Private All Girls School

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Princeton, New Jersey

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Student Spotlight: Heather Kwafo '20

I am Stuart Proud. I am a risk-taker, an ally, and a catalyst for change.

What are some of your favorite classes and why? Is there a particular class where you have noticed or felt the most personal growth?

Each class I have taken so far at Stuart has in some way, shape, or form, molded the person that I am today. Every so often, I find myself enrolled in a course that has managed to completely captivate me and change the way I view the world. For me, AP English Literature with Mrs. Cutalo and Ethics in the Modern Age with Mr. Arsenault have done just that. AP English has provided me with a space not only to read some of the most profound and impactful pieces of literature ever written, but also to discuss such literature with a small group of peers who are as equally interested and fascinated by the works as I am. Taking a course in which only three other students are enrolled was definitely daunting at first, but I can say with confidence that the small class size has taught me how to speak up in class and share my thoughts—even if I am not always correct.  This course has also enabled me to explore the many genres that exist in the literary realm through reading works ranging from Toni Morrison’s Beloved to Shakespeare’s Macbeth.  Because of the diverse book selections, I definitely have a newfound appreciation for genres that I would never have thought to read for leisure. Mr. A’s Ethics course has also prompted tremendous growth in me, as a student.  The course challenged everything I thought I knew about ethics and morality by introducing me to the many ethical theories that exist. The class allowed me to see current issues from many different perspectives, compelled me to ponder what I would do in certain moral dilemmas, and engage in meaningful debates with my peers about these dilemmas.  

You are a very accomplished and talented track athlete. What have you learned about yourself as an athlete, what have you enjoyed the most about the sport and team, and do you plan to continue in college?

Joining the track & field team during my freshman year was, hands-down, one of the best decisions I have ever made. In the four, short years I have run track at Stuart, the team has become a second family to me, and the track, or rather turf field where we run, a second home. Being a part of such a hard-working, motivated, and resilient team, and having a coach who pours everything he has into teaching us how to not only be better athletes, but better people has been a huge privilege. When I began track as a freshman, I found myself lacking not only in speed, but in self-confidence, purpose, and structure. Four years later, as a team captain, I can attest to the fact that being a part of the team has provided me with all of these things.  

Being a part of any team means being a part of something bigger than yourself. Being one piece of a puzzle that would be incomplete without you. As an athlete, I have learned that every meet isn’t going to go as planned. In fact, most of track is not winning and learning how to be better next time. So, I have to keep showing up and giving my 100% each time I run because any day could the day that everything clicks and the work finally pays off. I feel incredibly honored to be a part of a team that has won three Prep B championships in a row and to have emerged this season as the Mercer County champion in the long jump. 

My events are the 55m, 100m, 200m, long jump, and triple jump.  The long jump has definitely become my favorite this year. Because of the positive impact track has had on my life, I do plan on running in college. I can’t imagine my life without it. 

You are also an accomplished writer and writing tutor. Please talk about how your interest in writing has grown over time and what you enjoy about the tutor program. 

From a young age, I’ve always really enjoyed writing.  I used to love writing creative, short stories when I was younger, but I now find that essays and poetry are what I spend the most time working on. Though I’ve always had an affinity for literature and writing, I would still say that it’s something that my English teachers have helped foster over time.  Because of the classes I have taken, I’ve been exposed to multitudinous forms of writing, which has definitely expanded my mind when it comes to my own personal writing. 

Being selected as a writing tutor this year was probably the most rewarding position I have ever been chosen for.  My favorite part of tutoring is helping others polish their work into something that they’re proud of.  A lot of kids my age begin to develop a learned helplessness toward subjects that we’re not the best at, but as a tutor, I have been able to not only affirm students’ writing abilities, but provide them with tips for strengthening their writing.  Furthermore, being asked by some of my peers to help read over their college essays and supplements has definitely been one of the most fulfilling parts of being a tutor.  Even if it is just to serve as an extra pair of eyes to watch out for comma splices or tense changes, it’s always a privilege to be trusted with such a personal statement. 

One of the biggest lessons I have learned about writing is that every piece of writing doesn’t have to be extremely deep and profound for it to be valid. The act of putting pen to paper and allowing your thoughts to enter the world is beautiful in its own right. 
 

You attended the POCC/SDLC for the first time this year and shared your reflection on the experience with parents. Why is it so important as a young woman to be a leader in the area of diversity, equity and inclusion? What have you learned through the experience, and what do you want others to know? 

A common misconception about the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is that it’s something that only people of color/minority groups can be a part of. This could not be further from the truth. The work of diversity, equity, and inclusion is something that everyone should be a part of, especially because it is work that is never truly finished. As a young woman who has the privilege of attending such a prestigious high school with ample resources for gaining knowledge, I believe it is my duty to get as educated as I can about the struggles that various people groups endure, and do everything I can to spread awareness about their struggles and be a part of the fight for justice. While at SDLC, I was finally given the lexicon I needed to not only better understand my identity as a black woman, but also to identify the oppression of other minority groups, which has helped me to become both an advocate and an ally of other minority groups. One of the most important things I learned is that a minority group doesn’t have to be present in a given space in order for them to be supported and validated by those who are in that space. Having an awareness of what other groups of people go through, and doing whatever little we can to uplift them and help them to fight against the systems that oppress them is always extremely important, especially when they are not present to ask us to do so. I believe everyone can and should be completely immersed in the work of diversity, equity, and inclusion, so that we can create a community that values and respects the differences of individuals and recognizes the systemic inequities that harm various minority groups.

I hope to affect change at Stuart and in college by being a voice for the voiceless through advocacy and raising awareness, and by being a part of various activist groups on campus next year.

What do you hope to study at Vassar College in the fall? Did any experiences at Stuart influence your future plans? 

I am extremely ecstatic and grateful to be attending Vassar College in the fall!  Regarding my course of study, I know that I want to pursue a double major, which will definitely include the study of English; however, I am still unsure of what my other area of study will be. I can say with certainty that the English Department at Stuart has profoundly fostered my love for English. Each and every teacher who is a part of the Upper School English Department has not only imparted extensive knowledge to me about literature and writing, but has also prompted my own growth as a writer and as a student.

Rapid Fire (Just for fun)

Favorite book: The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas 

Favorite food: My mom’s jollof rice. 

Favorite activity or sport: Making Tik Tok videos with my friends. 

Favorite way to wind down: Watching The Office on Netflix 

Favorite quote or phrase: “There are no mistakes, just happy accidents” -Bob Ross

 

 

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