While most look forward to the summer as a period of rest and relaxation, for sophomore Joanna Flores, the summer is a chance to participate in stimulating intellectual undertakings and learn about topics not typically covered in a high school curriculum. With the ambitious goal of attending a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) program at Cold Spring Harbor, volunteering at a hospital, and finding a paying job, she will have more than enough to fill her plate with exciting opportunities and stimulating endeavors.

“From a young age, I’ve been mature – an old soul in a young body. I don’t just settle with what is simple; I crave challenges.” Every week, Joanna visits the library four to six times to study, use the computer, and browse diverting reading material. She makes it a goal to check out at least four books a week, aiming for a variety of genres to expand her realm of knowledge. With a smaller workload over the summer, Joanna hopes to have more free time to explore books covering subjects she has not yet investigated.

Joanna not only reads to advance her knowledge but also enjoys hands-on experiences that allow her to apply what she has learned to real-life scenarios. One activity that has allowed Joanna to do just that is the volunteer program at North Shore University Hospital, where she has been offering her assistance since freshman year. She found out about the program in eighth grade and, wanting an introduction to the field of medicine, she decided to try it out. “It’s like no other volunteering program I have ever done,” Joanna said. While she is not allowed to touch patients, she assists with inventory, paperwork, phone calls, and singing Happy Birthday when anybody has to celebrate in the hospital. This summer, she will even be helping new recruits to the program.

With her interest in the field of medicine piqued, Joanna now hopes to attend The Science Technology & Research Scholars (STARS) STEM program, which is a two-week summer research course designed to support minority students with interest in science-related professions. The program provides state-of-the-art laboratory and computer science skills needed to succeed in college and beyond and includes instruction in the areas of molecular biology, career skills, and coding and data science. While there, Joanna will participate in science and computer projects and take educational excursions to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory and Stony Brook University campuses. After the two-week program, she will be able to communicate with mentors who can offer advice on preparing for college. “I’m so excited. I think it will be amazing, not only because I will have the opportunity to learn new things, but also because I’ll be exposed to incredible diversity and get to meet people with similar interests to me.”

Summers are an excellent time to explore your passions and discover what really interests you. Whether you decide to volunteer, get a job, find an internship, or pursue an independent course of action, you will most certainly learn something new about yourself and gain valuable experience in the process. Like Joanna, if you go out of your way to find opportunities in your community, you may just find something that changes the path you take in your education and career.

Let us know what you’re doing this summer! Write in your summer plans and take the poll below.

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