Four years ago, when I was accepted to attend Chinquapin, I wasn’t thrilled. Really, I was afraid to be surrounded by strangers, and I had gotten pretty settled at my previous school. As an only child, I spent a lot of time alone, which meant that I didn’t easily welcome meeting people and had a pretty shy demeanor. However, my Chinquapin experience helped me evolve.
I met one of Chinquapin’s new teachers, Sarah Yockey, during my first month at school. Over the past four years, through mid-day and late night conversations, we learned more about each other. Like me, Sarah is a very organized and independent woman, willing to answer questions in every situation. She helped me embrace the side of myself I hadn’t been open to sharing with other people. Sarah allowed me to become more appreciative of teacher-student relationships.
With Sarah’s help, I began to value other aspects of Chinquapin, like the meal crews and chores period, both which make Chinquapin unique: We learn to really take responsibility for ourselves and keep the community running. Daily chores showed me the true benefit and satisfaction that comes from hard work. I learned that if I don’t help my environment, no one else will.
Over time, I broke the outer crust of my shell. I was slowly becoming the ambitious person I am today who works hard to step outside of and exceed the expectations of those who look at me as just another low-income student. And while Sarah played a part in my development, Chinquapin offered other ways for me to expand my outlook and consider my place in the world. Chinquapin’s Journalism Club gave me space to discover my creative side. Before joining the school newspaper – I had not yet spent much time writing; until working on The Burr, I hadn’t had a chance to hone my creative writing skills. I was very excited to dive into this unexplored area. Working on monthly columns and engaging with people increased my world view. I was exposed to politics and issues affecting my community. Working on the student newspaper allowed me to be more engaged and aware of the news, and I wanted to share my discoveries with others through my writing. Through dedication and experience, I became Editor-in-Chief during my sophomore year and have maintained that position throughout my junior and senior year.
While my journalism hobby was blooming, I also developed a love for photography. Beginning junior year, I worked on a two-year project to identify an issue in my community I wanted to highlight and, hopefully, change. During my junior year I wrote a paper about how inefficiencies in the meat industry harm the environment. In my senior year, my photography hobby played a role in the successes of my Junior-Senior project. I created an Instagram page featuring my nature photography. I use this as a way to remind people of the beauty of what we should all be working to conserve, to “speak” for something that doesn’t have a voice.
Thanks to this project, I came to realize I wanted to major in Environmental Science. This wouldn’t have been possible without the past two years of research and four years of just me discovering my skills and passions. With an Environmental Science degree and my journalism and photography skills, I hope to travel for environmental research and share people’s stories from all across the world. My ambition is to create a non-profit organization where I can use my skills and collaborate with others to raise environmental awareness and break the cycle of poverty. I want to exceed the expectations set for other low-income students and work to break Hispanic stereotypes.
Without the last four years at Chinquapin, I truly do not know where I would be. All of my accomplishments, relationships, and future goals are the result of being part of the close-knit community that is Chinquapin. Most importantly, when I go out into the world, I want to represent Chinquapin and hopefully inspire others to find their true passions and to not be afraid of trying new things just like I did when I was at Chinquapin.