Jaclyn Jew, a graduating Liberty High School senior, has known that she's wanted to do cancer research since she was 7 years old and her mother was diagnosed with the disease. By crossing the stage and preparing to study biology at Binghamton University, she is one step closer to that dream.
"It's pretty much been my main interest in life," Jew said. "I would get out science books at the library and read about cells as a kid. It's kind of a weird thing, but it's me."
At Binghamton, Jew is going to participate in the Freshman Research Immersion program that will teach her research skills to help prepare her for entrance into graduate school at the end of her four years. As a member of the school's honors program, Jew said she is guaranteed an automatic acceptance into the grad program as long as she keeps a 3.0 grade-point average or higher.
Though science is her passion, Jew is equally interested in creating art.
During her senior year, she took two AP art classes and submitted about 40 pieces including large-scale sculptures like an oversized honeycomb with bees created out of paper, wood and other scrap materials. As she leaves Liberty, her work will remain with the student population as she helped create several of the school's murals as part of Liberty's mural team.
"I think I've always been taught art and science are really different things, but I like to look at them as the same," Jew said. "In science you need the creativity to come up with different ideas and to think outside the box."
Jew said she loves to get her hands dirty and work with creating large sculptures. Over the past three years, she's been studying art with teacher Lauren Latane-Valis.
Latane-Valis said it's been really cool to watch Jew's evolution over the three years.
"She came to me already talented, but she's grown in her confidence," Latane-Valis said. "She always works large scale, and the coolest thing about Jaclyn compared to other students is she never gives up. She comes across a problem that's hard to solve, but sticks with it."
In addition to her work at school, Jew has also earned 585 service learning hours, far beyond the required 75 for graduation. The hours were divided between St. Joseph's food bank and the Carroll County Public Library system. She said she loves serving at the same locations because it gives her a chance to get to know the people she's helping.
School counselor Shaunti Taylor said she's always been impressed with Jew's dedication and hard work. She said Jew has always on the lookout for needs that have to be filled and quickly works to try and solve them
Last year, Jew helped create a new tutoring program at Liberty called Peers and Paws, which pairs National Honor Society members with students who need academic support. To get the group off the ground, she wrote up a proposal and submitted it to the administration.
"A lot of people go to friends for homework or if they don't know something or missed a class," Jew said. "We thought, wouldn't it be nice if we could offer that to everyone in the school community?"
Jew said it's the tight-knit community at Liberty that she's going to miss the most. She said when her mom died during her sophomore year, the teachers and her classmates all came together to support her.
"There was just this sense of community here," Jew said. "I like the way the teachers take care of their students. It's all more like our family. I think I'll remember the things like the pep rallies and homecoming. We have a lot of pride in our school, and in tough times, we all come together."
Liberty graduation statistics
•How many graduating: 241
•How many going to a four-year college: 62 percent
•How many going to a two-year college: 23 percent
•How many going to a trade school: 3 percent
•How many are going into the military: 4 percent
•How many are joining the work force: 8 percent