The sea might literally be on the horizon for North County High School senior Isabella Zambrano.
The engineering pathway student of the school’s STEM Magnet program recently completed an internship aboard the S.S. John W. Brown, which firmly planted her heart with the sea. Known to most as “Izzy,” she is the daughter of Amanda and Miguel “Mike” Zambrano.
The 17-year-old is in the middle of a challenging year, including AP classes in chemistry, literature and calculus. She said she intended to take AP Physics as well, but it wouldn’t fit into the rigid STEM schedule. Her grade-point average is 3.59, making her 128 out of a class of about 500.
STEM project-based learning teacher Mark Nagle said he considers Izzy the quintessential well-rounded student.
“She excels in the classroom, on the sports fields, and in her many extracurricular activities, and in her community,” Nagle said. “She is a presence in the classroom, always bringing great engagement and energy. Almost every day I hear one of her classmates shout ‘Izzy’ as she walks the hallways during class changes.”
Izzy said her internship really opened her eyes.
“I never really realized, because I had never been on a ship, so it gave a lot of new experience and now it’s my favorite — I want to be on a ship all the time.”
Izzy said the S.S. John W. Brown is one of the bigger internship opportunities available on the school’s portal, and it caught her eye. STEM students are required to have an internship during their junior year.
Michael Schneider is the STEM student coordinator on the Brown and Izzy’s mentor. He said she is one of the best students they’ve had onboard. The ship usually accepts three to five student interns each year from the STEM program.
Izzy said the people aboard the Brown were kind and made the internship worthwhile. Described as an older generation, including many veterans with tons of experience, Izzy said the staff had a lot to offer. She said she continues to visit the ship and its staff.
“Meeting those that had experienced a life on a ship and learning about their different services and experiences was the highlight for me,” she said. “They had really useful information and can teach us a lot. I loved it so much I plan on doing another internship.”
Izzy seemed to love the structure of maritime life and maintaining the ship. She said her duties varied with each visit — she checked valves, helped make gaskets, traced systems and assisted in the engine room. She said she loved getting up early, or midnight to 4 a.m. shifts, setting the boilers and keeping the engine running while on the water.
“Izzy was a delight to have onboard — she was an eager learner, even though marine engineering was not something she particularly aspired to, and she took every advantage to learn new and different things,” Schneider said.
He said the volunteer staff is comprised primarily of retirement-aged men, who Izzy quickly earned the respect of, and fit in well. He said she pitched in where needed, working with the other two STEM interns as well as individually on machinery and maintaining or repairing the ship.
The ship is part of Project Liberty Ship, a living memorial to a former fleet of 2,700 World War II vessels, and one of two remaining ships. The internship included weekly time aboard the ship as well as sailing to Cambridge, Maryland, where the ship was docked for a week — a stay Izzy called amazing.
Izzy has committed to an early-decision enrollment with Virginia Military Institute. She said it was a hard decision, influenced by her other passion — soccer. A forward with A3 Soccer, Izzy has played on many club teams since she was 4 years old and in tournaments since she was 9.
She said her collegiate decision was hard; she also considered the University of Alabama and the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy. In the end, VMI’s Division I soccer team and engineering program seemed to have the best fit.
“I plan on commissioning, probably Navy, or going into the Navy for mechanical engineering,” Izzy said. “I want to make a career out of the military.”
An area resident her whole life, Izzy said she likes the small-town vibe while living in a larger, urban area. On the other hand, Izzy said she’s looking forward to seeing the rest of the world.
Izzy also played tennis on the school’s varsity team. She loves reading, writing poetry, and photography on her phone and with her DSLR.
“I usually keep my camera around, and I like to find something natural — shape it, look at different angles to get a nice picture,” she said.
A former Sunday school volunteer at her grandfather’s church, Izzy now volunteers with Maryland Therapeutic Riding in Crownsville. She said the people who come in for horseback riding lessons are so sweet, making it a nice place to volunteer — and, of course, the horses.
“It’s kind of therapeutic to us, even though we are not the ones receiving lessons,” she explained. “It kind of calms you down.”
Capital Gazette is honoring Wendi Winters’ legacy by continuing the Teen of the Week feature. Winters was one of five Capital Gazette employees killed in the June 28, 2018, attack on the newsroom. Capital Gazette reporters and community correspondents will carry on her legacy, bringing you teens from all over the county each week. To nominate a teen for consideration, email firstname.lastname@example.org.