Oriana Penaloza was new to the United States and while learning English at BHS, she used the Pathways at District 191 to learn another language that set the tone for her future in computer science
Oriana’s Journey from Venezuela to Burnsville and a future in Computer Science
Oriana’s family came to the United States from Venezuela when she was a sophomore in high school. She started at Burnsville High School (BHS) just after classes had begun in the ESL program where students learn both the English language and a modified version of regular coursework. Like all students at BHS, students learning English can use the Pathways program to explore different career paths.
“I came to this country when I was a sophomore. It was challenging to me as I had to learn a new language and all of the new systems that I didn’t know about,” said Oriana. “The Pathways system was new to me, I didn’t know it existed and we didn’t have that back in my country. It was very helpful to me to do something like the Pathway opportunity at BHS because I was able to try different things and know what I want to do in the future.”
Oriana decided to try some of the courses in different pathways and had interests in a variety of subjects including healthcare and computers. She enjoyed being able to try out new things and the emphasis on hands-on learning and trial and error. One class in particular really started her on her path towards a new passion.
My favorite thing about the pathways is the amount of options you have. I took a Java class as an elective that I thought sounded fun, and I just fell in love with coding,” said Oriana. “We did a lot of group projects and everything was very hands-on. We made a tic-tac-toe project and it was so fun to create an actual game and see people playing and testing it.
The Java class convinced Oriana that the healthcare field was not for her and got her very interested in computer science. She credits teachers at BHS with really igniting a passion in her and other students, as well as counselors and other staff members for supporting her.
“It’s easier to learn when a teacher is passionate about teaching something that can be seen as boring in an exciting way, “said Oriana. “My teacher being passionate helped me to develop this love for programming and to study computer science in college.”
After graduating from BHS, Oriana earned a full ride scholarship to Concordia College in Moorhead via the Act Six Scholarship, where she is studying computer science with minors in business and data analytics. She wants to find a job in computer science that would allow her to work from anywhere, including from home and while traveling the world. The pathways at BHS showed her some of the possibilities that are available to someone with programming skills.
“Pathways at BHS exposed me to different things and different people who helped me to learn more about the field that I was interested in,” said Oriana. “I have an advantage at college thanks to the Pathways at BHS and experience with Java. The pathways helped me to not waste time by knowing what I wanted to major in and what I wanted to do.”