My time as a student in the Scottsdale Unified School District is best defined by one word: opportunity. When considering my peers’ varying paths to MIT, the common thread is undoubtedly the unique and passion-inspiring opportunities we were all given by our respective schools.
From seventh grade tech lab and science olympiad team led by Louise Bunker at Cocopah Middle School, to AP computer science (taught by Jonathan Lofgren) and calculus III (taught by Beatrice Hecht) in my senior year at Chaparral High School, SUSD provided me with incredibly special programs, which gave me the opportunity to play freely with STEM and gain confidence that it might be a possible and fun avenue for me to pursue.
In eighth grade, when I had finished all the math provided at Cocopah, I, along with 10 others, was simply bussed to Chaparral in the mornings and encouraged to keep learning. This simple gift eventually led to my first MIT calculus course being a chance to review rather than one full of new content to learn alongside my physics and chemistry courses.
The availability of these opportunities made my collegiate transition far easier, and more importantly, is the reason I made it into my college at all. I am at my dream school pursuing passions greatly because of the remarkable programs provided to me by SUSD.
But I am not the only one.
Three of my Chaparral classmates joined nationally top-ranked college theater programs mostly due to Chaparral’s outstanding theater department and its hard working heads: Sandy Flayton and Ed Como. I watched many of my classmates excel in our robotics club, learning nascent and advanced engineering skills in an exciting, hands-on environment. I couldn’t join because I spent most of my extra time on the Chaparral soccer team, a truly special program run by coach Robyn Carlson. I won four state championships in four years alongside incredible teammates, many of whom now play elite soccer at D1 college programs. And our team was hardly the only Chaparral athletics program sending multiple students to D1 and Ivy League universities.
My classmates and l all found the opportunity to explore a whole range of niches and interests in middle and high school that eventually led us to our collegiate and career paths. It is astounding to me the number of chances I was given to study a new topic, learn a new skill, or join a new community. And as we were led in countless ways by the hard-working teachers at SUSD, we were also supported by its devoted counselors.
My college application process was strongly propped by my genuinely outstanding guidance counselor, Leslie Rold. She met with me weekly throughout the entire fall semester to go over my latest college application essays, review the critiques she’d made on the previous weeks’, and set goals for the following. This structure was invaluable to a confused 18-year-old facing the truly emotionally and mentally draining college admittance process.
The value of SUSD’s teachers, counselors and staff going the extra mile to help overwhelmed students untangle the terrifying web of approaching adulthood cannot be overstated.
I have peers from all kinds of educational environments, and many of them also came from public school systems. But each and every one of us was given exceptional opportunities as young students to explore our love of STEM to the highest degree we could. Only when our public schools have the ability to provide exceptional education in all walks of life are they able to produce exceptional students in all walks of life.
SUSD’s future kids deserve to have more opportunities than my classmates and I did, not fewer. We were provided incredibly challenging courses, incredibly exciting clubs and programs, and incredibly devoted teachers, counselors and administrators. There is no world in which I can make it into MIT without all three of those remarkable pieces coming together for me and I am profoundly grateful.
I encourage voters to vote yes on the SUSD capital override this November to continue support of the programs, staff, and facilities which helped me succeed. And, I urge voters to choose Mary Gaudio and Robb Vaules for SUSD governing board as they are the only candidates supporting the continuance of this vital funding.