High school student.
What would you say to your peers?
“Differentiate yourself and maybe take extra classes on Saturday (that your peers may make fun of you for) and think outside the box.”
Ariel is part of a minority population in America. Her parents are from Guyana and moved to the US for employment. Since she was a small kid she tagged along on her parents’ work-mission trips around the world. At only 5 years old, Ariel had the opportunity to meet and shadow a doctor with patients during one of her parents’ trips. Ariel was impressed by how the doctor was not merely diagnosing his patients but he was able to establish an emotional connection with them. Ariel realized then how medical sciences would ignite her inspiration through childhood and adolescence.
Ariel Rose is a rising junior at Half Hollow Hills High School West in Long Island and in her eyes a newbie in the scientific community. Ariel’s passion is to engage people and learn about other cultures. Her life goal is clear: “I want to become part of the scientific community.” Ariel dreams to study how socioeconomic status impacts health and medical practices, and how harnessing these conditions can lead to a healthier society. She wants to expand her personal and philosophical worldview with like-minded people.
“I want to become part of the scientific community.“
“I made important long lasting friendships during these times and the sense of belonging to a community with common interests has played a pivotal role in my personal growth.“
“My parents’ expectation is for me to become a scientist and that’s how I got into a science based school,” Ariel proudly proclaims. Her early childhood was characterized by science summer day camps and as she grew older more intense activities in sleep away science camps. These are a great opportunity to immerse oneself more in science and interact with a lot of people: “I started to like all scientific aspects — working in a team and learning more about how the body works.” As Ariel grew older, she enjoyed the science camps even more because she was able to better grasp the scientific concepts. More importantly, the social factor of interacting with people who were as passionate as she was, worked in tandem with her deeper scientific knowledge to hone her career interests. “I made important long lasting friendships during these times and the sense of belonging to a community with common interests has played a pivotal role in my personal growth.”
Ariel has had a hard time choosing her favorite subject in school. On one hand she is passionate about history and how different lives in the world coexist, and on the other hand she is constantly fascinated by how the body evolves over time and how the smallest thing like a cell can play a pivotal role in the essence of an organism. These two seemingly opposite subjects intermingle in Ariel’s mind and shape her unique interests in science.
Ariel’s 8th grade was particularly mentally draining as she was having a hard time envisioning how her future would unfold. Ariel knew that all of her actions from this point onward would reflect on her college applications and all of this was hard to deal with. Her English and Science teacher dragged her out of the uncertainties that were looming over her future. Thanks to her teacher, Ariel engaged in a freshman school club and that year she organized the biggest flag football event in her school’s history. She felt that her involvement in such activities had an impact in her community. Creating that event and learning how to budget, fundraise, and manage people was an experience that made Ariel feel more self aware and empowered.
“my sacrifices did what they were intended to do.“
Ariel’s school life is imbued with homework and extracurricular activities that at times impinge on her social connections. Ariel sometimes sacrifices joining friends in after school activities. She wishes she didn’t have to miss out being with friends, but at the same time she is certain that the positive attitude and self motivation invested in these activities have put her ahead of her peers. She stated that “my sacrifices did what they were intended to do.”
Ariel commuted to Columbia University every Saturday for a few hours from Long Island to take part in the State Pre College Enrichment Program (SPREP). In SPREP she took extra science classes. Her excitement in these classes pushed her to look for even bigger scientific challenges. She found an outlet for her passion in the BRAINYAC program aimed at connecting high school students with scientists at Columbia University who mentor the students on a scientific project over the course of one summer. This past summer Ariel was part of a lab team whose focus is studying the neurobiology of fear. She dedicated her summer to analyzing several aspects of fear-like behavior in a mouse model of anxiety. During this time Ariel learned how to develop a hypothesis, and analyze and interpret data. She hypothesized that if the brain neurotransmitter, serotonin, does not develop normally in early life, this may impact adult fear behavior. Ariel presented her work at the BRAINYAC program final day and at the NYCSRM Consortium Annual Science Symposium. This experience was, for Ariel, a turning point in her still burgeoning scientific career, but she also realized that although she found pre-clinical science interesting, her flame burns higher when discussing subjects like social justice with her mentor.
When Ariel goes on to college, she plans to build on the research she has done on anxiety, but in keeping with her growing passion for understanding social issues, to also dig deeper into how hypersexualization of black teenage girls leads to predisposition to anxiety.
Ariel’s identity has shaped her experiences in school, where she has experienced microaggressions. Black kids had assigned seats from the beginning of the term, usually seated farther back in the classroom. Once, an eye doctor did not believe that the gel he used was causing pain and called her a liar. Aware of the implicit biases of our society, Ariel has never stopped actively supporting Black Lives Matter (BLM) initiatives, particularly this past summer. She and a group of her peers staged a BLM protest on Juneteenth in response to the killing of George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, Ahamaud Arbery, as well as others. Beyond the public protests, and again keeping with her broadening focus on society inequities, she is expanding her personal interests in social justice by delving into how the banking and financial systems unequally affect people in America and she is committed to work harder to address the inequitable status quo.
Ariel firmly believes that to succeed, people at her age should not take everything at face value, such as the value of joining every club or getting good grades. It is more important to connect with people who can help you achieve your goals and to put all of your efforts in having a long lasting impact on the community. To her peers she wants to say “Differentiate yourself and maybe take extra classes on Saturday (that your peers may make fun of you for) and think outside the box.” With this perspective and youthful energy, Ariel has decided that she will be part of the scientific community and won’t sit still — she wants to have an impact on people’s lives. She yearns to talk about black people succeeding, and wants to engage people from different backgrounds to show them the endless possibilities that society has to offer.
by Giulia Zanni