Meet the Civil Engineer: Cleo Pineda

Published: 
Monday, September 30, 2019

Growing up as the child of Filipino immigrants, Cleo wanted a rewarding and meaningful career at a young age—and SPSCC helped her find the right path to success.

“I always knew I wanted to go to college,” Cleo said, “but the road to receiving higher education was unclear because I knew how expensive it was.”

Her family had moved to the U.S. from the Philippines when she was four years old. She experienced first-hand the financial and cultural struggles that many immigrants face and was eager to continue her own path with a college degree.

When she heard about Running Start in her sophomore year of high school, she jumped at the opportunity, setting up a meeting with her counselor and burning through her placement tests.

“Growing up I actually wanted to become a doctor. The thought of helping people excited me,” she explains. “When I was a junior in high school, my grandma asked me to pull a splinter out of her finger for her and I wasn’t able to do it because I couldn’t handle seeing people in pain.”

After calling her brother for help, she realized it was time to start thinking about other career paths.

Attending SPSCC through Running Start gave her the time and options to find her way: “I was able to take more specialized courses geared towards my fascinations while also fulfilling the general education requirements for high school.”

She explored several fields through her classes, including environmental science and business, before settling on engineering. It fit her life—it was a creative outlet that let her see her ideas and efforts materialize in the real world while contributing to society in a positive way.

During her two years at SPSCC, Cleo also embraced the opportunity to become a Peer Mentor at the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Center, learning to come out of her shell and be more outspoken. When she graduated from SPSCC in 2014, Cleo knew she was on the right path.

Next, she enrolled at Saint Martin’s University and, in May 2018, completed her Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering. Soon after, she found a job at the Lacey-based consulting firm Skillings Connolly, which keeps her on her feet. Cleo specializes in road, drainage, and stormwater design, so she gets to break up her desk job with on-site visits for data collection.

Cleo’s message to SPSCC students? Get involved.

“I highly encourage students to make the most of their time at SPSCC by joining extracurricular activities,” she says. “You’ll be surprised with how much personal empowerment and friendships you’ll find along the way.”

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Cleo in a green blouse standing outside of Lacey Campus builiding 1