If you give a kid a 3D printer he will want to be a NASA engineer

Immigrant student went from failing to class valedictorian

Bryan Rosello Lizardo went from struggling student to valedictorian

A brand new 3D printer sat inside a closet at Wyoming High School. During the fall of his junior year, Bryan Rosello Lizardo noticed it, realizing the possibilities being lost by keeping it in storage.

“I said, ‘No way! I’m involved in Science Olympiad and robotics and this would be so helpful, just for experience and for the events themselves,’” said Bryan, now a graduating senior.

He inquired about the printer and was told if he wanted to use it, he would have to learn to do so on his own. “I happened to appreciate that challenge,” he said with a grin.

Bryan pored over a book about the printer and its potential to create items with countless applications. “I read it in like two days because I was so interested,” he said.

From there, he started a 3D Printing Club, training students at the high school and Wyoming Junior High, as well as the Science Olympiad team adviser, to use the machine. Bryan’s designs, including a claw robotic arm and components of a Rube Goldberg-style machine, helped the team place in competitions.

‘I knew I had to study to support my family.’ — Bryan Rosello Lizardo

Bryan graduated Tuesday, May 22 with a stack of Advanced Placement and Middle College credits. He is headed to the University of Michigan in the fall with enough scholarships and financial aid to cover his tuition in full. He plans to major in aerospace engineering and hopes to eventually land an internship at NASA.

“I want to help with the designing and prototyping of more efficient spacecrafts,” he said.

But just a few years ago, Bryan himself may not have predicted his potential.

“I went from failing all my classes to being the Wyoming High School valedictorian of 2018,”  he said. His GPA is 4.17.

(Courtesy Photo) Bryan Rosello Lizardo said helping his mother, Mildred Lizardo, is his main motivation

Shy Learner Needed Motivation

Bryan was born in Puerto Rico and moved at age 2 to the Dominican Republic, where his community had limited access to fresh water, and electricity was sporadic. School offered the basics and that was all, he said.

He moved to Michigan at age 9 with his mother, Mildred Lizardo; older sister, Jazmin; and younger brother, Benjamin, and started attending Grand Rapids Public Schools. He enrolled in Wyoming Public Schools in fifth grade.

Shy and and still learning English, Bryan said he struggled and didn’t put much effort into school until eighth grade. It was then that his sister, Jazmin, who was graduating, told him she wished she would have tried harder in school, and encouraged Bryan to do better.

“I had bad habits. I was a (video) gamer full-time. I didn’t care. It was just that childish mentality.”

But Jazmin’s words made something click. “I started realizing this education was worth a lot more than I thought it was,” Bryan said. “I was able to change my habits because my sister motivated me that much.

“The next year my report card was straight A’s. I got involved in Science Olympiad. I kept going and getting involved in as many things as possible.”

Along with starting the 3D Printing Club, he was on the FIRST Robotics team, served as treasurer for National Honor Society, treasurer for Bible Club, and on Key Club, Student Council and Leadership Committee.

“I challenged myself to take classes that were hard for me as a bilingual student,” he said. “With the combination of Middle College and AP, I’ve gotten prepared for college in a way I would have never been prepared before.”

AP Biology teacher Stephanie Rathsack said Bryan is one-of-a-kind, an accepting and nonjudgmental student known at school for helping others with school work and giving back to the community. She was impressed when he volunteered at a fundraising event for an organization that collects clothes, household items, bikes and Christmas decorations for families in need. He stepped up to translate for Spanish-speaking families.

“Bryan has an amazing attitude,” Rathsack said, by email. “He approaches life and learning with vigor. He is a gentle presence, and friendly to everyone. He doesn’t ever think about what he gets out of doing something for others. He’s aware of others and aware of the impact he can make by observing and offering help and understanding as necessary.”

(Courtesy Photo) Working for NASA is a dream of Bryan Rosello Lizardo

Working Hard to Help Mom

A huge motivation for Bryan has been his mother, a proud single parent who is proud to work in a factory assembling car parts.

“It makes me happy to think she’s taking pride in her job. But I know at the end of the day she’s getting to the age where she needs rest and economic peace. That’s what I’m trying to work towards, just helping her out financially.”

He said he believes doubling down on school is the best way to make that happen.

“I knew I had to study to support my family. I didn’t understand how valuable school was until eighth grade, so when I started realizing this is potentially money for my mom, that’s what motivated me to take the AP classes and join the clubs. I knew colleges would look at that stuff and give me and my mom money so she doesn’t have to worry about my tuition later on.”

A life-changing moment for Bryan was earning the Alpha Wolf 11 award in 2016. He said the award, given to Wyoming students who exhibit character at an 11 on a scale of 10, reaffirmed what mattered to him most.

“It’s at the top of my achievement list for everything I apply for,” he said. “Because you can have the best grades and best SAT scores and be really involved, but if you don’t have that character you don’t stand out. You’ll be taken care of if you can show up to your workplace, have a positive attitude and get along with everyone. It’s something I will continue to take pride in after high school.”

Bryan Rosello made the most of his high school experience by earning college credits and starting a 3D printing club

Working on a Dream

The award also caught the attention of a couple, both a U of M graduates, who gave Bryan a scholarship because they were impressed with his character.

Most of all, Bryan said he is thankful to be able to work toward his dreams.

“Knowing I come from the background I come from, I’ve had different experiences than people do here in the U.S,” he said. “Just going through those struggles has allowed me to appreciate a lot more what I have and the resources that are available to me. I do not think I would be taking the course I am today if I did not realize this is something I didn’t have in the Dominican Republic.”

What advice would he give other students? “Look around you as often as you can and appreciate your teachers, principals and friends,” he said.

And stay the course, he added.

“Work hard. Fear regret. Be fearful of regretting not doing something.”

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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers and On-the-Town Magazine. She has been covering the many exciting facets of K-12 public education for School News Network since 2013. Read Erin's full bio

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