Just Try: Everything I ever needed to know I learned in Kindergarten
When you hear the word "overachiever" what do you think of? That snobby girl in high school who cried if she got an A- on a test? The boss' pet who got promoted over you last year? In today's society, the word "overachiever" seems to come with negative connotations of arrogance and impossible standards, but as I sat with Marielle Alexander, a self-proclaimed overachiever, I saw nothing but a kind, brilliant, beautiful young woman with her head on straight and the whole world in front of her.
From the beginning of my conversation with Marielle, I was wowed with her drive, her enthusiasm, and her servant's heart. She began volunteering in the summer of her seventh grade year at the public library, where she read books to children and helped the staff organize and check out books. When I asked her why she started volunteering, she replied, "Because I like kids, and I wasn't going anywhere that summer, so I decided to try it." I stared for a minute and blurted, "When I was in seventh grade all I thought about doing was going to the movies and hanging out with my friends!"
Marielle also spent most of the summer prior to her senior year of high school volunteering with the Boys and Girls Club, as well as spending many of her Saturdays, throughout high school, teaching Confirmation Classes at St. Francis Catholic Church for second and third grade children. "I have always wanted to be a teacher, and teaching these classes has helped me learn to get to know the students and adapt my lessons to the learning styles of the kids. Being around the kids is the highlight of my week; they are so receptive, and it has taught me to be more open."
Even through all of her volunteering, Marielle still found time to achieve class valedictorian for Hilton Head Preparatory, an accomplishment that she and her parents were very proud and excited about. "I never thought about being valedictorian, I only thought about wanting to be proud of my accomplishments. I am mostly competitive with myself; I always want to do the best I can, or I don't feel good about myself."
Although receiving valedictorian is a huge accomplishment, Marielle admits that the accomplishment she was most proud and excited about was winning the award for best Senior Speech. "I have always been a decent speaker, but I get really nervous and turn red when I have to make speeches in front of people. Since I knew all the seniors had to make speeches during our senior year, of course I wrote the speech the summer before and memorized the whole thing. The day before I had to give it I started freaking out, and practiced over and over. When I finally gave my speech I didn't stumble one time, and after that, I wasn't nervous at all to speak, including when I gave my valedictorian speech. I was most excited about the speech award because I knew I had conquered my fear."
This month, Marielle will leave her home in Hilton Head and venture to Villanova University, outside of Philadelphia. She is beginning her quest to become an upper level English teacher with a total of 19 college credits already behind her from AP classes. Although she has some family in the area, she will be starting brand new at a campus where she knows no one. Even with this in mind, her overwhelming emotion is excitement. "I am excited to be in a different environment that will prepare me for my future. I'm a little nervous to be away from home, but I'm sure that will fade once I start to meet people. I've joined a Facebook group for Villanova and even found a roommate. Everyone seems really warm and welcoming, so I can't wait to get there!"
So where does this confidence and bravery in facing the unknown come from? From one little word that she learned in kindergarten: "TRY". "My kindergarten teacher used to always tell me to try; take risks and it will pay off. This one word has helped me my entire life because I haven't been afraid to take chances."
For a young girl, Marielle Alexander is wise beyond her years. She understands the importance of doing her best, being confident in herself, and never letting anyone tell her what is or is not good enough.
Passions and Hobbies: Reading, drawing, photography
Influential Teachers: Mr. Cook and Mrs. Hudak. "Mrs. Hudak is the one I credit for my interest in English. I always knew I wanted to be a teacher, but it wasn't until I took her classes that I found my passion for upper level English."
Funny Trait: "My friends always tell me I have a chicken laugh; I start to squeak when I laugh hard! It's kind of famous across the island."
Words of Wisdom: "Everything I've ever done, I've gone above and beyond. That can go for all situations. Don't just settle because you can. Be proud of yourself. As I've gotten older, I've gotten more comfortable with myself, and I wonder why I was ever so shy and afraid of people judging me. I feel much more prepared for college now because I know I've always done my best."