When I was growing up, my parents always told me to pursue my dreams with full effort and dedication. At the time, I thought it was just classic advice that every kid received. It went in one ear and out the other. However, as I transitioned into middle and high school, I realized the depth of this advice through my academic and community involvement and it shaped the woman I am today.
Science Olympiad hasn’t just been an important part of my journey as an involved STEM student. It introduced me to challenging college-level content that allowed me to learn more than I could ever imagine. It also strengthened my teamwork and communication skills and introduced me to people who encouraged me to be my best self. My dad became my biggest well-wisher and cheerleader. He was always standing outside the event room with a cold water bottle and chips to keep me fueled at the competition. He reminded me why I was in Science Olympiad: I chose to take part in it and give it my all.
After deciding to focus on biology and chemistry when I entered high school, I pushed myself to take challenging classes. As a freshman, I took AP Chemistry. I felt shy in a classroom of upperclassmen and the college-level content was confusing. I pushed myself to reach out to a tutor when I was struggling and to start conversations with my classmates. When I moved out of my comfort zone, I saw myself grow. I was able to meet one of my closest friends and realized it’s okay to ask for help. Although I didn’t have perfect grades in AP Chemistry, I still learned a lot about myself. Looking back, I’m proud of myself for being able to navigate a challenging course that required more effort. It’s contributed to my resilience and ability to advocate for myself.
Another big aspect of my journey was finding a group where I belonged at my large school. My school has over 2,000 students so belonging to a group would not only help me achieve my goal of meeting new people, but also give me a safe space. When I saw the poster for Peer Counseling as a freshman, I decided to apply. Three years later, Peer Counseling has made me a stronger leader and volunteer. Being part of a team that worked toward solving issues on campus pushed me to be creative and resourceful. I worked with different people and groups on campus to raise awareness on academic pressures, the Black Lives Matter movement, and more. Peer Counseling was an outlet for me to channel my energy into making a change and helped me learn more about my strengths and weaknesses as a leader. Being able to find a place at your school that not only uplifts you but allows you to uplift others is so important. It gives you a passion and inspires you to use your time and effort to positively transform lives.
From the sleepless nights of studying AP Chemistry to the social issues high schoolers normally face, I’ve definitely faced challenges on my journey. Through it all, being ambitious and focused really motivated me. I always went back to my goals: keeping good grades and being active in my community. Also, surrounding myself with positive people contributed significantly to my success in school and as a leader. I learned to step back from negative people and situations. I made sure to communicate my boundaries to others and to myself. I learned that knowing your limits and healthily pushing yourself out of your comfort zone are two distinct and crucial aspects of development. Looking back, five-year-old me might have thought my parents’ advice was pointless, but sixteen-year-old me knew everything I pursued would require my time and utmost effort to be successful.