As an elementary school student, Chelsea Reeves ‘17 didn’t always go out for recess like the other students in her class. Instead she preferred to stay inside and work on a circuit board. Her teacher let her experiment and ultimately that freedom inspired her to professionally pursue engineering.
|Chelsea Reeves '17|
“Playing with the circuits sparked my interest in engineering,” Reeves said. “I didn’t know it was called engineering at the time but the freedom and ability to learn on my own was very important for me.”
After experimenting with circuits at a young age, Reeves focus then shifted to constructing roller coasters. These interests led to Kettering in the summer of 2011 as she enrolled in the Academically Interested Minds (AIM) summer program.
AIM is a five-week residential pre-college summer program which began in 1984 and has continued to thrive over the years. The program is designed to augment Kettering's efforts to reach a greater number of multicultural students who have a strong interest in the areas of engineering, math, science and business.
Reeves was unaware of Kettering until her counselor at Southfield-Lathrop High School recommended that she attend the AIM program in the summer between her junior and senior years in high school.
“If I didn’t come to AIM, I wouldn’t have studied engineering,” Reeves said. “The AIM program exposed me to what an engineer does.”
Prior to AIM, Reeves had never stepped foot on a college campus so she didn’t know what to expect when she arrived at Kettering in July 2011. At first she was intimidated by the program as some of her peers had already taken college-level math courses and were competitive in their daily academic activities. But she gradually became acquainted with the content and had a transformative experience that benefitted her throughout her college career.
“It prepared me for college because it provided me an overview of what being a freshman is like,” Reeves said. “They treated us just like freshman. I really value that experience today because if I hadn’t gone through the AIM program, I wouldn’t have been as prepared for my first year at Kettering.”
The AIM program also oriented Reeves towards Kettering as she became comfortable with the environment on campus and was fascinated by the opportunity that the co-op program provided. She reverted back to her elementary school roots by choosing to major in Electrical Engineering.
Reeves’ pursuit of engineering also marked a monumental shift for her family. She’s not a first generation college student but is the first person in her family to trade the shop floor for an office, a transition that she herself has experienced through her co-op opportunities.
“I did a factory rotation in Ford and it was humbling because I got to ultimately see the type of work my family was doing in generations past only with less tools and greater physical stress,” Reeves said.
Reeves is now completing her co-op at Danlaw in Novi, Michigan, where she works in a stability lab that focuses on the infrastructure of the dashboard and entertainment systems. This summer she’s also serving as a counselor and mentor for AIM.
“This is my way of giving back to AIM because I know the influence that AIM had on me,” Reeves said. “I share my experiences with them - share how I was overwhelmed at the beginning of the program but gained valuable experience by the end of it.”
Academically, Reeves believes that AIM’s intensive instruction levels the playing field for high school juniors who might be getting differing degrees of instruction depending on where they receive their secondary education. Socially, it engages students on a college campus where they get to learn and work with individuals from diverse backgrounds and geographies.
The academic and social benefits combine to increase the exposure a student receives to a variety of scientific disciplines. Reeves was always technically minded and excelled in math and science but it wasn’t until AIM that she connected those talents with her chosen pursuit of electrical engineering. The exposure has pushed her to pursue a career path that nobody else in her family has ever been exposed to. Reeves believes that current students will experience the same “pushing of familial boundaries” as they learn about the immense possibilities available to them in the sciences.
“I wasn’t supposed to come to Kettering, it wasn’t a part of the plan,” Reeves said. “If it wasn’t for AIM and the Office of Multicultural Affairs, I would not be here.”