By Mialie T. Szymanski
The Villager – Summer may be almost over, which means classes are about to start up again for the area’s youngsters (and college co-eds too!) but for one local student the learning didn’t stop just because the school bell rang signaling warm weather had arrived. Alie Orr, a soon-to-be ninth grader at Newton Falls High School, had the opportunity to spend part of her summer vacation attending a gathering of future leaders in Columbus. Youth from all over the United States converged upon our state capital for a weekend of workshops, projects, teambuilding and networking, hoping to return to their respective regions a little bit more talented, a smidge wiser and perhaps even with a few new friends on facebook.
Once Alie received her acceptance letter to the event, the National Young Leaders State Conference, thanks to a nomination by her seventh grade English teacher, Mrs. Clay, she started to fulfill the program’s curriculum requirements by producing a creative newsletter-type magazine cover about someone she admired (she picked her mom) and considered her goals and what she hoped to acquire from her time there.
For her part, Kristy Orr, Alie’s mom, had a big wish for her daughter’s attendance at the conference: to gain more confidence.
During the whirlwind weekend, students kept a special journal answering prompts in the book that required them to think deeply on different topics and to explore potentially new areas of discussion including conversations they would have in class. One workshop invited the students to imaginarily plan a community service project (Alie planned a fundraiser concert for autism awareness) while another put the participants in the spotlight, engaging them as discussion leaders, which helped polish their skills and become better public speakers. Though the service project Alie planned in class is only imaginary right now, she has organized a real one taking place this weekend: a bake sale to help the homeless in our local community, set up during the City Wide Yard Sale (August 15, 16 and 17).
Before she temporarily left the small town of Newton Falls for the big city of Columbus, one of Alie’s own goals was to talk more and make new friends and all around “to better myself,” she said. Sorted into themed teams of other kids her age from various parts of the country (the 8th grader sets were named after rivers), Alie as part of the “Amazons” spent the conference getting to know a diverse group of students and honed her social skills as well as her academic abilities.
She mentioned that the experience has indeed helped her ask questions more and be more engaged with those around her. “I spent four days with complete strangers and walked out with a bunch of phone numbers,” she said with a smile.
If there’s one thing this bright young lady hopes people will know about her it’s that there’s more than meets the eye and she may be quiet but that doesn’t mean she’s shy. “I’m not just a bookworm,” she explained. “I’m fun to be around and I pick and choose my friends wisely.”
So did Kristy’s wish for her daughter come true?
“I am most proud of her for finding herself,” Kristy said. “This past year was a difficult year for her and I’m proud of her for staying true to who she is, that she owns who she is. Embrace your weirdness!” And the confidence? Kristy mentioned that she has indeed seen a higher level of confidence in Alie. “I’ve noticed that difference ever since,” she said.
So what’s around the corner for this year? In addition to continuing her already full schedule of interests including playing snare drum in the marching band and serving as defender on the soccer team, Alie would like to study drama, journalism and photography in the upcoming school year as well. And if that isn’t enough to juggle, Alie is looking forward to being the first freshman at Newton Falls to take college classes at Kent Trumbull. As she doesn’t have a high school GPA yet which is a requirement for taking courses, this first semester will be strictly high school classes to officially earn that status. Then she will incorporate the higher learning one class at a time, to which she states there’s only one problem: her small height in comparison to all the older college students. “I’ll just have to wear high heels to look taller,” she quipped.
And for after she officially graduates from high school, well, she’s thought that out too. Although mom Kristy attended Kent State University and dad Ron is a Hiram College alumnus, Alie has her sights set on Ohio State with plans to study veterinary medicine. Alie’s love for animals is shown in the two cats and one dog that keep her entertained at home and caring for them is a good start for her intended career.
It appears that with a little bit more planning, a smidge of ambition and perhaps even a touch of luck, Amazon Alie will be achieving amazing accomplishments!
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