Spotlight: One student out of 36,000

Photo Credit: Donnella Collison / Staff Reporter
Triphena Denise Georgette Lawrence, born in Los Angeles to Jamaican immigrants, is an aspiring mechanical engineer who hopes to make a difference and help others the way she was helped. Photo Credit: Donnella Collison / Staff Reporter

Triphena Denise Georgette Lawrence is a bubbly, enthusiastic, passionate freshman mechanical engineer major.

Lawrence, the only child of Jamaican immigrants, said she was inspired to become a mechanical engineer during her senior year in high school after reading a speech by President Barack Obama in which he talked about energy efficiency and providing more opportunities for young people in math and science fields.

“Math and science was my strongest subject and I can also contribute to making a change in today’s society,” Lawrence said.

Although she said she was initially discouraged by the seeming lack of black women in math and science majors, Lawrence said she decided “anything was possible “and to not let the stereotype of math and science being a man’s field to dissuade her.

As a young child, she dreamed of becoming a math teacher since she was always good at the subject and enjoyed tutoring and helping others.

“My sixth grade teacher at my middle school, she just made math so great,” she said. “That’s when I knew, that’s when I fell in love with math. That’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to major in, something with math.”

But, it was also at that young age Lawrence experienced the greatest loss in her young life. At 9 years old, Lawrence’s father, Dennis George Lawrence, was killed while trying to break up a fight during a business trip to Jamaica.

“This person had a gun and he had the power to end my father’s life,” she said, as tears formed in her eyes. “It’s still hard to talk about it.”

Lawrence said that after the death of her father she went through a rebellious stage where she was often at odds with her mother, now a single parent.

In her sophomore year in high school she accepted the help of a counselor who helped her with her grieving process and her relationship with her mother.

“I never wanted to be the person that lets this bother them or bring them down. I still know that I am very privileged. That’s why I want to help people, just as I was helped,” she said. “I still don’t feel like I’ve fully grieved, but I don’t think that my dad would want me to be like this, closed off and building walls and not allowing anyone in.”

This is the reason why, Lawrence said, she has decided to make the most of her college experience and fully enjoy it.

“My experience so far has been great. There are probably no words that can describe it. I didn’t think my freshman year would be this good, meeting all the people I’ve met, being a part of NSBE (National Society of Black Engineers),” she said.

“Just being able to experience college the way I’m experiencing it. I love living in the dorms, the on-campus activities. Just the whole college experience