Taking a gap for an impact


Photo courtesy of ZAINA SIYED

Senior Zaina Siyed coaches her robotic team, FEMStem. She was featured by Disney in the video “In the Driver’s Seat.”

Emily Jacobsson, Editor-in-Chief

It seems so natural: after graduating high school, most students attend college regardless of whether or not they know what  to study for the next four years. Diamond Bar High School senior Zaina Siyed is challenging that typical path by taking a gap year to focus on herself and exploring the possibility of working with Boeing.

The idea of taking a gap year was first brought up to Siyed by her parents during her sophomore year when she was indecisive about her major. At first, she was opposed to the idea of falling a year behind her classmates, but over time, she also saw that area of study was wanted to pursue was unclear and decided that a gap year would be beneficial.

“My interests change, and I saw what I did and didn’t do well in when I started taking a lot of AP’s. [A gap year] became more appealing to me, and now I’m really excited to take it and have a year to work with high school burnout,” Siyed said.

Though she will have a year off from school, Siyed is certainly not taking a break. She plans to utilize her time to continue working on FemSTEM, the nation’s first all-female robotics scholarship program that she currently runs by herself. With a Los Angeles Times article and a Disney “In the Driver’s Seat” feature video, FemSTEM has gained a lot of media attention for its success. Siyed has also been invited to many conferences to speak about her work with the program.

As FemSTEM is a time-consuming dedication, Siyed looks forward to further developing it and deciding what direction she wants to take it in.

Siyed’s supervisor during her internship at Boeing this summer has also expressed interest in hiring her to work at the company. Normally, former interns can be invited back to lead intern programs, but Siyed will likely become a contract hire, someone who Boeing hires through one of its  partner companies. However, she said her supervisor is still looking for a different route that would allow her to be hired as a paid employee; though without a college degree, her case is unprecedented and will be difficult to sort out.

Aside from working on her program and exploring different internship or work options, Siyed has plenty of figuring out to do before she applies for college alongside the class of 2019.

Ideally, she wants to pursue IT Law, the legal side of computer science and engineering. Even though she has a specific idea of what she wants to study, Siyed wants to be confident in her decision before applying to college to avoid being trapped in a major she doesn’t want and realizing that all the money spent on college was wasted.  

“I need to know exactly what I’m getting into before my parents drop hundreds of thousands on college tuition. This is me trying to figure out how to make the pain for college worth it.”

Siyed has thoroughly researched gap years and taken advantage of online student forums and books dealing with the topic to ease any anxieties she had. Though not a common route for most students, Siyed takes comfort in knowing that there aren’t any real dangers, so long as she keeps wary of any possible restrictions.

For instance, if she took any classes at Mt. Sac during her gap year, she wouldn’t be allowed to apply to any UCs. Now, as DBHS seniors prepare to take on college as their next step in life, Siyed continues to look forward to exploring hers.