Alesandra “Allie” Chester saw a lot of the country during her family’s long journey from New Jersey to Washington at the start of her sophomore year in high school.
“We were in shock at how friendly everyone was in Eastern Washington,” she recalled.
The move was necessitated when her father took a job at Gonzaga University.
“The East Coast is very fast-paced,” she said. “Here people would stop at the store and have conversations with us. It was a big difference.”
She didn’t let those cultural differences slow her down when she enrolled at Mead High School.
“I challenged myself to get involved as much as possible.”
Her enthusiasm and involvement made her stand out among her peers.
“She was the first student that came to mind when I thought of outstanding students,” said Mead counselor Jody Harkness. “She’s a strong influence and positive leader in our school community. She epitomizes the true meaning of a humanitarian giving of her time, energy and aligning her moral compass for the greater good of others.”
In New Jersey, Chester had been active in her school’s crew team. Mead didn’t have a crew team, so she looked elsewhere to find her fit – and her fitness.
“I tried track and field and joined the yearbook team,” she said.
Track kept her in shape, while the yearbook team gave her an entry into Mead.
“I got to interview people around the school, and it got me out of my comfort zone and built my confidence,” Chester said.
She didn’t miss a beat academically, either.
“Allie jumped into our biomedical program and did a fantastic job,” Harkness said.
Science is her passion.
“I was in a similar program in New Jersey,” Chester said. “I love science. A lot of it is based on what you see. You find the truth and facts, but there’s a certain amount of ambiguity.”
Anatomy, in particular, captivated her.
“I’m intrigued by how all the parts of the body work together like a well-oiled machine.”
She credits the Breakthrough class she took during her junior year as pivotal in bolstering her confidence and leadership abilities. Chester served as captain on the track team and is an editor on the yearbook staff.
“I’m a peer coach in the Breakthrough class this year, so I get to give back what I learned,” she said,
While COVID-19 rocked many students as they transitioned from in-person to virtual learning, and back again, Chester adapted to the changes with aplomb.
“Not only has she weathered COVID, but she’s constantly trying to better herself,” Harkness said.
Chester will attend Gonzaga University in the fall and has already signed onto the university’s crew team. She can’t wait to return to her happy place on the water as part of a rowing team.
She’s also looking forward to pursuing the sciences that so enthrall her.
“I know I want to be in pediatrics,” she said. “I don’t know whether that will be as a nurse practitioner, physicians assistant or pediatrician.”
Having made a cross-country move and adapted to a new lifestyle, she urges others to be open to the exciting possibilities scary changes can afford.
“Just be yourself, “she said. “You’ll find people who like and appreciate you for who you are.”
She’s certainly found that in the Mead community and beyond.
“When you talk to her you just feel better about the world,” Harkness said.”When life throws her a curveball, she continues to hit it out of the park.”
Cindy Hval can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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