Each summer, Prep@Pingree and Abbott Lawrence Academy welcome rising seventh- and eighth-grade students for sessions filled with enrichment, life skills, and fun outings. The faculty of these programs are comprised of public and independent school teachers, along with a number of alumni who bring an added level of connection with the current students.
One of these alumni faculty members is Milcy Perez, who attended Esperanza Academy for middle school, attended a visiting day at Prep@Pingree as an eighth-grader, and graduated from Pingree School in 2015. After graduating from Pingree, Milcy studied applied math, chemistry, and physics in addition to biomedical engineering at Columbia University and Providence College. This past summer, Milcy joined the Prep@Pingree faculty teaching engineering.
Fellow female engineer and Prep@Pingree/Pingree faculty member Stacey Nicholson sat down with Milcy and talked with her about what brought her to STEM as a career path and what advice she has for students like her.
Stacey: What drew you to STEM?
Milcy: I was always good at math and science and started thinking about being a doctor. At Pingree's Junior College Workshop, I asked questions of the panel about math and medicine and a classmate's mom came up to me and suggested biomedical engineering. I was intrigued, so decided to take engineering my senior year.
In college, I realized that I needed to study science differently from how I had in the past, which was similar to how I'd study for a math class. As a result, I got really good at science and really enjoyed it. I shifted my note-taking strategies, used resources, and understood that in science that there is more than one way.
Stacey: What piece of advice would you give to fellow women (particularly women of color) in STEM fields?
Milcy: Don't be intimidated by the lack of representation. Keep it positive and see yourself as a trailblazer. Know that you are opening the space for others to follow. Don't doubt yourself.
I attended a physics conference at Harvard last year and learned something really eye-opening: most women applied for jobs that they are overqualified for and most men apply for jobs that they are underqualified for... so you need, as a woman, to go for it!
Stacey: What are three things you'd share with someone who's never heard of Prep@Pingree?
Milcy: You exercise your brain here. Both in and out of the classroom.
This is eye-opening to diversity, even though the program is primarily students of color. You see—through field trips, the drive here, the other folks involved—that there are so many other perspectives out there.
Prep@Pingree is an opportunity to study in a comfortable place with really qualified faculty, which can be disconcerting for many kids. I hope that students are really grateful for Prep@Pingree and Pingree because both encourage you to push the boundaries of your comfort zone and help you see that "uncomfortable zone" in a positive light.