Sister and brother Alex and Ethan Buranday of Nogales have completed milestones on their paths to advanced degrees and satisfying careers.
Now, with Alex having won a medical studies scholarship and Ethan earning a spot in a Google summer program, they are ready to take their next big steps.
Alex graduated from University of San Diego in May and later this summer will start further studies with an eye to becoming a physician.
“Having lived in Arizona and mostly in rural, underserved communities, I saw there’s a shortage of general practitioners. I wanted to become part of those who will adjust this issue,” she said, adding: “I’m passionate about serving my community, through family medicine and pediatrics.”
A 2015 graduate of Lourdes Catholic High School, she was awarded a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation scholarship, which paid for the majority of her undergraduate degree costs.
Ethan graduated from Nogales High School in May with an Honors Diploma and will attend Google’s Computer Science Summer Institute July 14 to Aug. 3 in California at the tech giant’s Mountain View offices.
His initiative began early.
“I first started having an interest in coding in middle school, but the schools didn’t have a program so I had to learn it on my own,” he said. In high school, he was one of the founding members of the robotics club at NHS.
Google’s highly competitive program is a three-week introduction to computer science for graduating high school seniors who have a passion for technology – especially students from historically underrepresented groups in the field, according to website information.
“It’s an intensive, interactive, hands-on and fun program that seeks to inspire the tech leaders and innovators of tomorrow by supporting the study of computer science, software engineering and other closely related subjects,” the website says.
After the institute is completed, Ethan will attend Arizona State University and plans to major in computer science/software engineering.
Family and faith
The Buranday family moved to Nogales in 2013 from Virginia and lived in the Philippines before that, Alex said. Mother Jerlita is a Lourdes Middle School teacher and father Geoffrey is studying to become a physician assistant. Their family includes their brother Aaron, 20, who has been diagnosed with autism.
“My inspiration for going into health care was my brother because of his lifetime disability,” Alex said, adding: “It takes a village to raise a child with autism.”
Alex said she chose the University of San Diego primarily because it was a Catholic school.
“I wanted to continue the values I grew up with,” she said.
Smaller classes sizes also appealed to her, “and I was thinking I would thrive more.”
The scholarship made it all possible. “For the first two years, my family had to contribute a little. For my junior and senior years, I was able to apply for more scholarships,” Alex said.
During past summer vacations, Alex returned to Nogales where she volunteered in the emergency department at Holy Cross Hospital and had a public health internship with the Southeastern Arizona Health Education Center (SEAHEC).
In May, she graduated from USD with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral neuroscience with minors in chemistry and biomedical ethics.
She’ll next attend the Phoenix campus of the University of Arizona College of Medicine, backed by a one-year scholarship from the college’s Pathway Scholars Program.
“I do a year of a master’s in science and medical studies,” which begins July 8, she said.
The Pathway Scholars Program (PSP) is for Arizona residents who desire to pursue a career in medicine. The program is designed for students who have experienced unique or greater than average challenges in preparing to become competitive medical school applicants, the website says.
Additional funding to help with medical school costs has been approved through the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Alex said, noting: “That minimizes the burden of student loans.”
At Nogales High School, Ethan took International Baccalaureate classes and his favorite teacher, he said, was Luke Brannen, who taught IB History of the Americas.
Ethan learned about the Google Computer Science Summer Institute (CSSI) through his own research when he was writing a required essay for an IB business class.
In his application for the summer program, he detailed why he’s interested in computer science and his personal history. Then, he was required to identify and fix a photo-uploading problem with an app.
He took a careful approach and came up with four ways to deal with it, from the simplest to the most complex.
Earning a spot in the institute means all costs are covered by Google. In addition to learning new skills, students design and develop their own application, and present it to other students and to Google engineers.
Ethan is already passing on some of his knowledge to younger students. This past year, from October to February, he taught an after-school class every Friday in coding for children in grades 3-5 at Lourdes Catholic School, using an MIT program called “Scratch.” This was to fulfill requirements for his Honors Diploma senior project.
As a long-term goal, Ethan wants to run his own computer software company but said completing degree work first is important to him because he’s “a cautious person” and wants that level of support.