A UC Berkeley graduate comes full circle to teach science in City Heights

Johnny Sanvichith teaches young people about remotely-operated vehicles and engineering at the City Heights Farmers’ Market. Photo courtesy of the Ocean Discovery Institute

My mom often told me stories of what City Heights used to be like when I was growing up. She talked about the dangers that lurked when the sun went down in what was then East San Diego. Although I had lived in the community since I was 3-years-old, I rarely stepped outside the perimeter of my apartment, fearing my mother’s scolding. She sheltered me from the disparity of the community so that I only saw the good – the parents dedicated to education, the neighbors committed to improving their community, and the students eager to learn.

I went on to graduate from Hoover High School and attend UC Berkeley, where I got my degree in environmental science. After college, I was eager to return to City Heights to be a part of the positive movement that was happening in my community. So when I saw the opportunity to apply for a fellowship with the Ocean Discovery Institute, I didn’t hesitate. Now I am proud to be a Discovery Fellow at the institute teaching in the classroom and leading the Science Adventurers internship program.

Through the internship program, ten students from Hoover High engage the community in science and conservation through a series of hands-on activities that are relevant to their daily lives. This year, the interns are teaching their fellow community members about remotely-operated vehicles (ROVs).  Participants have the opportunity to pilot ROVs and learn how these machines are used to access places humans can’t, conducting important activities such as repairing oil leaks and exploring new frontiers. The interns meet weekly to develop teaching techniques and build their engineering knowledge through articles, workshops, and presentations. Interns also learn about engineering opportunities right here in San Diego through partnerships with local companies and professionals. The partnerships expose interns to the day-to-day responsibilities of an engineer, as well as give them the opportunity to ask questions about career paths, both of which are valuable as interns move on to college and careers. The benefits of the program are already apparent for both the interns and the community. I am so proud to be a part of it.

As a fellow at the Ocean Discovery Institute, I get to be one of the many people working to improve our community. All our efforts must be paying off, because even my mom has changed her view of City Heights. She has become more connected to the community, asking me to walk her to the farmers’ market on Saturday mornings. I have been amazed to see City Heights improve as I’ve grown up here, and see that it is continuing to improve every day, thanks to the dedication and determination of the community.

The next time you’re strolling through the City Heights Farmers’ Market, I hope you will stop by the Science Adventurers’ booth and see for yourself some of the great things happening in the community. We will even let you drive an ROV! Science Adventurers hosts a booth the third Saturday of every month.

Tagline: Johnny Sanvichith is a City Heights resident, recent graduate of UC Berkeley, and currently the School Programs Discovery Fellow at the Ocean Discovery Institute.  He can be reached at JSanvichith@OceanDI.org.