a part of programs and activities like this reminds me of the places I come from and what wasn’t accessible to the peers I grew up with. In the back of my mind, I know I am one of the lucky ones to be where I am today. This experience has made it clear to me that my purpose is to be an advocate for students like the ones from Lindsay High School and those I grew up with.

What we have accomplished thus far is amazing, but even more amazing is what we can accomplish by following the calling “de ir hacia adelante” and moving us all forward.

Read more about the partnership that made the Lindsay Learner tours and camps possible at Cal Poly News.