Alyson Meginniss slept through her science class her freshman year because she was so bored. Flash forward to senior year, and Meginniss was teaching other students about electrical wiring as captain of the school’s robotics team.
The difference? Switching from a mainstream high school to The Community School as a sophomore.
“I feel more successful here than I would have been anywhere else,” Meginniss said of the project-based school in north Spokane.
Meginniss discovered her passion for engineering when her sophomore-year adviser asked her to help with a robot that his students were stuck on.
“It was like love at first sight,” she said.
She quickly switched into the robotics class and has been dedicated to robotics ever since, putting in multiple 12-hour days on weekends with the team and traveling to competitions where students’ robots compete in sports-style games.
Though she’s long gravitated toward leadership roles, Meginniss felt discouraged as a freshman at North Central High School. At The Community School, she was more willing to take risks. When she was chosen captain of the school’s robotics team as a junior, she took it as a big honor.
“This school really has let me flourish as a leader,” she said.
A self-described “busy bee,” in the past three years Meginniss has helped start an ambassador group that advertises the school, participated in the yearlong Youth Leadership Spokane program, been a leader in the 4-H robotics program and completed an internship teaching Lego robotics to elementary students.
Principal Cindy McMahon described Meginniss as a driven student whose capabilities always catch the attention of others.
“She is a student who is recognized for her leadership anywhere she goes,” McMahon said.
Meginniss was nominated this year to the FIRST Robotics Dean’s List, which honors leadership, and selected as one of two Northwest finalists. In the spring, she and her team made it to the FIRST Robotics district championships in Portland, which they had been working toward all season.
Meginniss said The Community School has helped her focus on taking care of herself and becoming a better person instead of focusing solely on academics. The downtown Rotary Club honored her with an award this year for making positive changes in her life. She has appreciated having good relationships with teachers.
Her principal said Meginniss hasn’t had it easy in life, having to step up and become responsible within her family at a young age. Meginniss said her biggest challenge has been being at peace with her personal problems and not letting them affect her schoolwork. She doesn’t think she could have handled everything at a typical high school.
Meginniss is headed to Whitworth University and would like to go into education, teaching science, technology, engineering and mathematics or becoming a principal at a nontraditional school. Her ultimate goal is to change the education system, having seen how important it is to have a school that touches on students’ individual needs.
Her principal said her diverse skills will give her many choices in college.
“I have no doubt that she will be successful in whatever she chooses to do,” McMahon said.
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