Column: Work, school experiences shape life, future


As a recent graduate of Walla Walla High School, I look forward to attending the University of Washington this fall.

My experiences while growing up and attending Wa-Hi have helped me become that future university student. I have learned many life lessons through community service and job opportunities.

When I was 12 years old, I started picking strawberries for Kickers. To many, that seems like an abnormal job for a 12-year-old but learning the hardships of life was something my parents wanted me to understand and be able to grasp.

As the years progressed, I worked in the processing part of the operation.

In my freshman year, I started to understand farm laborer jobs are what many people depend on to make a living. I saw the hard work they did to support their families.

Through this experience I learned to respect those who perform field work and consider them equal to those who work white-collar jobs.

Through my hard work in school, I have the opportunity to excel through education. That has motivated me to do exactly that, for myself and for those who don’t have the opportunity.

Volunteering with youths has been one of my most fulfilling experiences. During my freshman year, I tutored children in math in an after-school program. In my junior year, I volunteered as a Garrison Night School tutor for children while their parents attended school to learn English and receive computer instruction.

My 100-plus hours of service are important to me because I was able to provide them with opportunities they may not have receive otherwise because their parent didn’t have the time or they were unable to help them with their homework. I gave up my time because I have learned that one positive human interaction can make a difference.

During high school I learned what it was like to come back from an injury. While playing soccer, I tore my right knee’s anterior cruciate ligament.

I was unable to bear weight on my own legs for weeks, which really changed my outlook on life. After my surgery it was very difficult, but I was able to transition back to school and complete my missing work.

Physical therapy taught me to utilize the physical and mental pain to motivate me to get better. This mindset allowed me to complete physical therapy in nine months instead of the 12 months initially expected.

After being released by my doctor, I was able to go to the gym regularly, join the track team and learn a new sport, and take an advanced weight lifting course. I’ve been able to stick to these activities despite joint pain and the doctor’s anticipation of arthritis in my future.

Since freshman year, I have been part of a Bonneville Power Science Bowl Team that competes in Portland the first weekend in February. Practices each week starting in November are challenging and overwhelming because of the college-level material.

As a team we learned that the more we knew, the better we would do in the competition. This added to my devotion to my team.

Our competitors were well equipped and our team didn’t win many matches, but every year we improved.

Even though we didn’t win, the experience taught me responsibility and how to work as a team.

During my senior year, I was a 21st Century tutor at Blue Ridge Elementary School.

The second I learned about a position opening as a tutor at my former school, I quickly applied. I got an interview that same week. Soon I was informed I got the job.

The interaction with the children flowed naturally. I learned all 50 of their names after only days. Working in the program I’ve learned much from the children. This position allows me to grow as a mentor for youths.

My job as a tutor has convinced me I can make a difference in the world every day.

These experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. The life lessons I have learned can be summarized into simple rules to live by every day:

• Respect people no matter what their job or status is in life.

• Treat everyone as an equal.

• One positive interaction can make a difference in a young person’s life.

• Utilize the pain you feel physically and mentally to motivate yourself to get better.

• Even if you don’t win every time, the experience of competition is an opportunity to learn

• And, the most important, I can make a difference in the world every day.

Teresa Olivos is a 2014 graduate of Walla Walla High School and will attend the University of Washington this fall. She was a member of the Latino Club, soccer, track, and a Link Crew leader. She is a four-year participant in the Bonneville Power Administration Science Bowl team and served as a team captain. She was a tutor for Garrison Night School and the 21st Century Millennial program at Blue Ridge Elementary School.


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