STUDENTS | December 8, 2021
In the first three months of the school year, Natalia has already completed dozens of assignments at Taylor Elementary School. But one stands out to her. An essay about consequences led her to think deeply about how she’s grown as a student—both this year and throughout her entire elementary school experience.
“My essay had three main focuses, and each of them was a different thing that caused some sort of consequence to happen,” she said. “And, in my conclusion, I wrote that making bad decisions is okay, just as long as you grow from them.”
While Natalia admits that she often thinks with her heart and not with her head, sharpening her decision-making skills has led to her being known for her maturity. She was recently awarded the Daniel Murphy Scholarship, which provides financial assistance to help Chicago students succeed in high school and beyond.
“I think my maturity shines through in the way that I’m able to speak to adults comfortably like they’re my peers,” she said. “Growing up around such mature people like my tía and my mom has shaped me into who I am now.”
Natalia gravitates toward science and reading as her two favorite subjects. She’s currently learning about magnetic forces such as attraction and repulsion and is reading Mockingjay, paying close attention to how the author brings each character’s emotions to life. Though math is the subject that is the most challenging for her, she’s improving by learning to slow down and read through each problem carefully before trying to solve it.
After learning remotely, something Natalia has been reminded of when returning to the classroom is how understanding her teachers are. She’s developed an especially close relationship with Ms. Casaday, her reading teacher, who she describes as reserved—just like her—but also outgoing in a way that makes students extremely comfortable in her classroom.
“The social-emotional connections we make at school are important. As teenagers, our minds are growing, and we’re running into things in life that are new for us,” she said. “Being able to talk about how we feel and how these things are affecting us definitely helps.”
Taylor Principal Josephine Mounts has been impressed with how Natalia is an excellent role model for her peers, displaying what is possible when you go the extra mile academically. As a new principal, Principal Mounts is focused on engaging students through a variety of new programs and resources so that more and more students can emulate the excellence of students like Natalia year after year.
“There’s a new revitalizing energy at Taylor with everything from sports to the arts to our morning algebra program,” said Principal Mounts. “It’s an exciting time to be a Taylor student, especially for our older kids as they prepare to leave their legacy. I know Natalia is going to leave a wonderful legacy here.”
Natalia’s love for science and technology has led her to pursue robotics as one of her main extracurricular activities. Her robotics team has excelled this season because of their strong communication skills, receiving compliment after compliment about how well they work together. Eventually, Natalia would like to pursue a career in computer science, noting that she’s inspired by her tía, who works to equitably provide computer science opportunities for high school students.
“With a job in computer science, one of my goals would be to increase access to computers for students, especially female students because we always tie being in computer science to being male,” she said. “As a society, people assume when something is hard that a man is going to come and fix it. But females can do a lot more than people think.”
Beyond her pursuits both inside and outside of the classroom, Natalia’s support system of strong women, from her teachers to Principal Mounts to her mom—a teacher aide at Taylor—has been a highlight of her exciting eighth-grade year. With their support, she knows she’s ready to continue accomplishing big things.
“There’s a lot of open opportunities for me with high school coming up, which is a little nerve-wracking but also really exciting,” she said. “I think it’s important to focus on yourself and don’t worry too much about what others think so you can keep growing and learning more about yourself.”