Amidst the excitement of graduation, many high school seniors are getting ready to graduate right now. In this series of interviews, we engage with a group of graduating seniors who have redefined the traditional notions of achievement and embarked on paths driven by purpose, determination and passion.
They have dedicated years of hard work, determination, and sacrifice to achieve the highest academic honors in their graduating class. However, their journey is not just about earning a high GPA, but it’s about the lessons they have learned, the challenges they have faced, and the impact they have made on their school and community. In this interview, we will explore the inspiring journey of a K-12 graduating seniors and the lessons they can share to inspire others. We share this with Margaret Byers from Western Reserve High School.
Name: Margaret Byers
School: Western Reserve High School
Bio: Margaret Byers is a soon-to-be graduate of Western Reserve High School and plans to continue her education in the fall at Youngstown State University to pursue a degree in Professional and Publication Writing. Outside of the classroom, she has spent her time playing softball and showing livestock around Ohio.
What inspired you to strive for academic excellence, and how did you maintain your motivation throughout your academic journey?
Growing up, my parents were strong supporters of my educational experience and always encouraged me to work hard in school. They praised me for receiving good grades and helped teach me confusing concepts at home, providing an environment where I could easily focus on my academics. Eventually, my drive for academic success became self motivated, undoubtedly fueled by my strong perfectionist tendencies. School, unlike many other components of my life, was something that made me feel confident and accomplished. Throughout high school, I continued to chase that feeling and remained committed to filling my future with opportunities and achievements. I fell in love with the ability to learn something new and now seek to broaden my knowledge in all aspects of life. It is my hope that as I continue my life and the rest of my educational journey, I am able to further my love of learning.
What challenges did you face, and how did you overcome them to achieve your goals?
I believe my transition into high school was definitely one of the most difficult challenges that I faced throughout my academic experience. Compared to my time in middle school, everything from the learning targets to the homework assignments was harder than it has been before. Despite fearing the consequences of failure, I remained committed to educational excellence and quickly learned to balance my schedule and priorities in order to achieve success. In addition to these difficulties, school quickly changed at the hands of the COVID-19 pandemic during my freshman year and I was forced to adapt by learning how to communicate from behind a digital screen. Eventually, my peers and I returned to the physical hallways of our school, working diligently to provide a quality learning environment for everyone. All of these struggles, while considerably challenging, have shaped my character and made me even more grateful for my academic achievements.
Can you share with us a specific moment or experience that impacted your academic journey?
On March 12th, 2020, my school, along with others all around the world, announced that my peers and I would be learning online in our home for the following three weeks. Eventually, those three weeks turned into the rest of the school term and my freshman year was reduced to a series of Zoom meetings. However, it was difficult to focus on my schoolwork amidst the rising fears of a pandemic and the political tension growing in our country. Like the academic journeys of many of my peers, my educational career was heavily impacted by COVID-19 and the obstacles it created. This moment would shape the learning materials and experiences available to me throughout high school. Many important milestones like dances, sport seasons, and final exams were all lost at the hands of the pandemic. The pandemic produced irreversible damages for my educational experience and will continue impacting the world and I for years to come.
How did you balance your academic responsibilities with extracurricular activities and social life (if applicable)?
In addition to their involvement inside the classroom, a strong student is expected to be highly engaged with their school and community. Despite the common expectation, balancing any responsibilities with schoolwork, jobs, and personal lives is no simple task. During all four years of my high school experience, I participated in a variety of sports, clubs, and activities. My success, both in and out of academics, required strong time management and constant organization. I quickly learned to keep a detailed calendar and used the reminders on my phone to keep track of my obligations. Tests, games, field trips, and dances were all neatly logged into an app to ensure I could achieve my goals. Communication between myself and other individuals was also crucial to my organization abilities. Additionally, I figured out how to efficiently manage my responsibilities and expand my free time, providing more opportunities to spend time with friends and family. At the end of the day, I learned to prioritize the responsibilities that were the most important to my future and to me.
Can you talk about a teacher, mentor, or family member who had a significant impact on your academic success?
My aunt has always had a significant impact on my academic success. As a librarian, she fostered and encouraged my love of literature at a young age by getting books into my hands and teaching me their value. I could always count on her to listen to my energetic rambles about fictional worlds and their characters, making me feel heard and important. As I grew up, books and the lessons they taught remained crucial components of my character and education. I excelled in literature and writing classes, consuming young adult novels at a constant rate. My early interest in reading and writing not only impacted my classroom experience, but my upcoming journey as well, leading me to plan a career in grant writing. Thanks to the support and influence of my aunt, I have found an irreplaceable passion and bright future in my love for literature.
How did your school support and encourage academic excellence, and what role did it play in your journey?
