Todor Nikolov left Bulgaria in 2004 to come to America with little money and no friends or family but with a big dream, to become a computer software engineer. Since a small boy Todor has been fascinated with computers and software. In May 2014, he graduated from College of the Desert (COD) as Valedictorian with a perfect grade point average. His graduation and transfer to the University of California Santa Cruz moves him one step closer to his dream.
“When I left home at age 19 as part of a student exchange program, I knew it would take time and patience. I was optimistic that I would emerge a winner,” Todor says.
As part of the exchange program he worked in a variety of hospitality related jobs but eventually made his way to California. He found work at Papa Dan’s Pizza in Palm Desert and with the support of his employer, enrolled at College of the Desert in 2011.
Since day one at the College, Todor focused on math, computer sciences and software, important steps in the path toward his dream career as a computer software engineer.
And he began volunteering with Abraham Lincoln Elementary School kids, knowing his passion for science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) might inspire them. He also helps mentor the school's First LEGO League team in building and programming robots - catnip for STEM students.
Support for the pursuit of academic and career goals along the way has come from the Math, Engineering, Science Achievement Program (MESA), and also COD Counselor Amanda Phillips and Math Professor Melissa Flora, two standout female staff and faculty members who have also inspired Todor in other ways. He is already thinking about the scholarship he wants to start at COD for girls. “Women are under-represented in math and science, Todor emphasizes. “I hope to pave the way and help motivate more girls to pursue computer science. It’s a great field.”
It is not surprising that this inspirational young man would be thinking about what he could do to pay it forward. He is a past recipient of multiple scholarships including the MESA S-STEM Scholarship and support from generous COD Foundation donors, including the D. Gail Brumwell Scholarship, Anne E. Scholl Memorial Scholarship and COD Student Memorial Scholarship.
Todor is especially proud of MESA Science Day, an outreach program he started during his term as President of the COD MESA Club, where middle school students are invited to visit campus to see college-level math and science experiments. “I hope the program can continue. It would be very rewarding to think I was able to open the door for the next generation as it was opened for me.”