Core Values: Environmentalism, Equity, and Friendship
The Ivy League Challenge showed me how to network, find, and communicate with experts and land research opportunities. Toward the end of my junior year, my efforts led me to a discussion with my vice principal. Through our regular and honest conversations about my core values and interests, she realized I was serious about science research and connected me with Dr. Charles McCrory, who became my lab advisor.
My role in the research lab at the University of Michigan (UMich) was to analyze alkanethiols on metal substrates and their reduction rates as carbon chains break. This helps researchers establish data to help fill many important gaps. For example, the release of sensors and aid catalysis for CO2 conversion, reduction, etc.
We had to make arrangements for me to live on campus during the summer since UMich is an hour away from my house, and daily commute would be impossible. Of course, there were many, many different kinds of approval this had to go through, but ultimately it was worth it.
Living in the University of Michigan by myself and being independent for the first time was incredibly fun! I learned new life skills and made amazing friends and lifelong mentors.
The project itself was a bit challenging at first because it focused on incredibly advanced and niche chemistry. With time and lots of explaining from my lab mentors, I managed to understand and learn brand new concepts regarding chemistry and CO2 reduction.
Presenting at the Aluminum and Uranium Conference
Later I was able to present my research at a conference called Alum|NUM & URAN|UM. This conference is for college seniors to demonstrate their research, and it was an incredible honor to present alongside them. I really benefited from the feedback I received. This work also led me to inquire about a very specific neighborhood near Detroit (where I live) known as the Delray neighborhood.
Environmentalism is important to me, so I have begun an independent study with the help of professionals to confirm a possible link from high levels of CO2 pollution and the onset of dementia. Our work is inspired by my electrochemistry research, and I hope that our results will prompt policymakers in Detroit to provide better care for Delray residents and increase funding in environmental research.
The Ivy League Challenge
As I write this summary I’m amazed at what has happened so quickly. This time last year, I was stressing out trying to squeeze in extra activities, and I depended on all-nighters and high-stress deadline motivation to get my schoolwork done.
The Ivy League Challenge allowed me to have the foundation to succeed. For instance, thanks to the tips from the classes, I learned how to manage my time and prioritize my health. I also dropped a lot of fodder activities I didn’t enjoy. I hadn’t realized just how many unnecessary commitments I had until I was forced to think about it.
Learning about my core values and defining what success means to me has empowered me more than I ever could have imagined. I learned that I enjoy writing in my self-discovery process, alongside core values like environmentalism, equity, and friendship. You taught me how to enjoy my time. Instead of constant pressure and insecurity– always feeling like I wasn’t doing enough, no matter how much I did– I learned to take my time back and developed a healthy and sustainable schedule for myself.
A year later, I couldn’t be happier with where I am as a person. This course was amazing and turned my life around in an incredibly short amount of time. Before, I didn’t have time to read, even though I wanted to. I didn’t know that I wanted to reflect and write, because I never had time to explore my thoughts. Today, I read a lot, and my reflective writing has somehow evolved into two published books. I smiled all day when you sent me pictures of you reading my book on the steps of the Widener library at Harvard, and later when I learned that you submitted it to the Harvard library system.
How can I say this loudly enough? Look at my schoolwork. The Ivy League Challenge helped me actually know how to deal with my schoolwork. I’m basically stress free this year despite having a much heavier academic schedule than I did last year. I actually take time to enjoy my day and indulge in the things I like. I pull no more all-nighters and I always feel like I know how to manage priorities.
Again, this is because I cleared my extracurricular schedule. It opened up so much time I didn’t know I had. I also learned to do my schoolwork at school so I wouldn’t have much homework. I learned to create boundaries with myself. Which was one of the first lessons we learn in the program. This means going to bed at a certain time, exercising, drinking more water, better self-talk, etc. Those little promises to myself led me to feeling good about just living my day to day life. Now, I even have time for binge watching Star Wars and reading, which I felt like I never had the time for until recently. If I’m up late, it’s because I’m reading!
My message to my fellow teens
My advice to other teens– I want you to be happy. Yes, college admissions are cutthroat– but your life shouldn’t revolve around college admissions. If your life revolves around admissions, you are not likely to become the kind of person who will get in anyway. And you get to be a teenager only once. Enjoy the time you have. Do things that are more meaningful, because that is was really makes you happy. Take the time you need to discover yourself and your values, and then apply it to help others. Explore your interests, whatever they are! Take agency at a young age, and you will learn how to be a happy, healthy, and successful adult.