From the Desert to the Stars: High School Senior Scholarship Winner’s Next Step is Aerospace Engineering

When Todd Plesco, CBCP, received the call that his son, Victor, had won the DRI Foundation Scholarship for high school seniors, he was “shocked – pleasantly so!”

It’s no secret Victor is a high achieving student. “As an athlete and a scholar and a musician…he gets things done. There’s no such thing as laziness or procrastination – he’s just really hyper focused on everything and it’s really great.”

So why shock? “I literally didn’t see his essay until this morning.” 

Victor’s essay focuses on the preparedness challenges in his community in Mission Viejo, CA – an area with specific geographic challenges, including wildfires and earthquakes. “I was moderately familiar – I mean, I knew that we had a couple of food pantries. And obviously throughout school we always have the fire drills and earthquake drills. But other than that, I wasn’t too familiar with the other forms of preparedness they had. It was a good bit of research,” Victor said.

Part of that research gave Victor further insight into his dad’s career in resilience, starting with his time as a  Marine.

“I would say my first encounter with disasters was in Desert Storm,” Todd said. “We were on the front lines and the generator went out. We were running a front line communications network and lost power. So that was sort of my first experience with how to get to triage, and where do we go from here?”

Where Todd went from there was a three-decade career in cybersecurity and information assurance, including a DRI certification in the early 2000s. In applying for the scholarship, Victor got more insight into that career. “I did learn more about it, actually, because I know, obviously, it is in information security. But I didn’t realize that there were so many risk factors that you have to take into consideration when he’s working. And a lot of them are physical, not just ‘online.’”

Family trips also offered a few preparedness lessons. “We have a cabin out in the Mojave,” Todd explained. “We go out there pretty often. It’s off the grid. No electricity, no plumbing. And so we always prepare before we make the trip – it’s the desert. The desert is not something to goof around with.”

So with all this in mind, why did it take so long for Todd to see his son’s essay?

“I think he’s just really humble.”

That humility was on display when Victor described what’s next for him – the aerospace engineering program at the University of California Irvine campus. “I was talking with a professor earlier. I don’t remember how many applied – it’s quite a few.”

That was a minor understatement, as Todd clarified: “They only take 100 each year out of thousands of global applicants.”

In addition to the highly selective academic program, Victor also hopes to take advantage of UC Irvine’s study abroad offerings next year. We wish him the best of luck! Read his essay here.