Hardships and unfortunate circumstances dot Stephanie Walters' childhood. Her mother’s drug addiction ended with a prison sentence, and Walters and her two older sisters entered the foster care system. Bouncing from house to house brought along its own set of anxieties, and this period of their lives ultimately shaped the sisters’ futures. These experiences helped Walters understand that the one thing she could control in her life was her perspective. Walters, who is now part of the Mechatronics Apprentice Class 34 at the Bosch plant in Charleston, South Carolina, maintains maturity and tenacity beyond her years.
A non-traditional path
In her early years, Walters discovered she had a knack for math and joined FIRST LEGO League. FIRST hosts programs to inspire young people in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math. In high school, she started thinking about her future and learned that an apprenticeship could be a fruitful alternative to a traditional university education.
“My two teammates had apprenticeships, and they were getting amazing opportunities like speaking at panels,” Walters said. “I wanted the same real-world experience.” After high school graduation, she began attending the apprenticeship program at Trident Technical College. Now every day, Walters balances her work with Bosch and classes at the college. She describes the opportunity to learn something in class one day and then apply it the next as “mind-blowing.”
"The apprenticeship lets me learn the skills that companies are looking for,” she said. “I’m able to grow with Bosch and its goals as a company.”
A bright future
Walters is set to graduate in August 2020, and she has her sights on an engineering degree by 2022. Those aren't her only goals for the future: Walters also wants to start two nonprofits. One would help young adults get on their feet after leaving foster care, and the other would assist the families of addicts.
Her FIRST mentor once told her that the things she went through would one day inspire and motivate others. She is already inspiring her fellow Bosch associates, having told her personal story in The Spark, an internal speaker series modeled on Ted Talks. She also plans to write a children’s book to help kids in tough situations.
“I always felt trapped by who my family is or where I came from, like it might be a way for someone to judge me,” she said. “All it takes is a little change in how you see things to help you reach your goals.”