So, as many of you know, I disappeared for the first semester of junior year. I went on a trip with a group of Canadian students and teachers to take classes and earn credits while traveling. It was nothing like regular high school and I feared that coming back to Terra Linda to sit in classrooms would (figuratively and literally) be the death of me. On the first day of school after winter break, the wave of anxiety and fear that washed over me was nauseating. I was freaking out, thinking about having to sit in a desk for 95 minutes, blinds closed, filling in worksheets. By the time I got to Ms. Oropallo’s class at the end of the day, a separate building off of campus, my nerves were still on edge and my motivation dwindling. But her class welcomed me with busyness and activity, where our bottoms are in our seats for as little time as possible each period. It was the anxiety relief my uneasy mind needed, a place where the POINT was to be active, to be moving and to be focused, but in a different way than in a traditional classroom. Immediately, on that first day, my spirits were lifted, my mind sharpened and my excitement sparked. I didn’t have the intro spoon project or the chance to make a toolbox, so on that first day in class I learned in a few minutes how to use the chop saw, a power drill and a variety of other tools. It was empowering to see my classmates and friends already so comfortable in that room. I saw how much they had grown and developed into more confident and alert individuals.
Being able to use power tools, to laugh with my team mates over our mistakes and to have the trust of my teacher gave me the strength to struggle through the first few weeks back. And I think this class does the same for many of my classmates, it’s a place where we can shed the stress of academics and fully immerse ourselves in construction. Very few words can describe the happiness and relief I feel in Ms. Oropallo’s class, it’s the 95 minutes every other day that seem to say “you can do it!”. Her class reminds me to stay present, to stay accounted for and to pay attention to my surroundings. Around me are spinning blades and dangerous tools that snap me to my senses. We aren’t babied, in fact it’s quite the opposite. The stability of our projects (both physically and emotionally) is our responsibility. It is up to us to make decisions and act like adults when we are struggling.
I am being honest when I say that engineering is the highlight of my week, it is a source of joy and inspiration well beyond my other classes. Working with Michaela, Rene and Devon to build our chicken coop is a hilarious adventure, we are very rarely not laughing or smiling. On Friday we reached the stage in our construction where we assembled our chicken run and attached our coop on top of that. The sense of achievement from that event is unlike that of any other school project I have worked on. Before our eyes, our labor and hours of measuring and cutting (and re-cutting) had turned into a real coop, with four walls paneled in rustic pallet wood. This feeling of accomplishment is coupled with the ability to quantify our transformation as people. In a matter of weeks, we had grown to be skilled enough to drill walls together in minutes, handle nail guns and grinders, and the chop saw had become our best friend. As we learn, we mature into independent, fearless individuals. And in today’s world, that is exactly what a girls should be. I never thought that the remedy to my anxious heart, suffocated by the four walls of an institution, would be the active class where constructing my own four walls is a breath of fresh air.


  1. I think we all can agree that we missed you first semester! I think it’s so great that you were able to catch on so quickly and have a good time. Engineering is really a nice break from our school day, but not a break as in doing less work. I’m glad you’ve had a great time!

  2. This was great Paloma! I haven’t gotten enough time to talk to you about your classes and this only piques my interest more! I have said before that you guys have an amazing coup and it is in part because of your amazing teamwork and adaptability. It amazes me how you can travel the world for the first semester and then get right back in stride with this project, and I can’t imagine the stress that you endured!

  3. Engineering really is a needed break in the day- but not an unproductive one. It must have been nice to jump into the class after your studies to keep school a little more interesting. I also agree that almost more that actual hands on skills and stuff, it is teamwork and problem solving. Well put!

  4. Wonderful blog Paloma! I can’t imagine how difficult it must have been to go back to sitting in classrooms and doing worksheets from having such an amazing experience traveling and learning around the world. It seems like you were never even gone though because you know exactly what to do in engineering. You and your group have made a great chicken coop and you’re so close to being done!

  5. Palomaaa! Great blog post! I have loved working with you this semester, and you have really improved so much in this semester. You are right that putting the coup on top of the run was very exciting and rewarding!

  6. PALOMA!!! I’m so jealous of your writing skills :/ I’m sure it was very stressful coming back to school after your travels, but I’m glad you did. It’s great that this class gives us a chance to move around and be outside. I agree with everything you said and I can’t wait to see your finished coop. Time is running out :0

  7. Great blog Paloma!!!! I was really stressed out too because of the course load and I really do feel like our engineering class is a really great stress break and break in our schedules even though we’re constantly doing things in the class!

  8. I loved this blog and i agree with everything you said. Engineering class is such a nice break from sitting in desks all day. I can’t imagine coming into school after a semester abroad and having to jump into a big project (the chicken coops) that has already been started. I’m happy you love the class just as much as myself!

  9. Paloma! This blood is great and I can see great improvement in your building skills. Although I can’t relate to missing a semester, I can relate to the breath of fresh air engineering is. I agree with everything you have said and how fun it is.

  10. You’re such a good writer!! I’m really amazed about how you were able to learn how to use all of the tools in literally a week when it took us all the whole first semester. Engineering is the best class!! P.S I’m still so jealous of you for getting to travel the world while I was here but it’s ok.

  11. Paloma!! I LOVED your blog!! Your fluidity and distinctive narrative transform your blog into a conversation between you and the reader, one which I can totally, completely, 100% agree with! I’m the type of person who always needs to be moving or doing something or else my brain falls asleep. School can be such a drag in that respect, most of the time I’m so focused on keeping my eyes open that I miss entirely what the teacher was lecturing us on! Great job, can’t wait to see you guys accomplish!

  12. i love your blog paloma! I’m sorry you were so stressed coming back from your trip but i’m glad you found a class to be comfortable and happy learning in. The pictures are really cute and i cant wait to see your finished coop!!

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