How GSSM Helped Reveal My Potential

July 5, 2016

I never really thought about it when I came here, but GSSM was the wrong school for me. Interested in political science from a young age, I didn’t know what I was doing at a science and math school. I had little interest in science back then, thinking that having a lab every other month was the end of the world, and I never quite realized that coming to GSSM would involve taking AP Physics, Computer Science, Biology and Chemistry.

I did like math, but that was more because I was good at it. There wasn’t much of a passion behind it. Somehow, probably because my pre-calculus class reviewed before the GSSM math placement test, an unfortunate miracle placed me into BC Calculus. Now, after AP BC calculus, AP statistics, above-AP multivariable calculus and above-AP discrete structures, I'm happy to say that I know a lot more about math than I ever thought I wanted to, and I realized that I like the subject itself, not just the good grades that come with it.

No, when I came here, all I wanted to do was learn, and I didn’t think much about what that would mean. Having moved around a lot, this is the seventh school I've gone to in the United States, and none of them felt tailored to me the way GSSM did. That's not to say anything negative about any of the other places I’ve been. For example, at my old high school, I'm sure that the full IB program would have kept me busy, but in the years leading up to it, I had effortless As and was routinely bored in class. They tried as hard as they could to challenge me. It just wasn't working. GSSM changed all of that.

Unsure of what to expect, I found incredible classes in every subject. Of the 14 classes I’ve taken here, all have been taught by teachers with a deep, passionate interest in their subjects, and almost all of those teachers have had the highest degrees possible in their fields. I found myself going to offices regularly, sometimes to make up for missed material, but also just to talk to them about the different life experiences they’ve had, and I’m happy to say that I've learned a lot from them that has nothing to do with course material. One could even say I owe them for their honesty. When I came in, I thought I was a good writer. The English faculty disagreed. They started from the very bottom of my writing; they tore me apart. They taught me how to write, how to think, how to express myself, and they built me back up from the very beginning.

Then there were also the other teachers who expressed their concern for me in different ways. During my first year at GSSM, I was part of a nine-person AP Spanish Language class. I decided to pursue it further, so I built an independent study with Dr. Gowan. This ended up being one-on-one, so we spent three hours every week of the entire school year in his office poring over Spanish literature together. Not only was he able, but he was willing to make that kind of time for me and my passions.

Then there was summer research. Though GSSM has a well-earned reputation for excellence in science and mathematics, I decided to pursue economics during my required six weeks of summer research. With the help of the director of GSSM’s BlueCross BlueShield Economics and Finance Institute, I created a spot for myself at the South Carolina Council on Competitiveness. They let me choose what I wanted to do, so I analyzed aerospace education data, something I had no experience with. During the school year following my research experience, I built a research poster, wrote a research paper, presented to a full room at GSSM’s Colloquium, and even took home awards, not only for my written paper, but also for my oral presentation, at the South Carolina Junior Academy of Science.

GSSM’s January Interim minimester helped me as well, both professionally and personally. During junior year, I went on the TechTrek to Boston and NYC. During this trip, I was exposed to a variety of new industries and met adults, including alumni, who were passionate about not only telling me their experiences, but also wanting to help me learn from those experiences and build a future for myself. Also, we toured colleges, namely Columbia, Harvard and MIT and its media lab, which really helped an indecisive junior like me start thinking about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do.

My senior year, I was able to ride horses during Interim. As someone who’s done that for the last 10 years but had to give it up when I came to GSSM, it was amazing to be able to go back to doing what I love.

In short, there's so much that I’m thankful to GSSM for. The past two years haven't always been the easiest, but since I’m independent by nature, social adjustment and homesickness were never problems for me. Instead, I immersed myself in clubs and activities available only here. They let me explore my true interests in a closely knit community that encouraged trying new things, and I even ended up leading clubs senior year that I had never been in before coming to GSSM. I also developed extensive time management skills that will definitely serve me well over my time at Yale.

My time at GSSM hasn’t redefined who I am as a person. Neither has it radically changed my interests, somehow making me like science more. What it has done is revealed my potential, both to myself and to those around me. Those people immediately pushed me to live up to their expectations of my ability. It’s changed my perspective on who I am and what I can do, and my growth in both confidence and ability have been amazing. GSSM has presented me with incredible opportunities over my time here, and I look forward to seeing what they can do for you.

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