|Year of Entry: 1994
||Age at Entry: 13
||Hometown: Berlin, New Jersey
Growing up as I did, the third child of a farm family in a small town, I expected to follow in my family’s footsteps. My brother and sister had already had all of my teachers, knew all of my peers. It was expected that the three of us would go to the same high school where my dad and three of his siblings went, where I’d do it all over again.
Obviously, I constantly looked for ways to stand out. Sure, I always had the highest grades, and I tried to show up my brother and sister (scholastically) whenever I could. Little did I know …
Along with a few others in my class, and like my brother and sister before me, I took my SATs when I was in 7th grade. I did fairly well, for a 12-year-old — better than my brother and sister, which was a matter of pride, at least. A few months later, my father handed me a packet. He told me they’d received a postcard in the mail. He’d originally thrown it out, but decided to send it in and see what came of it. Well, what came was a college application.
I’d never heard of the Program for the Exceptionally Gifted (PEG) or of Mary Baldwin College for that matter. And frankly, I didn’t believe it was real, at first. Sure, I filled out the application, not believing anything would come of it. I even did a prospective overnight, where I fell in love with the school and all the program had to offer. At the same time, I took the entrance exam for the high school my family went to, where I won a half scholarship.
And then I got accepted into PEG.
I had to make a choice — take the safe route (high school), or try something that — in my family, in my town — had never been done before (PEG). But in a way, it was more than that. I wasn’t just doing something new. In choosing PEG, I chose a place where I knew I would grow intellectually, spiritually, and emotionally, in the company of real peers. For the first time, I’d be around people my own age who were as bright or even brighter than me. It was an opportunity in a way I’d never even considered was possible. It was also incredibly scary: being so far away from home, in a place I didn’t know anyone; being in a situation that was entirely unfamiliar to anyone I ever knew, so there was absolutely no one I could ask for insight; and taking a chance in a way I’d never done before. I’d never taken a real risk before, since my path had long since been paved; as scary as it was, becoming a PEG student still seemed like the right fit for me.
In the end, I decided to attend PEG, and I started in August 1994.
Like many of us, it took me a few months to really feel settled in. It took me some time to get to know the people in my class, to figure out what I might be interested in, and to feel comfortable just being myself. It wasn’t until I realized that I didn’t have anyone waiting for me to live up to their expectations anymore that I started to find myself.
And find myself, I did. I met people from all walks of life, and I made real friends for the first time. Some of them are still my best friends to this day. In my classmates, I found strength, I found excitement, I found energy, I found faith. I found that taking a chance on someone could turn out to be one of the best moments of your life. I found that friends can be your family, just as much as your flesh and blood is. A lot of what I did at MBC wasn’t what I expected to do in college. I took acting, music history, and art history; I fell in love with chemistry, which was almost heathen territory to a biologist like me; I did fencing for the first time, and it was the only time I ever actively enjoyed a sport. I got my first C in Dr. Garrison’s American Literature class — and I was more proud of that C than of any of the A’s I’d ever earned!
Challenging The Vision
I also found that aspiring to something isn’t the same as achieving it, and that some dreams aren’t meant to be fulfilled. I went through MBC as pre-med; I took all the right classes, learned all the right things; however, when I took my MCATs, I bombed … twice. I wound up going to graduate school for microbiology as a stopgap; I did my research in the labs at a medical school, and there I decided that maybe medical school wasn’t what I really wanted after all. As much as I loved science, and as much as I wanted to help people, what I really wanted was, well, a life. I saw the med students, I saw how they lived and breathed their work. And frankly, I was done with that. I was tired, and I wanted to see more of the world than a classroom. So, when I graduated, I got a job at a biotech company, where I’ve been ever since. And you know what? I’m really happy with my decisions and with where I am in my life. I work hard, I learn new things every day, and I really do help people. Directly, I help the people I work with by creating new processes that make their jobs easier; indirectly, I help some of the most innovative diagnostic technologies become available to the world of medicine.
You might ask what not fulfilling my dream has to do with being a PEG and MBC alumna. For me, PEG was a different way to get at what I really wanted out of my life. PEG is a way for gifted young girls to become the women that they want to be, in a non-traditional manner that forces them to challenge what they already know by giving them options as to what they could know. Every gifted girl has a dream, and every gifted girl has some sort of vision for how that dream will happen. PEG doesn’t challenge the dream – it challenges the vision, by giving a whole new meaning to the word “opportunity”. PEG gives gifted young women the opportunities, the options, and the means to make their dreams happen – maybe not the way they imagined, but that maybe — just maybe — it could be even better.