Life Path

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My parents served as my first educators. As my mom read to me, she would explain the unfamiliar words. If she was unclear on a definition, we would look up the meaning together in a dictionary. Languages—English and Spanish—became not only tools for communication, but playthings of a sort, and we proudly referred to ourselves as “word nerds.” My dad, likewise, patiently answered my childish questions, never “dumbing-down” his explanations. He pointed out Orion in the night sky and quizzed me on the names of the bright stars in the great hunter’s belt. When I asked, “Why is the sky blue?,” he taught me about Rayleigh scattering. I did not understand the concept as a preschooler, but I learned that asking questions lead to answers, and sometimes those answers lead to more questions. As I started elementary school, being a “word nerd” was no longer a source of pride. If I used words like “pretentious” with my classmates, not only would I sound pretentious, but they wouldn’t understand me. I wrote a story about how I “careered” around a corner on my bike, and the teacher crossed the word out and wrote “careened.” I wanted “career”—to travel at a high rate speed and out of control—but I was too reserved to ever question a teacher. I lacked confidence and never raised my hand in class. In elementary school, I learned to color in the lines and fill in the bubbles on standardized tests. I learned to play by the rules.My parents enrolled me in a magnet program for gifted and talented students for middle school. I felt neither “gifted” nor “talented.” I’d won the spelling bee in my old school; in the new school, I didn’t even make it out of the classroom round. The math teacher challenged us to memorize as many digits in pi as we could. I felt pride in my ability to recite pi to the fiftieth digit … until half of the class made it to over a hundred places. Amidst these mathletes and scholastic rock stars, I felt less than adequate. Middle school taught me humility. But I also learned that my peers made great teachers; I learned how to work collaboratively, and I learned how to be a consensus builder in a school full of want-to-be leaders.By the time I got to high school, I learned that education is more than knowing the definitions of words and more than a list of numbers. I learned to have fun in school. I taught myself to read music instead of just guitar tablature and played in the school’s jazz band. More than in other forms of music, jazz allows for invention and improvisation; the genre fosters creativity. In jazz, the wind instruments—especially the saxophones—are undoubtedly the stars, while the guitar provides background rhythm, dutifully filling out the chords and notes that the other instruments cannot play. I was content to stay in the background, but I also learned that the occasional spotlit solo isn’t such a bad thing. Jazz band taught me the importance of each instrument playing its part and each musician working in concert. Running with the high school cross country team taught me that a twelve-mile workout with teammates produces exhilarating pain accompanied by a sense of accomplishment. A varsity cross country team only comprises seven members. Each finisher is assigned a number as he or she crosses the finish line with the first-place finisher scoring one point and the sixtieth finisher scoring sixty points. The team with the lowest total wins. Even though I was not my team’s top runner, I learned that my efforts counted, and every other competitor I passed in a race made a difference in the outcome. I learned to train and push past pain. Through cross country, I learned to give my all.In college I’d like to study engineering, and even as a high schooler I have worked toward that end, taking concurrent enrollment college and Advanced Placement classes. I see a college education as the ability, to some degree at least, to make a difference. My future self may desire to build a hydraulic project in Latin America that provides clean drinking water and irrigation for the indigenous population. The knowledge of chemistry, physics, geology, calculus, and engineering would enable me to build a structure with physical integrity. Working with fellow students in a college environment will teach me the moral integrity to treat others with respect and to follow through with dreams and plans. Studying the social sciences and languages will increase the ease with which I can work within other cultures and communicate with the world’s people. My parents still foster my curiosity, my teachers continue to instill a work ethic, music nurtures my creativity, and running hones perseverance. My education, from all facets of my life, has shaped the person I am and my view of myself. My education will continue to shape the person I become. As a child, I learned to ask questions, to play by the rules, and to work collaboratively. As a young adult, I learned that each person in a group has an important role to play, and I learned to give my all. In college, I want to study engineering. I want to design, to build, to generate new technologies, and to problem solve. I want to innovate, and education serves as the foundation for innovation.

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