STUDENTS | June 28, 2021
Ciarah Simmons says she stressed her mom out quite a bit earlier this year. There were just two days left before the deadline to select a college, and the Lindblom Math and Science Academy graduate was still torn between attending the University of Chicago (UChicago) or going out of state. As she thought more about what mattered to her in terms of her next steps, she decided to stay closer to home to build a strong academic foundation that would prepare her for medical school. UChicago’s beautiful campus also made the difficult decision a little easier.
“When selecting a college, going to see the school’s campus is actually really important because it helps you picture where you can see yourself the most,” she said. “UChicago’s campus reminded me a lot of Harry Potter, and I loved the Gothic feeling of the buildings and am excited to go to school in the city.”
While the drive from Beverly to Hyde Park will only take about 20 minutes, Ciarah has traveled thousands of miles while in high school to pursue her interests. She studied Chinese throughout the past four years and, right before her junior year, studied abroad in Shanghai; she loved fully immersing herself in the language and culture. Now that she’s a few years further along in her studies, she would jump at the chance to return to China in college.
“Going to China was my first experience living without my parents, and figuring out my way around the city was something I will never forget,” she said. “Learning how to navigate meant figuring out how to read a map and also getting lost quite a few times.”
Though she wasn’t always perfect at navigating the streets of Shanghai, Ciarah explains that navigating high school became easier when she realized that putting her best foot forward academically didn’t always mean figuring everything out on her own—it also meant reaching out for help when she was struggling. Even with a high school experience that was marked by unique opportunities like studying abroad, some of her favorite memories at Lindblom were simply talking with and being a listening ear for her friends in the lunchroom and library.
To complement her academic pursuits, Ciarah got involved in a mix of extracurricular activities—varsity volleyball and bowling, National Honor Society, and the National Chinese Honor Society. While her time on the bowling team started simply because it was something she enjoyed doing with her family and her desire to add a winter sport to her schedule, it ended up becoming one of her favorite parts of her time at Lindblom. Additionally, her commitment to the National Chinese Honor Society further symbolized her desire to master the language.
“Learning Chinese obviously starts in the classroom, and if I didn’t understand something, I made sure to reach out to a teacher or a friend in the class. Having my friends read over my assignments was the best thing I could do,” she said. “At the same time, I learned to use my resources. A lot of the stuff I needed help on, such as making sure my translations were right, I found online.”
Ciarah’s long-term goals center on challenging negative stigmas around mental health. After finishing medical school, she hopes to become a psychiatrist to provide more people, especially children, with the resources they need to prioritize their mental health. At Lindblom, she appreciated that her homeroom teacher often had the students arrange themselves in a circle to share what they were going through and offer each other support. She believes those exercises helped her mentallly and emotionally and says they will be one of the things she will miss most about high school.
While Hyde Park might not seem as thrilling as Shanghai on paper, there’s still a sense of the unknown that is making Ciarah extremely excited for what’s to come.
“When considering if I would stay in Chicago or not for college, I thought a lot about how I would be living in a whole different neighborhood for the next four years,” she said. “I don’t really go to the Hyde Park often, so I’m getting to experience a whole new side of Chicago that I’ve never got to experience before.”
Ciarah is just one of the outstanding graduates who we’re celebrating throughout the month of June. Make sure to follow Chicago Public Schools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to meet more incredible members of the Class of 2021.