Confusion, apprehension, and not enough fellow females: this was my initial impression of my very first programming class during my sophomore year of high school. In those moments I never would have dreamed that a subject that was so terrifying would end up becoming my passion and future career. Yet, all those times fixing one line of code just for another to break, contemplating how to take a solution in my head and translate it to computer language, and turning to Google for almost everything, taught me that failure can be fun. So fun in fact that I decided to become a Computer Science major at the University of Texas at Austin. For me, coding became an avenue to connect my interests in advocacy and business through technology. In the next thirty years, I hope to create my own company that uses technology to addresses mental and physical health, work in another country, and continue to empower other students to achieve their dreams.
“We never must quit when it comes to these principles of equity and justice in America.” As a seventh grade student, it was these sixteen words stated by Representative Patsy T. Mink, a leader in the creation of the gender discrimination law Title IX, that inspired me to pursue a path of advocacy and empowerment. My source of inspiration for my work came in a very unexpected from: a history project. After learning about Title IX and how it opened the doors for women in higher education in sports and continues to protect students against gender discrimination, bullying, and sexual harassment, I immediately wanted to share my new-found knowledge with literally anyone who would listen. What started as a history project morphed into a passion for advocacy. Out of this passion came the Teens Empower initiative I started with my friends. In all of our presentations, we try to combine technology with history and education. It was this interdisciplinary style and the fact that I could have a direct impact on my community’s health that drew me to pursue a degree in Public Health with a concentration in bio statistics and health informatics.
I’ve always known that I wanted to pursue a career where I could spend my time helping others. But I wanted to combine this passion with my interest in science and public policy, which is why I am a Public Health major at UT. I believe that imagination coupled with action is the spark that can lead to a revolution. It doesn’t matter who you are, but as long as you have an idea that you’re really passionate about, go big or go home, because only the most eccentric and unorthodox people change the world.
I often consider myself to be a walking contradiction. I am an introverted debater, a pragmatic idealist and a history geek pursuing a STEM career. Thus deciding on a career path let alone a sole passion was a challenge. Currently, I am a freshman at the University of Texas at Austin majoring in Architecture and Plan II (a liberal arts program). Society will often try to define you by your passion, your career, your race, your gender and many other boxes. I challenge you to look beyond these boxes and take risks. Don't be afraid of failure. When we founded TeensEmpower, that was my overarching motivation; to make young people (much like myself) feel confident that they can suceed regardless of societal stereotypes. Though it’s hard to believe YOU can change the world, all it takes is one mind and one voice that is ready to make a difference.