By Sue Moore
Alysia Zimmerman of Vicksburg had a lot of obstacles to overcome in her early years. She is a 2014 graduate of Vicksburg High School’s Way program, now called Pathways. Today, she is the captain of Western Michigan University’s Sunseeker solar-powered racing car which took 5th place in the Formula Sun Grand Prix competition in Texas this spring.
Suffering from migraine headaches since she was 11, Zimmerman missed 53 days of school in her sophomore year at VHS. She became pregnant in her senior year and opted to put the child up for adoption. She worked and went back to school in the Way program under Steve Fryling and Kristen Hossink’s tutelage, while residing in Traverse City for a year. “Way is a tool for kids with alternative issues,” Zimmerman said. “Still, you need your own motivation to make it work.”
She got her inspiration from her mom, Sue Craft, who worked in the family business at Bartholomew Heating and Cooking, where she performed energy audits. Zimmerman’s cousin, Brad Bartholomew, was passionate about energy auditing for his customers. “That piqued my interest in renewable and clean energy,” Zimmerman said.
She chose to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College before entering WMU to major in electrical engineering with an emphasis on solar energy. The migraines had ceased when her pregnancy began, so she was able to concentrate on her schooling a whole lot better, she said. Scholarships, loans, Pell grants, and her mentors helped to keep her going toward furthering her education. She will graduate in the spring of 2020 from WMU and plans to begin a master’s degree program before getting into the field and starting to work in research and development.
Meanwhile, the Sunseeker team is looking to build a new car with Zimmerman in charge of the project. She was responsible for the solar power on the car which raced earlier this year, preparing the plans and schematics, purchasing the solar panels, encapsulating the panels and mounting and wiring them. The team is aiming to take part in a cross country race with her as captain in 2020.
Zimmerman is engaged to a fellow who wants to be a nurse and works full time at Aunt Millie’s in Kalamazoo, making bread. They joke that he is supporting her by bringing home the bread while she goes to school.