Growing up, I often felt awkward.
Of course, it’s not like I really had a reason. It wasn’t as though I was one of only 3 Asian students at my 1600 person-plus high school. Or had more unbridled ambition than I knew what to do with coupled with a pretty offbeat sense of humor. Or that I secretly hid books about DNA behind my copies of CosmoGirl.
Or, actually, it was exactly like that.
And then, in the summer of 2002, I was accepted to a program known as the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Sciences (PGSS) at Carnegie Mellon University. Started in 1982, the program accepts 90 gifted students from all over the state.
The official program guidebook stated that the goal is to “promote general interest in science,” but truth be told, what PGSS really did was tell intelligent students that we belonged, that there was a place for us in the world. In the midst of a generation where teachers were forbade from praising the smart kid because “no child could be left behind,” we were singled out for being intelligent, ambitious, hardworking, erudite. Truth be told, you wouldn’t have fit in if you weren’t at least a little bit nerdy.
We had nightly and weekly activities – karaoke contests, talent shows, foosball tournaments, and, of course, quiz bowls. There was nightly homework, on which collaboration proved to me for the first time that there were people my own age much, much smarter than me. (One girl, who shall remain nameless, had actually completed Organic Chemistry 1 and 2 at the college level. Did I mention we were juniors in high school?!)
And, of course, there were the boys. As seventeen-year-old girls, we stared, we crushed, we flirted, we tried. The boys, on the other hand, were obsessed with the fact that there was a toilet that wouldn’t stop running on the fifth floor of our building, so much so that they made T-shirts with “PFT” (Perpetually Flushing Toilet) screenprinted on the front. Oh, boys.
Still, rumor has it that there was at least one romance that lasted a few years. And two prior PGSS alumni met through the program, have married, and been together for 15 years or so now. A beauteous thing, nerdy love.
The reason for my walk down Memory Lane? As of 2009, the state has since cut funding for PGSS, and I’ve been asked to write something publicly to help bring back the program. What can I say? PGSS has given me some of my most prized memories and lasting friendships with some of the most amazing people on the planet. Over 70 percent of us that year went on to Ivy League schools; over half are in graduate school pursuing M.D.’s, Ph.D’s, or J.D.’s.
PGSS increased my confidence so much that I returned to high school my senior year and flawlessly applied to colleges, got into the program of my first choice, and even found my first real boyfriend. PGSS was a stronghold that boosted my life in a time when so many teenagers desperately need it – that delicate threshold between high school and college, adolescence and adulthood.
Truth be told – every state needs programs like PGSS. In America today, we concentrate so much on the fact that we’re losing jobs and the economy is flailing and prices are rising that we rarely focus on the talent we have right here in this country. At 17 years old, many of these students are young enough to have the type of spark we need to save America, but are old enough to have cultivated lifelong habits of discipline, hard work, determination, grit, and intelligence. I’m not one to stand on a soapbox, but I do believe that programs like this can make a dramatic difference in the future, one individual at a time.
If you would like to help bring back PGSS, please write to Governor Ed Rendell, Governor’s Office 225 Main Capitol Building Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17120.
That Said…Here’s Follow Friday!
Believe it or not, nail art is back – for adults! Chalkboard Beauty explains how to do achieve this awesome octagonal design.
Got ideas for FutureDerm?
We’re considering the following:
- Video blog
- Developing our own products (while still maintaining honest reviews of other brands, don’t worry)
- Store (same case as above)
- More photos in posts
What would you like to see? Let me know in Comments!
All the best,