Jessica Puente Castro 

April 28, 2023

Note: April is National Volunteer Month.  The Lab has many volunteer opportunities that can use your time and skills for a few hours or stretch over several months. Find your perfect volunteer opportunity.

Jessica Puente Castro has only been at the Lab for six months, but she’s already found her happy places: the Bay Area outdoor scene and volunteering. Jessica came to the Lab from South Dakota, so while she was expecting California's eternal sunshine, she was pleased to find the Bay Area has variety in its weather. 

"I enjoy the accessibility of outdoor activities, such as hiking and mountain biking, near my Oakland home,” says Jessica. “I mountain bike on the trails at Tilden, Joaquin Miller Park, and near La Honda. I am looking to explore new areas and I have an extra mountain bike, so if anyone wants to join me or learn, let me know.”

Jessica, a safety specialist in the Lab’s Environment, Health & Safety Division, also wants to learn more about outdoor rock climbing. “As a safety professional, I know the outdoor activities I enjoy come with certain risks. However, planning ahead and learning how to safely participate in a new activity, just as we do with work activities at the Lab, means I can enjoy the outdoors and come home safely.”

Why is volunteering important to you?

I love the volunteer opportunities through the Lab since I’m passionate about STEM education, especially for kindergarten through high school students. I want to help students who aspire to be in STEM careers by showing them people who look and sound like them. 

I’m bilingual so I can speak English and Spanish fluently (and am currently learning German). I recently volunteered with the SEA program, Science en Acción, as a facilitator so I could use my language, technical, and social skills to interact with the students. There are so many opportunities for volunteering in the Bay Area, no matter their interests, anyone can find a place where they want to spend their time.

What other types of volunteer opportunities are you interested in?

I’m new to the area, so volunteering is a great opportunity to get to know people and get involved in the community. I’ve been a judge in two science fairs through the Lab and I participate in other volunteering activities. Outside the Lab, I volunteer at the Oakland Public Library, Feral Change, and the Oakland Museum of California. If you haven’t visited the museum, try to come by on a Friday night! These events appeal to a wide range of people, including families, involve food trucks, and are a great way to connect with the community. I am also interested in volunteering in the outdoor community now that I live here. 

What sparked your interest in volunteering?

My family has a big heart; they were always the first to help through our church growing up. I think that inspired me to get involved in my community. In high school, I helped restart the ecology club. It sounds cool now but at the time it wasn’t a cool club; we had to walk around the building and bring the recycling bags out to the dumpster area, but I really enjoyed helping. 

My volunteer interests have changed over the years. In high school, I was very interested in our environmental club. I volunteered in animal fostering and animal care in college and grad school.  As I studied I became passionate about sharing my love of science through talking about STEM careers and my experiences with K-12 students. I continue my involvement with animal welfare, STEM education/outreach, and community service. 

The Science en Acción program is getting noticed. Local television station Telemundo 48 interviewed one of the student participants.