Rovi Porter, a member of Kalani High's Class of 2018 who is heading to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the fall, wrote this piece for the Hawaii DOE's Educational Leadership Institute program over the summer. Her story is also featured in the August 2018 edition of Education Update.
When I was asked to reflect on my public school journey, my immediate thought was to highlight the people who have supported me throughout the years. However, I believe the best form of gratitude is not just thanking them, but demonstrating how I’m using what they’ve taught me to be the best person I can be. Here’s my story.
It’s hard to believe now, but school was a place that I dreaded at first.
Like most kids, I remember thinking kindergarten was pretty traumatizing. I cried every morning when my mom dropped me off at school. I didn’t understand why I had to leave the comforts of home.
But school quickly became one of my favorite places to be. I began to enjoy it so much that I insisted on being as early as possible. In fact, my favorite days were when my sister Teresa had a test at her high school, because that meant I could be at school as early as 6:30 in the morning.
School was more than just a place to be for six hours a day. Over the years it ultimately helped shape me into a better person, someone who values education and seizes every opportunity to keep growing.
Throughout my years in public school — from Hokulani Elementary to Niu Valley Middle and Kalani High — I was fortunate to have engaging teachers who made personal connections. Every one of my teachers had their own style of teaching and getting through to students, but one thing they all had in common was compassion. They taught me more than a textbook ever could.
My first-grade teacher, Ms. Finnegan, taught me to challenge myself. I remember when she asked if I wanted to be in the advanced reading group. To be honest, I initially agreed because my friend was in the group. But my decision impressed Ms. Finnegan so much that she told my mother how proud she was that I was willing to take on the challenge. Her praise of me encouraged me to keep taking on challenges.
(Photo: Rovi Porter at Kalani High School’s graduation on May 22, 2018, at the Neal Blaisdell Center, at top with
Principal Mitchell Otani, and with her family.)
Mr. Pottenger, my fifth-grade computer lab teacher, taught me to be more outgoing and to expand my interests. I remember one morning he asked me to be a part of the FIRST Lego League (FLL) team the school was forming. I couldn’t resist because Mr. Pottenger was always a charismatic and fun person to be around.
Throughout the season we built and tested robots and had to design and present a skit before judges. Being in skits was outside of my comfort zone but Mr. Pottenger’s commitment to us and his enthusiasm was infectious. In our presentation replicating the human body, I was the proudest red blood cell.
Overall my elementary years were fairly comfortable. Everyone was always so nice and caring. But it was time for me to advance to middle school, where I wouldn’t know anyone.
I was initially terrified to embark on life as a middle-schooler in a new community. But I was pleasantly surprised to find countless supportive teachers and friends who helped ease the transition. My middle school teachers enhanced my curiosity while providing me stability.
As I moved on to high school, I learned the value of getting involved with school activities and extracurricular opportunities.
Before I unlocked that door, I remember I would sit on a bench and watch Netflix until soccer practice. Then one day my counselor Mrs. Yoshida called me in and encouraged me to apply for the Pacific and Asian Affairs Council (PAAC) Global Leadership Program.
The program for high school students is designed to groom future leaders and global citizens. It helped me gain new perspectives on world affairs and I even got to travel to China as part of my project on the invasive little fire ant.
My fellow participants and I found the experience so beneficial that we created a PAAC Club at our school.
After that, I began getting involved with more activities and pretty soon it seemed like there was never enough time for me to do everything that I wanted to do.
I played soccer and ran cross country and track. I was part of the Robotics Club, Math League, Science Club and orchestra. I participated in the Center for Tomorrow’s Leaders Fellows program and the Island Airs Explorers Program.
All the while, I took rigorous courses, including AP Statistics, Calculus, Physics and English during my senior year. This was all manageable because of the strong foundation my teachers gave me.
The summer before my senior year at Kalani, I took a college-level logic course at Duke University. The university’s 3-D printing lab piqued my interest and I began going in there to create small projects.
One day I saw a guy who was designing a prosthetic hand for a patient from the university’s hospital. The device itself wasn’t particularly fancy but watching their interaction and the patient’s reactions helped me decide what I want to do after high school.
I’m planning to study biomedical engineering at MIT, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The biomedical field combines my love of human interaction and logical thinking. While other engineering fields allow you to create functional things, you don’t get to see the reaction of the people using them.
I never could have imagined all of the opportunities I’ve had to grow and improve myself over the past 13 years. All of the competitions, trips and events I was able to participate in were made possible through the support and mentorship of my teachers and administrators.
I hope I can make them proud as I continue my journey.