The wonderful elementary teachers of Western Reserve definitely played a major role in my academic excellence, as small class sizes and passionate instructors have strongly influenced my success in the classroom. With the help of a strong foundation, I was able to excel with the classes and materials that appeared throughout my education. When I faced challenges or confusion, there was always a teacher willing to offer their time and knowledge to strengthen my understanding of a concept. Additionally, staff members like my administrators and guidance counselor have always offered the support and encouragement necessary to accomplish success. My classmates have also contributed to my academic accomplishments by providing me with encouragement and competitive motivation. Without the assistance of these individuals, I would not have had the opportunity to achieve my current academic success.
Can you share with us any research, projects, or community service experiences that you have undertaken during your academic journey?
Over the course of my high school career, I have completed countless assignments, studied for dozens of tests, and enrolled in a variety of courses, but none have had the same influence on me as the leadership class I took my sophomore and junior years. The purpose of the class was to pair responsible high school individuals with younger grades, providing additional aid to teachers and their classrooms. Everyday, I walked down to the elementary hallway and worked with struggling students, allowing me to develop patience, compassion, and leadership skills. During my visits to different classrooms, I began to build a bond with the students and enjoyed the time we spent together. Often, they reminded me to laugh and enjoy the little, bright moments in my day. At the end of this experience, I felt that the students had taught me just as much as I had taught them.
How did you manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance during your academic journey?
The management of my stress has been something I always struggled with across all aspects of my life. Unlike some individuals, it does not come easy to me, often leaving me to feel exhausted and anxious. However, I was committed to the success of my academics and knew that I could not allow my own mind to hold me back. Eventually, I learned that preparation was the best tool to combat stressful emotions, meaning that success usually followed hours of practice and studying. While I would always worry about the outcome of a game or a test, thorough preparation provided reassurance to my mind. When it comes to maintaining a healthy work-life balance in high school, I often had to remind myself that there was still value to things outside of the classroom including friendships, family, and fun. By focusing on the importance of these additional, non academic values, I was able to create a healthy separation between my responsibilities in school and the other aspects of my life.
What advice would you give to students who are struggling academically or are feeling discouraged?
The piece of advice I have for students feeling academically discouraged is to continue persevering. Life is guaranteed to come with difficulties and hardships, but it is your response to those challenges that truly determines the end result. Every day is a new chance to achieve success, especially when you’re able to leave yesterday’s failures behind. Force yourself to overcome your shortcomings of the past and focus on what you can do for your future. Proper motivation is key when working towards academic excellence and often, it can be found in the most unsuspecting places. There is always an opportunity somewhere, patiently waiting to impact your life for the better. Do not be afraid to move forward and take it.
How do you plan to use your academic success to make a positive impact on the world?
After high school, I plan to pursue a degree in Professional and Publication Writing at Youngstown State University. With the aid of this degree, I plan to enter the field of grant writing to help benefit my community and my world. I wish to use my writing and organizational skills to help improve the lives of those around me. In my mind, success is not a measure of how much money you make or the promotions you receive, rather the positive impact that your work has on others. Throughout my upcoming education and my future career in grant writing, I hope to embody this message through my writing.
Who is your role model and Why?
Throughout my life, my mother has been a primary role model, inspiring me through the dedication and passion that appears in her work. Whether it was at home or at her job, she always works diligently to complete a task with quality and efficiency. My mom has always encouraged my love of music and literature, both of which were essential components to my educational success. She has helped me explore a multitude of opportunities for my future and encouraged me to remain committed to my academic experience. Through her influence, I have learned the value of compassion and independence in a work environment. She has taught me to strive for excellence in everything I do and I could not be more grateful for her presence in my life.
If there was one person that you would like to meet, past or present and why?
If I could sit down and meet with any person, past or present, I would love to meet Jackie Kennedy. As an avid lover of journalism and literature like myself, the former first lady lived an inspirational life full of grace and passion. She valued the importance of history, art and education, instilling all three into the hearts of her children and country. In addition to her role in the White House, she worked as a photographer, editor, and mother throughout her years. After the infamous death of her husband in November of 1963, Ms. Kennedy mourned her loss with dignity and respect, encouraging the country to stay strong through their grief. In my eyes, despite public tragedy, Jackie remained a fierce fighter and advocated strongly for her beliefs. To this day, even after her passing, she still stands an exemplary role model for Americans throughout time, impacting the lives and experiences of many individuals, including myself.
A favorite quote by which you live.
“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.” -Winnie the Pooh
The journey of a K-12 is not just about achieving high academic honors but about the lessons they have learned, the challenges they have overcome, and the impact they have made on their school and community. By sharing their story, they can inspire others to strive for excellence, persevere in the face of challenges, and make a positive impact on the world. We hope this article has provided valuable insights into the inspiring journey of a K-12 and the lessons they can share to inspire others.