Sierra: A pond at Boys Ranch led an alumna to a degree in mechanical engineering

It all started with the koi pond.

Tim Nation, who led the community garden program, wanted to improve the greenhouse at Boys Ranch to include a fish pond.

“I thought that was a cool idea,” Sierra said. “I wanted to help him. We got with an engineer at Boys Ranch, and we all sat down and went through what a pond could possibly look like. Then we started to break ground inside the greenhouse.”

Sierra scavenged the Boys Ranch property for the perfect rocks, throwing them in the back of Nation’s pickup, even on scorching summer days.

“I spent months finding each and every pebble and stone, and I made all the mortar,” Sierra said. “When I started, mixing the mortar was something that I had to master, because it wasn’t sticking and that was really, really frustrating.”

From Boys Ranch to the University of Tulsa

Sierra was a resident at Boys Ranch from 2013 to 2015, finishing the pond and seeing the koi added to the water before she left. When she graduated from high school and it was time to choose a major, she remembered the pond.

“I chose mechanical engineering simply because I learned through building that pond that I like to work with my hands,” Sierra said. “I like to build things from nothing.”

Sierra with Mr. and Mrs. Nation at her graduation from the University of Tulsa
Sierra with Mr. and Mrs. Nation at her graduation from the University of Tulsa

Because Sierra majored in engineering, she was eligible for one of the Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch scholarships funded by donors Mr. and Mrs. Gerard Elverum. Sierra graduated in May from the University of Tulsa with a mechanical engineering degree.

“(Remembering the challenge of the koi pond) was definitely what helped me graduate college, because there were people who would be like, ‘I’ve read a little bit, and I’m going to go out and party today,’ and I’m like, ‘OK, you have fun, because I don’t get this and I simply cannot go out tonight,'” she said. “I’m not naturally gifted at anything. I wasn’t gifted when I was building the pond. I just stuck with it.”

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