Ailsa Tirado, Changemaker Engineer

Ailsa Tirado, Changemaker Engineer

Without even trying, Ailsa Tirado inspires hope for the future. Her story shows how curiosity, determination and spark can lead to an exciting new life direction.

Born in Chula Vista, Calif., and raised in Tijuana by Mexican parents, Ailsa is the oldest of three children. One day while Ailsa was in middle school, representatives from an elite boarding school in Switzerland visited her school.

She states, “It looked like an awesome school, but I knew there was absolutely no way my family could afford to send me there.”

Still, Ailsa figured it couldn’t hurt to enter a competition that awarded boarding school scholarships to a few lucky winners. She submitted a service project idea that involved working with children in several of Switzerland’s immigrant communities. Lo and behold, she was awarded a full scholarship to attend Le Chatelard Academy in ninth grade.

“Le Chatelard opened my eyes to the world and gave me a global perspective,” she states. “They taught us about many problems all over the world and emphasized that we needed to be part of the solution.”

Ailsa knew that if she were going to be part of the solution, she would need a college education. When she returned home from Switzerland, she began researching different universities and was shocked at the sticker price. She figured she would probably just go to college in Mexico, which is free, but decided to apply to a few U.S.-based universities, including USD.

She was thrilled to be accepted to USD, but figured she likely could not attend, due to the cost. Nonetheless, her mother convinced her to tour USD during spring break, just in case. Ailsa thought this was a waste of time, but agreed to take the tour anyway.

When the tour was finished, Ailsa’s mother asked to speak with someone in financial aid. A financial aid officer looked up Ailsa’s record, and told her she had received one of the most generous financial packages offered by USD, which covered almost all of her expenses. Her fate was set.

Now a senior and majoring in Industrial and Systems Engineering, Ailsa describes her decision to come to USD as life-changing. She has taken advantage of every opportunity — receiving a Changemaker fellowship which allowed her to spend a summer teaching seventh-grade girls in Tijuana how to code, and interning four days a week with Thermo Fisher.

When asked where she would like to be in 10 years, she hopes to use both her technical skills and her natural leadership abilities to help solve big challenges. With her determination and compassion, the future seems to be in good hands.

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