Westminster Christian School senior Alexis Vescovacci runs the A Piece of Our Hearts for Autism Club at school.
“We do field trips to special needs schools, where we get to know the kids,” she says. “We do a buddy system. Each kid gets a buddy.”
The autistic kids don’t often get the opportunity to interact with people outside of their schools, and these visits with their buddies allows them to interact with kids their own age.
Vescovacci and her family are familiar with the needs of autistic children – her twin brother is autistic. Her sister started the club and Vescovacci took it over when her sister went on to college.
She is also involved in the Society of Women Engineers Next Warriors, a club that promotes engineering and STEM to girls.
Club members went on a field trip to COPE, a school that is attended by pregnant girls.
“We would give the bath and body works products,” she says. “And we introduced them to what we’re doing in the engineering class. We show them what engineering is and show them simple projects we’ve done.”
Last October, SWE Next Warriors partnered with Blue Missions, the organization that sends teens and college students to the Dominican Republic to build water systems and latrines in remote villages in the Dominican Republic.
“We went to the Dominican Republic in October and did a mission trip,” she says. “It was a first Blue Missions trip that showed the engineering aspect.”
They shadowed the engineers and participated in the preparations for the summer trips. They went to the field and climbed mountains and stopped every five or so miles and to record the GPS coordinates.
“They have to figure out where they will be able to put a tank,” she says. “The source of water has to be a certain altitude away from the tank because of water pressure.”
They went to two campos to see how the people live and asked the villagers about how they are affected by not having access to clean water.
This was her first mission trip.
“It was a life changing experience,” she says. “I really liked how we got the opportunity to go and do something that has never been done before.”
Since returning, club members have come up with an idea that could help.
“We are making our own pipe,” she says. “The water system is a series of pipes connected to a tank. They filter the water at the source, all the way up the mountain, using rock and sand.”
The villagers have to hike up the mountain on a regular basis to ensure the filtering system is functional and clean. They hope to develop a system that allows them to have a pipe that filters the water close to home.
“So instead of going up the mountain, they just have to clean the pipe,” she says. “We have a physical prototype and we also created it on the 3-D printer.”
They plan on presenting the filtering system in April.
Vescovacci is vice president of the Science National Honor Society. Club members participate in the various collection drives for mission trips and volunteer at Robotics competitions.
She’s a member of the National Honor Society, the English National Honor Society, the Foreign Language Honor Society (now the World Language Honor Society), Ro Kappa, and Mu Alpha Theta.
Vescovacci was accepted to Florida State and is waiting to hear from the University of Florida. She expects to major in computer science or computer engineering, probably at FSU.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld