This “problem” has rarely been more acute than the case of Meryl Tigenoah, a 2021 Brainerd high school graduate who applied to many prestigious universities across the country – mainly to cast a wide net and cover her bets, she said. – and, to her surprise, found herself accepted by just about everyone.
It’s an elite list – the starting points for a thousand careers for the Nobel Prize winner, ranging from Ivy League titans with endowments larger than small countries, to technical research powers whose cutting-edge discoveries redefine which is humanly possible.
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In all, Meryl has been accepted to Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Columbia University, Cornell University, Johns Hopkins University, Harvard University, Yale University, University of Pennsylvania. , Duke University, Georgia Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, University. from Illinois to Urbana-Champaign, Northwestern University and Carnegie Mellon University.
In the end, she chose to attend MIT, with a tentative plan to study bioengineering or biomedical engineering.
“I really enjoy challenging myself,” Meryl said in a phone interview earlier this month. “I’ve found that most of the time our only limits are what we think they are. They have no realistic and substantial aspect to them. What just pushed me one step further – aside from the exhaustion or failures that I have often encountered – is the understanding that we really have control over what we believe and how we allow those beliefs to happen to us. affect.
Meryl Tigenoah, a sophomore at Brainerd High School, smiles in 2019 as she was named Fine Arts Student of the Week for her speech work. Tigenoah competes in international speaking. Jennifer Kraus / Brainerd Dispatch
Pushing the boundaries and testing the limits of her gifts has been a lifelong pursuit, Meryl said. She described leaving her comfort zone as not a necessity or even a virtue, but something like a daily hobby.
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It’s a challenge that finds its way into almost every aspect of his life, taking the form of academic performance, but also activities like the Debating Team, Knowledge Bowl or even journaling in his spare time. Socializing with others can also be fulfilling in this way, stretching one’s intellect as one’s interests inevitably do.
Her debate coach, Dave Pritschet, a teacher at Forestview Middle School, gave a rave review of a student he has known since she was in seventh grade. In the years since, Pritschet said, Meryl has been remarkably consistent and fulfilled her potential in ways most people don’t.
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“If there was a brilliant kid in Brainerd High School and I didn’t know his name, there was something strange. Meryl was easily one of the best kids I’ve seen in my career, “Pritschet said in a phone interview on Friday, May 21.” She’s gregarious. It is extremely useful. She goes out of her way to make sure others are comfortable. She shares her knowledge. She is extremely coachable. She is humble. She takes advice.
“I can’t really say there was ever a twist, or a turning point, or a time when things changed,” Pritschet added. “She has always been Meryl.”
But, Meryl is still a teenage girl on the cusp of big changes and daunting challenges, even if the stakes take a different form than most.
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“COVID-19 has affected me in terms of isolation and just a little bit of fear that comes with thinking about the future, especially as I navigate my senior year,” Meryl said. “I decided that I wouldn’t limit myself to my own mind. I would see where I could get in. If there is one thing COVID-19 has shown me, it is that the future is not as fixed or stable as we would like it to be.
Regarding her area of interest, Meryl said she may have been destined to tackle a major in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, from the start. His mother Linda is a doctor, while his father Roland is a mechanical engineer. With parents like this, she says, it’s no wonder there are high expectations and a firm commitment to excellence in the home.
However, it also took on different dimensions with the fact that her parents are from Ghana. As is often the case with children of immigrants, the weight of generational aspirations was present in the lives of Meryl and her younger brothers, Roland, 16, Asher, 12, and Ethan, 12.
Meryl Tigenoah, eighth grader at Forestview Middle School, is a 2017 Regional Spelling Co-Champion. Photo submitted
“There is definitely increased pressure,” Meryl said. “They encouraged me to do well, just having that motivation at home has certainly kept me on track. It was very difficult to become complacent about work. “
As a farewell tip, Pritschet offered this. With each new stage of life there will be times when it feels overwhelming, he said, but there is always a way forward, just keep your eyes open.
“Brainerd isn’t the end of everything, either. Brainerd is a great place, but the world is huge, ”said Pritschet. “Don’t be overwhelmed. There are going to be times like this. Keep working hard. There will always be people who will have that edge that you might not have and you’re looking to see what gives it that edge, and you’re working to get that edge.
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As for Meryl, her aspirations go far beyond herself. When classes at MIT begin in the fall and begin her studies, Meryl said she has a vision in mind.
“It is increasingly clear that our country and our world really needs to redesign and rethink the way we approach medicine, assisted living and everything that is fundamentally our way of life. It’s about how we view health and wellness issues, ”Meryl said. “I really want to be in the world that is currently expanding as we talk about biomedicine and bioengineering. I really want to be a part of it. “