The Class of 2020 earned their diplomas under extraordinary circumstances, missing out on milestones as the community faced a global health crisis. The Times caught up with Manchester Valley graduate Alexander Schmitt, who was the president of the National Honor Society, was active in student government and is headed to Stanford University with a goal of becoming an astronaut.
Q: What extracurriculars, sports, employment did you participate in outside of the classroom?
A: Within Manchester Valley High, I served as the president of the National Honor Society and the National English Honor Society, I was an officer in Drama Club, and I was a member of the Newspaper Club, Student Government Association, Future Business Leaders of America, and International Thespian Society. During the summer before my junior year, I worked at Captain Bob’s Seafood in Manchester, MD. During the summer before my senior year I held two internships. One was in the chemistry department of Towson University where I worked with nanoparticles and a material called graphene oxide in original research under chemistry professor Dr. Mary Devadas. The other internship was at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory where I worked alongside college and high school interns as well as industry professionals and scientists. My work was in software development in the fields of radar technology and target detection algorithms for military applications. I continued my internship through the school year at both APL and Towson. I am now a college intern at APL for the summer and am working on similar projects.
Q: Did you have a favorite subject in school?
A: My favorite subjects in school were definitely math and science. I took the highest available math and science courses and enrolled in undergraduate level math courses (Differential Equations & Linear Algebra) at Carroll Community College. My internships also stemmed from my interest in the STEM fields and I plan to major in engineering physics and computer science next year.
Q: What will you miss the most about your high school experience?
A: The thing I will miss most about high school is the close community of all the teachers and my peers and friends. All of us could talk to our teachers like they were truly our friends and I know college professors won’t all be the same. Also, many of my peers have had similar experiences growing up and there is a connection between all of our struggles and accomplishments. Finally, I’m going to miss being involved in extracurriculars like drama and band where I essentially had second families with friends I will never forget and a way to relax and have fun even after the hardest days of school.
Q: What were you excited to graduate and leave behind?
A: I’m excited to leave behind the restrictions placed on the courses we must take and the amount of dependence we have on our teachers and parents. In college, I’m super excited to take advanced courses in the topics that interest me the most and participate in research and talk to professors where I grow as a professional and as a person. I’m also eager for the amount of independence I’ll have in college from deciding when to go to bed, when to hang out with friends, and when to eat without relying on others or following rules.
Q: This is a historic moment due to COVID-19, although not in a way any of us would hope for. Are there any ways that it’s affecting your generation that some people might not realize?
A: I think many people don’t realize how my generation has been preparing our entire lives for a pandemic like this. We grew up alongside the boom of personal technology and don’t remember a time without cell phones, social media, and video games. Most of us have jobs that are considered essential whether at grocery stores or restaurants, so even that aspect of our lives wasn’t significantly impacted. We are experts at calling and texting friends, sending emails, watching videos online, and using streaming services. However, this pandemic did force many of us to realize how much we take personal interactions for granted. Many of us spent more time with family and explored nature while isolated from the rest of the modern world. Those entering college may have the worst impact from this pandemic as the college sporting events, large lecture halls, and bustling campuses we all imagined to exist in our first year of college will not become reality. For those entering the work force, we must face the worst economy in our lifetimes and try to find jobs for people with no experience. It will not be easy over the next year to adjust to the real word — it wouldn’t have been easy even without a pandemic — but we will survive and understand the world better than any graduating class before us.
Q: What was a moment you felt proud of an accomplishment in high school?
A: My proudest accomplishment in high school was my acceptance into Stanford University in December. Like many of my peers, I have been preparing for college for the last four years putting 100% of my effort into every assignment and pursuing opportunities to grow my professional and academic experience. However, I could have never imagined that it could have paid off this well. I am extremely lucky to have this opportunity and it is such a rewarding accomplishment for which I have been pursuing for a large portion of my life. My purpose now is to prove to my family, friends, and teachers that they have all positively impacted my life by allowing me to accomplish anything I dream of for the rest of my life. My ultimate goal now is to become an astronaut and be among the first humans to step on Mars, and I will be sure that every person who has helped lead me to that point will be there to witness it as the rocket lifts off.
Q: Can you share one way you have grown since you were a freshman?
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A:. One way I have grown since I was a freshman is how I think about my future. As a freshman, I was worried that I didn’t know what I wanted to do for the rest of my life and I thought I was behind all of my peers who did. I also thought about my future and tried to set goals so often that I lost sight of how important my high school years would be. Now, I do have an idea of what I want to pursue in my career, but I no longer obsess over my future. If I had only thought about my goals after high school, I would not have pursued the incredible opportunities I have had through internships, jobs, and clubs over the past four years. I have come to find that my experiences in drama, band, NHS, and all my academic pursuits have helped me in some way either to grow as a person or to help me pursue my dreams.