Tristin O’Connor, a Bolton native from the Minuteman Class of 2016, was an Environmental Science career major, co-president of Girls in STEM, member of the Student Council including co-president her freshman through junior year, cheerleader, and president Minuteman’s chapters of SkillsUSA and National Honor Society, among others. She graduated from Fairfield University in 2020 with a degree in mechanical engineering. She works as a mechanical engineer for a U.S. aerial delivery systems team at the Natick Soldiers Systems Center.
Q. Why did you choose Minuteman?
I have a lot of family members who chose a technical education over traditional high school. So, I saw firsthand the benefits and opportunities it presented. I wanted to have the same opportunity to take advantage of all those same benefits, such as gaining real world experience and studying a more focused subject that I was really interested in.
I was always interested in math and science in middle school. Being from Bolton, you are surrounded by conservation land. You learn a lot about the environment and wildlife. Your parents, or experts who come into the school, teach you how to track a deer in the woods, how to differentiate footprints, how to identify foliage. It’s exciting to have owls and hawks in your backyard. I grew up hiking and exploring. That was something I was always exposed to. The idea of studying something I loved was really intriguing.
Q. What did you appreciate most about Minuteman?
School was a fun place to go and I immersed myself in everything. I took honors and AP classes. My senior year, I was co-president of Girls in STEM and we presented at a national conference to advocate for women in the STEM fields. We took it upon ourselves to make some positive changes in the school, like starting a recycling program. Girls in STEM hosted a vacation camp for middle school students, and we would do activities like making bottle rockets, “Math Twister,” explain the science behind tie dye, and stuff like that.
Q. How did Minuteman prepare you for college?
When I got to Fairfield University, I lived in the Women in STEM residence hall. I got super involved because of my experience with Girls in STEM at Minuteman. My sophomore year, I became a residence assistant (RA), and they usually give that to seniors. I got to plan and curate events for women coming into college and going into majors traditionally dominated by men. We got to host a lot of alumni and do activities together.
When it came to academic classes in college, I felt better prepared than many of the other students. I didn’t feel like a fish out of water taking a calculus class in college because I took AP calculus at Minuteman. I also had students ask me if I would present a group project because I didn’t mind presenting. It wasn’t a big deal to me, but I guess it was for a lot of people. I credit a lot of that to my Environmental Science classes at Minuteman. Every week, we had “World News Wednesday,” when three students would bring in a peer-reviewed article and present it. It was really all about making people comfortable with public speaking.
Q. How did Minuteman prepare you for career?
Minuteman instilled in me how to be a good team player. Not only with sports, but with activities like Skills USA and senior projects.
In the Environmental Science program, I obtained my wastewater and drinking water treatment licenses. I still have both of those licenses and I’ve maintained them. The licenses stand out so much on a resume. So many potential employers said they were really impressed by that and that it set me apart from other candidates.
My senior year, Mr. [Terence] Regan, one of my environmental science teachers, took us to a career fair at the DCU Center in Worcester. There were a ton of municipalities and construction companies there. Not only was it educational, but we handed out our resumes to literally everyone. My resume made it to the City of Framingham. I began working in the Framingham Water Department the same week I graduated from Minuteman. I worked there for three summers as a full-time engineering intern. I got to go around and do water quality testing and inspections, as well as see different engineering and design projects.
Q. What advice would you give to prospective Minuteman students?
I would definitely say, ‘Yes, you should go to Minuteman.’ You have a greater opportunity to discover your interests and how to better achieve your goals.
If you think you might be interested in something, there is no harm in trying it. The learning experience is going to be a lot more beneficial because you have the opportunity to try it. Also, you’re going to make some of your best friends at Minuteman. The fact that everyone, regardless of if it was your teammate or someone you took one class with, is so willing to connect and help each other even five or 10 years later is a testament to the community.