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EHS names student of the week

Q. In what grade are you currently enrolled?

A. I am currently enrolled in 12th grade at Emmaus High School.

Q. Please provide the first names of your family members: parents, siblings and pets.

A. My parents are Sean and Julie O’Brien and I have an older brother Patrick and a younger sister Megan. We also have two dogs named Daisy and Lily.

Q. What is your favorite subject? Why?

A. My favorite subject is physics because I find it fascinating that we can describe natural phenomena in a mathematical manner. I particularly enjoy quantum mechanics and learning about the fundamental particles and forces of the universe, which I believe we can and hope to one day apply to larger-scale problems. There is still so much we do not know, but being on the cusp of new discoveries or better understanding how our world works from the ground up makes me so excited to pursue theoretical physics.

Q. Have you received any special awards or recognition?

A. I am a member of National Honor Society and Tri-M Music Honor Society and I have also achieved Principal’s Honor Roll each year, am a National Merit Scholar, was named a National AP Scholar and will be an Honors Graduate this June. Last year I was a National Biology Olympiad semifinalist and achieved an honorable mention from the National Spanish Examination as well.

A large portion of my awards also resulted from my scientific pursuits; I was recognized as the Science Girl of the Month by the Women’s Club of Emmaus, received the Pennsylvania Junior Academy of Science Six-Year Perseverance Award, was awarded first places eight times regionally and five times statewide for my science fair research from PJAS, earned two first place awards from the Lehigh Valley Science and Engineering Fair and was given an honorable mention and first place distinction at the Delaware Valley Science Fair.

I was also certified by the Society of Women engineers for my research contributions; earned multiple bronze, silver and gold Science Olympiad medals locally, conference-wide, regionally and statewide and was identified as an Extraordinary Science Student by the school. Additionally, I contributed to team efforts in multiple math, computer science and engineering contests and volleyball and marching band tournaments that helped us place in or win those competitions.

I received several academic and artistic scholarships as well, mostly this year, along with a few other smaller awards in a variety of academic subjects.

Q. Are you involved in any extracurricular activities? How has COVID-19 impacted these activities?

A. My two major extracurricular activities are club volleyball and marching band – the latter of which I lead as drum major. I am also president of the Science Fair Club, vice president of the Math Club, president of the Science Olympiad Team; wrote for the Stinger as copy editor and now a news editor and participated in TSA (engineering), Academic Team and the American Computer Science League. Beyond marching band, I am involved in a number of additional musical groups, including concert band, flute ensemble and the basketball pep band, which I helped revamp last year but unfortunately could not run this winter due to COVID-19.

Outside of school, I am a Girl Scout Ambassador and assist in various community service projects, including some through the school-sponsored Key Club and Habitat for Humanity earlier in my high school career.

The pandemic stopped virtually all of these activities last year, especially the academic competitions, although volleyball and band were by far the most affected. In 2020, my volleyball season ended in March instead of June, and this year we were severely restricted during practices and games – although I am grateful we still had a full tournament schedule. For marching band this past fall, we also experienced a number of restrictions and sadly all competitions and parades were canceled.

Q. What do you consider your biggest challenge to date?

A. I am lucky in that I did not have to overcome many obstacles during high school unlike many other students unfortunately do, but perhaps the biggest personal challenge I faced involved injuries I sustained from a car accident during my sophomore year. This resulted in a number of musculoskeletal and neurological problems that required four different types of therapies, which took up a significant portion of my time and energy after school each day. I also experienced a severe stunt in my academic growth to the point where I could barely read a textbook, which was very uncharacteristic and demoralizing. Despite that, however, I never dropped any classes or extracurriculars, although my stubbornness to do so and attempts to work normally created other problems. I was finally cleared of further treatment in January of my junior year, but I still continue to deal with some of the longer-lasting effects and symptoms to this day.

Q. What is your next goal after high school?

A. I intend on graduating from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology with a dual major in physics and electrical engineering and computer science. More immediately, I also aspire to join the Navy ROTC and conduct physics or renewable energy research during my time at college. While this is a bit of a more long-term goal, I would one day love to intern or work for the European Organization for Nuclear Research as well.

Q. Whom do you admire? Why?

A. I admire my grandmother because, despite all of the hardship and adversity she experienced throughout her life, she remained resilient and ultimately managed to find and define her worth through independence. I have always looked up to her as a symbol of strength and courage and she continually imparts those values to me.

Q. For what would you like to be remembered?

A. If I were to be remembered for one thing, I hope it would be that I constantly went out of my way to help others, whether personally or academically. Through leadership, tutoring, or merely friendship, I have always enjoyed seeing my peers grow, and knowing that I contributed to that growth is very fulfilling. Even then, I do not mind if I am forgotten – I just hope I managed to make an impact on the community that outlasts my name.

Q. Do you have any advice for your peers?

A. My biggest piece of advice for high school specifically is to take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way, and even to make your own.

During these four years, do not worry about following a certain formula or checking an arbitrary number of boxes - simply throw yourself into what you love and do not be afraid to explore your passions in new, unconventional ways.

Most importantly, never compare yourself to others; perhaps one of the best lessons you can learn during high school or life more generally is how to be completely comfortable and content with yourself. Along those same lines, know that ultimately who you are as a person will forever be more valuable than who you are on paper, and you are very much valued and needed in this world in ways you cannot begin to imagine.