Perseverance and transparency fueled Minddrive alum Carlos Alonzo’s award as the first recipient of Honeywell’s new four-year $20,000 Latinx engineering scholarship with guaranteed job placement upon graduation, said Oz Qureshi.
Alonzo first applied for Honeywell’s engineering scholarship that has historically been allocated to African-American students and in partnership with the Black Achievers Society, said Qureshi, program director at Minddrive, but the strength of Alonzo’s application made clear a need to support the student’s future by broadening the scope of the award.
Honeywell, a North Carolina-based tech conglomerate, manages the U.S. Department of Energy’s Kansas City National Security Campus and is one of the metro’s top employers.
Originally from Guatemala, Alonzo comes from a family with two college-educated parents — both unable to get jobs in their chosen fields in the U.S. and now currently work as janitors — he said, noting they also do work on a family farm, which requires some early morning work.
Extra responsibilities on the farm — paired with a desire to compete regionally with Minddrive on weekends, spend time on other projects through Minddrive’s after-school programming, as well the pressures of graduating high school — makes Alonzo’s work ethic all the more impressive, said Qureshi, who leads Minddrive’s project-based experiential learning program with an automotive focus on math, science, technology, innovation and communication.
“I was stunned. I had no words,” Alonzo said. “I’m very grateful at the end of everything that they chose to support me.”
Watch Alonzo and his mother receive the news of the new scholarship, then keep reading.
Qureshi actually had not researched the original terms before encouraging Alonzo to apply, he admitted.
“I just told my students to apply for the ones they think they qualify for,” said Qureshi. “I told Carlos to apply for the Honeywell Scholarship and he did see that it was only for African-American students, but I just kept telling him to do it.”
The only other scholarship open to all identities was for a two-year associate’s degree, he added, noting Alonzo is expected to join the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s four-year computer and electrical engineering major in the fall.
“I knew it wasn’t for me and I made sure to type it in the entire application that I knew,” Alonzo said. “It was the only [engineering] scholarship available for a four-year [education] … I felt so uneasy when I sent it. When they told me I got it, I was very surprised.”
Honeywell’s program director reached out to Qureshi in it’s considerations to confirm Alonzo’s identity and race, but then was impressed by the email reply, which reiterated Alonzo’s long list of accomplishments and work ethic.
“I said that if you’re ever going to make an exception, Alonzo is the one,” he said.
Alonzo was part of the first group of students through Minddrive and subsequently helped solidify its programming through his intense interest in robotics, automotive design, and Minddrive’s electric car racing competitions, said Qureshi.
“When Carlos joined Minddrive, we hadn’t even competed in a full season yet — we didn’t even know what type of car we were supposed to build to be competitive,” he said. “Carlos took one of our other cars and ended up setting the record for laps in a race so he really helped us establish that program. Now, we have probably the largest school or organization that competes with the number of cars and students we bring to a competition.”
Click here to read more about Alonzo’s early work with Minddrive.
Watch a 2017 video of then-15-year-old Alta Vista High School student Carlos Alonzo discussing his experience with Minddrive, then keep reading.
Alonzo also pioneered the drone racing program, which had explosive interest from students and then brought in important partnerships that secured the continuation of the program, he added.
“Ever since joining Minddrive, it’s felt like a second home where you can just go and express what you want to see or whatever ideals or opportunities you’ve wanted to have,” Alonzo said. “It was never a hassle or felt like an obligation. They showed me how to do things I never thought I would be able to do.”
In the end, the endeavor made clear a lack of scholarships for Latinx four-year engineering students in the first place, he added, noting this discovery was part of the decision to support him.
“There were many that were for Hispanics, but they were mainly for undocumented students and that’s not my case, so that was one of the main reasons,” Alonzo said. “The way that I can give back to my community means so much to me because I opened up options for them.”
“I just want to get an education and support my family like they’ve supported me throughout this entire thing,” he continued.