12th Waver DeMario realized he was interested in engineering during his senior year at Making Waves Academy. The problem was, math wasn’t his strongest subject. Regardless, his math teacher Mr. Berbawy encouraged him to persist towards his dream.
Now a senior at CSU Bakersfield, DeMario is studying electrical engineering and conducting research on semiconductors and nanotechnology. After he graduates, he plans to combine his engineering degree with his love of cars. “I’m really for a green earth—I want to work with Tesla or electric cars, trying to get away from combustion engines,” he says. “The electric car market is coming down more, so people can actually afford them. I want to influence companies or start my own company.” DeMario has family history in the transportation industry—his grandad worked for Union Pacific and Amtrak.
Moving from Richmond to Bakersfield wasn’t easy. “Adjusting to college life was hard…I’m used to traffic and the Bay Area,” says DeMario. “But I met people from LA, the Bay, Bakersfield—other first-generation students trying to figure it out. We all banded together.”
One of the ways DeMario found community was working as an RA, which also helped pay for college. “I took out a loan my freshman year for $3,500—I didn’t want to do that again, for my mom to have to help me pay it back,” he says. “My friend mentioned the RA position, which pays for everything. The more I was involved with campus, the more I liked it. I liked being a mentor to people. There were some students on the verge of getting kicked out and they said, because of you, I’m still going to school.”
DeMario has overcome significant challenges to get where he is today. “All throughout my life I’ve lost people. The earliest was at [age] 6 or 7. I lost my older cousin. As the years kept going, there were more and more,” says DeMario. “It made me feel like, what do I do? I’m not out there like that anymore, I’m trying to be better, but that’s still a part of me. Making Waves allowed me to see there’s more to life than [I saw] in everyday Richmond,” he says.
DeMario’s CAP coaches supported him during this challenging time. “It was hard at first because I wasn’t used to talking about all my problems, but when stuff came up I had them to talk to. When I started losing people [in my life], I felt I should leave school and be with my family. I started failing classes. Engineers don’t fail classes, especially math classes, but [my CAP coach] Mr. Grady motivated me. He said ‘you can do this. If anyone can do this, you can do this.’ I can’t stop now. I have to keep going.”
Another motivating force in DeMario’s life is his family. He has helped raise his younger sister, Amari, who is in the 17th Wave at Making Waves Academy. “My biggest thing is being a motivator for her. I know somebody is out there going through the same thing I did,” says DeMario. He also talks about his mother. “My mom motivated me—seeing her push through things despite everything that happened. She told me, you don’t stop until you get to where you want to. You only fail when you give up. If you keep pushing, you’re a winner. Winning is in our blood. My mom’s last name is Winn. She’s been my biggest motivation.”