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Credit to Minecraft? Student plans future in engineering

Meet the Future: Joslyn Zavala

Name: Joslyn Zavala

School/grade level: Senior, Cedar Springs High School

Passion: Engineering

Cedar Springs — Joslyn Zavala has an unceasing interest in how things work, from mathematics to building, logistics and beyond.

The Cedar Springs High School senior and Kent Career Tech Center student is primed to put her passion to good use in pursuit of a career in civil engineering. 

Equipped with a work ethic instilled in her by her immigrant parents, Joslyn decided a few years back to put all her energy into her academic future. When she’s not in school, she’s working to save for college, which starts in fall 2024 at Western Michigan University.

Joslyn learns about electricity at the Tech Center (courtesy)

Her teachers, like Joe Phillips at the Tech Center, have no doubt she’ll succeed.

“Joslyn is a top-notch engineer,” Phillips said. “She takes her work very seriously and excels at what she does. She is always interested in learning more, but still takes the time to help others.”

When and how did this become such a big part of your life? “I have always been fascinated by the idea of building things, and the mathematics behind everything always caught my attention,” Joslyn said. “That might be because I loved Minecraft as a child.

“The concept of finding ways to make new things has always excited me. The older I got, I realized that I wanted to become a civil engineer. My love for math, and creative mind, led me to want to learn more about civil engineering.”

Joslyn has found a nurturing environment for her interests at the Tech Center, where she’s a second-year advanced engineering student. The program prepares students for the future by teaching computer-aided design software, and the skills needed for careers in mechanical, electrical or civil engineering, Phillips said.

Joslyn has learned software programs like AutoCAD 2024, SolidWorks 2023, Fusion 360 and Inventor. 

“Through KCTC I am doing an internship at Lear Corporation and plan on doing a second one with GeoTech. This course has helped me figure out what I want to do with my life,” Joslyn said. “I hope other students take advantage of these opportunities to get ahead, start on their future, or figure out what they want to do.”

‘The concept of finding ways to make new things has always excited me.’

— Cedar Springs senior Joslyn Zavala

Do you plan to pursue this professionally? Indeed she does, but she’s going into it knowing that there could be some challenges ahead.

“Although I know that I will enjoy this career, I also need to be aware of the difficulties I will encounter while pursuing it. I know going into a male-dominated field will be challenging, but I also want to break that stereotype and open the opportunity for other women.” 

When Joslyn enters WMU in the fall, she’ll do so with a $6,000 scholarship to participate in the school’s civil engineering program. 

For now, she plans to enter the workforce once she gets her bachelor’s degree, but that might not be the end of her schooling. She may decide to pursue a master’s or a doctorate.

“The good thing is, I can always go back to school to further my education,” Joslyn said. 

Cedar Springs senior Joslyn Zavala (courtesy)

A few related accomplishments: “I have received my seal of biliteracy, which was easy to get because I am bilingual. Spanish is my first language and English is my second.”

Do you have teachers or other people who have made a big impact? “A teacher who has made a big impact on me is my personal finance teacher, Mr. Busen. I think personal finance should be a mandatory class. This class has taught me real-life skills that I will need in the future. Mr. Busen is always sharing his life experiences. He is a teacher who truly wants to see his students succeed in life.”

Joslyn also credits her parents with fostering her drive and commitment. Her mother originally hails from Mexico and her father is from the Dominican Republic. 

“Having parents who are immigrants has taught me to take advantage of every opportunity. My dad always told me to chase my dreams because the only thing stopping me from achieving them is myself.

“Everything I do is for my parents. They are my motivation to keep going and accomplishing my dreams.” 

Other interests or hobbies: “If I am not at school, I am usually working. I work in the customer service department at Meijer. At Meijer, I cashier, bag groceries or assist customers at self checkout. I work five days a week. I work a lot because I plan on going to college right after high school. 

“I also enjoy my job. I like helping people in any way possible. The days I am not at work I cook for my family, hang out with my sister or do something art-related.”

Joslyn favors painting and crocheting to de-stress, and credits her interest in those areas to a class she took at Cedar Springs.

Read more from Cedar Springs: 
Snowboarding a ‘rush of adrenaline and happiness’ for seventh-grader
Reenactors bring Middle Ages to life

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.

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