STUDENTS | June 19, 2020
A Whitney Young Graduate Who Has Risen to New Heights by Lifting Up Her Peers
Allie Swain knew she wanted to attend Whitney Young High School ever since researching famous judges and lawyers for a project in the fourth grade. Upon discovering that Michelle Obama attended Young, she made it her goal to be accepted and hasn’t looked back since. Allie describes Young as having an irreplaceable, immense energy that no other school has.
“Even when I visited the school for the final time as a student to pick up my cap and gown, there was a feeling of awe,” she said. “I’ve had that feeling since I was a freshman. The community spirit is incredible; it’s as much of a melting pot as you can get.”
Her obsession with Michelle Obama will forever be defined by being selected to help promote the former first lady’s book during her junior year of high school. The opportunity even meant being featured on her Instagram. As exciting as the opportunity was, when the news spread through the halls of Young, she remembers feeling so overwhelmed that she started doing homework instead of celebrating in an attempt to feel a sense of normalcy. Still, she’ll always remember it as an incredible honor, rivaled only by her admission to Stanford University earlier this school year. While she’s excited that her next steps allow her to travel, leaving Chicago is bittersweet.
“I’m stoked to go to Stanford because I love the sense of adventure, but I will miss the nearly instantaneous connections I have with other people from Chicago because of the shared experiences that only Chicagoans have,” she said. “I went from only knowing how to get to school, home, or Water Tower Place to traveling all over the city.”
While at Young, Allie’s interests largely revolved around serving others. She volunteered with Misericordia and the Anti-Cruelty Society and worked with community leaders to make crossing the street safer for students and faculty. She was the president of Freshman Mentors, a school club that helped freshmen acclimate to the school’s environment. In this role, she excelled at mentoring younger students because she saw it as talking to the freshman year version of herself—an Allie that allowed herself to get four concussions before deciding that it would probably be best if she stopped doing water polo. She also took on a leadership position in National Honor Society, where she focused on being an accessible and committed tutor for students who needed her help.
“I’ll never forget when I was helping one of our basketball players with an essay as part of NHS, and she flat-out asked me why I was being so helpful,” she said. “I told her: ‘if I needed to learn how to shoot a basketball shot, I would ask you for help and hope you would give it to me.’ If I can help out in any way, I will.”
There are many reasons Allie feels she has grown tremendously over her four years at Young: her relationship with Principal Joyce Kenner, her parents’ support, and even all the times when her ambitious plans went awry. However, something that she will always remember is the student body, a group that she says always recognized each other’s “humanity” while still being unafraid to have difficult and constructive conversations in the classroom. While attending the school has been a dream come true, Allie knows that it is only the beginning of bigger things to come.
“I’ve always wished I could fly, so an analogy I’ll never forget is that when you take off in flight, you’re going to experience a little bit of turbulence,” she said. “As you go higher and higher, you’re going to experience more and more turbulence. You just have to keep on flying and know that you’re going to make it through.”