SpotlightYouth Spotlight

Berkleigh Rathbone has been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from her own backyard all throughout her life. When it came time to choosing a project for her Girl Scouts Gold Award, Berkleigh chose to write a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. In the book, a girl named Karlein plants, grows, and harvests pumpkins. The process of creating the book took about 10 months, during which Berkleigh wrote the story, edited, drew illustrations, and worked on the layout of the book.

Higher education is important to Berkleigh, and she is planning on majoring in Psychology at the University of Washington. Having been a part of the Girl Scouts since fourth grade, cookie sales are Berkleigh’s favorite part of Girl Scouts as it helped her hone her entrepreneurial skills. Read on to learn more about this ambitious young woman!

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization.

Name: Berkleigh Rathbone
Education: Planning to major in Psychology at the University of Washington

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Berkleigh Rathbone: I define “Seizing Your Youth” as making the most out of your life and actively preparing yourself as a teenager for the increasingly competitive world that you enter in adulthood. Simply said, seizing your youth means seizing the day, every day!

CJ: What will you study at the University of Washington, where you’re starting school in the fall? What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

BR: I am planning to study and get at least a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology since I have always been interested in the mind and how it functions. Higher education has always been important to both of my parents, so I promised them that I would go to college after I finished high school.

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CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

BR: I joined a Girl Scout troop as a “Junior” in fourth grade. In addition to troop meetings, I loved all of the activities (such as summer camps, weekend trips, troop activities, cookie sales, etc.) that were available to me through scouting. If I had to choose my single most favorite part of Girl Scouts it would be cookie sales – not only are the cookies delicious, but by doing sales I additionally strengthened my interpersonal and entrepreneurial skills.

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

BR: 1. Always be prepared, no matter what.
2. Volunteering is extremely rewarding.
3. Nothing is impossible if you put your mind to it.

CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you wrote a published a book called Karlein’s Pumpkin Patch to teach children about composting, photosynthesis, and other facets of gardening. Your book includes a resource guide with a glossary, discussion questions, and information about donating to food banks so everyone can access fresh produce. You have shared your book with libraries, schools, and food banks throughout the country and via an online video you created. How cool! Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

BR: Choosing a topic for my Gold Award project was hands down the hardest part – I could have chosen to do almost anything! I decided to go with the theme of gardening since both of my parents love to plant and grow vegetables and flowers in our garden. All throughout my life I have been exposed to the idea of planting, growing, and harvesting plants from my own backyard, which is something that I will be forever grateful for. Furthermore, my mom happened to have a rough draft of a story she had written about a girl named Karlein who planted, grew, and harvested pumpkins that she had grown. So the idea to (re)write and illustrate a book for my Gold Award seemed like a no-brainer!

My initial project started out small. I would write, illustrate, and publish my book, put it into a few public locations (schools, libraries, etc.), and wait for readers to respond to discussion questions via an email I put in the back of the book. However, as the project progressed I realized that my project needed more oomph! in order to get necessary quantitative results for my before/after project impact analysis. That’s where the online video and remodified discussion questions, etc. come in.

All in all, this project was probably the biggest project I’ve ever worked on. From the time I stated until the time I finished, the total project time was about 9 to 10 months. Not only did editing the story take time, but so did creating and editing the illustrations, in addition to figuring out the layout of the book. I also put a lot of time into communicating with several different people, mostly by email, in order to sort out different logistics of where to send my book, who to send it to, and how many copies to send.

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CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

BR: In order to keep my project organized I put together a list of tasks that I had to do, and in turn organized that list on a timeline in order to get a rough idea of how long my project would take me to complete. As far as balancing my school schedule with my Gold Award project tasks goes, I decided to treat my Gold Award project itself as an extracurricular activity. I had few school obligations and at the time I was not working, which really allowed me to dive into working on my project. Once my Junior year of high school ended I took advantage of my time off from school to catch up on task deadlines and evaluate the progress of my project.

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

BR: I’m not quite sure. Yes, I do know a good amount of people, and yes, I have learned quite a bit by talking to these individuals. However, I think that my mentor takes on a more inanimate form: life experiences. By learning from both the mistakes of others (myself included) and also the lucky risk-taking strategies of self-made successful people, I feel as if my life experience of interacting with people and hearing their personal stories has helped to advise me on what steps to take at what times, in addition to how many steps to take at a time without overworking myself.

CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

BR: Good leaders are like backbones:

  1. Without good leaders, society, like our body without our spine, could not function.
  2. Good leaders, like our spines, are simultaneously flexible and strong.
  3. Just like how the spine connects the upper and lower parts of the body, good leaders find ways to connect people in a group/society in order to establish a sense of unity.

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CJ: How do you define success?

BR: I define success as meeting/exceeding a previously set goal. For me, success can come in the form of money, health, happiness, wisdom, love, or any other aspect of life that I have my eyes set on improving.

CJ: What is a book you read in high school that positively shaped you?

BR: Tiny Snail by Tammy Carter Bronson – the author actually came to my school when I was in second grade and talked about the process of writing and illustrating her own book!

CJ: What are your favorite books?

BR: A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, Absent by Katie Williams, and The Maze Runner by James Dashner.

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

BR: Break out of your comfort zone. Voice your opinion – if you feel afraid to do so in front of your friends, find new friends. Take advantage of extracurricular activities at school. Meet more people. Spend time cooking meals; enjoy the food that you’re eating. SPEAK UP. And, most importantly, don’t sweat the small stuff.

Berkleigh Rathbone Qs

Images by Berkleigh Rathbone

SpotlightYouth Spotlight

The Girl Scouts is an incredible organization that turns young women into leaders. Deelyn Cheng is one of these amazing young women who became involved in the Girl Scouts when her best friends encouraged her to join. She earned her Gold Award by preparing the City of Lakewood for emergency and disaster situations. She took a multi-faceted approach to her project, including educating residents, acquiring emergency kits for local schools, and even designing menus that can feed hundreds of residents for several days in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Pretty great, if you ask us.

Now, Deelyn studies International Business, Finance, and Marketing at the University of Washington. She has spent time interning and living in Hong Kong, and she is passionate about learning about all things business. Deelyn shares with Carpe Juvenis what she thinks makes a good leader, the lessons she learned from being a part of the Girl Scouts, and that for her, success means “making a positive impact on the world and leaving a legacy.” With determined and caring young women such as Deelyn, the future definitely looks brighter.

*The Girl Scouts Spotlight Series is an exclusive weekly Youth Spotlight on amazing young women who have earned their Gold Awards, the highest award that a Girl Scout can earn in the Girl Scout organization. 

Name: Deelyn Cheng
Education: International Business, Finance, and Marketing at the University of Washington, Class of 2018

Carpe Juvenis: How do you define “Seizing Your Youth”?

Deelyn Cheng: Be proactive and seize every opportunity that would develop and enhance one’s identity. It is important take opportunities that prompts you to try new things or to push you closer towards a goal.  There is this quote which I love by Milton Berle: “If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.” Time is valuable, so treat it preciously. Go out and find your passion, explore, and reach your full potential. Change the world for the better by turning your dreams and ideas into reality.

CJ: You’re studying International Business, Finance, and Marketing at the University of Washington. What led you to those academic passions and why are you choosing to study them in a formal setting?

DC: The world is becoming more dependent on globalized trade and investment, and worldwide financial institutions are prominent. I want to contribute and become involved with the international network and I’m very interested in cross-cultural business. A business degree would also provide a strong foundation of skills and knowledge that is applicable to a wide range of careers. From critical and creative thinking to personal development, I am passionate about learning all things business!

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CJ: You are an Investment Assistant Intern at Rongtong Global Investment Limited in Hong Kong. That sounds very interesting. What do your duties entail as an intern?

DC: I assisted colleagues with a variety of tasks including organizing trade settlements in excel, managing an online banking system, reading paperwork, completing office tasks, and proofreading.

CJ: What have you learned from living in Hong Kong? What do you like to do there when you’re not interning?

DC: I learned to have patience, tolerance, and adaptability. The way of life in Hong Kong is extremely different to what I’m used to…a lot of people and very fast paced. However, I just went with the flow, immersed myself in the culture and it worked out just fine! The cuisine in Hong Kong is absolutely spectacular so I spent most of my time eating. If not that, I would be sightseeing.

CJ: Moving to another country for school or an internship can be intimidating and nerve-wracking for some. Did you feel this way? What advice do you have for those who are thinking about living abroad to work or study?

DC: I was a little nervous but was more excited! I would definitely advise them to take the opportunity. It is so valuable to see and experience different cultures, especially when you can stay in a place for longer periods of time. Have an open-mind and don’t be afraid to try new things. And take every event (positive or negative) as a learning experience!

Dee Cheng 2

CJ: How did you get involved with the Girl Scouts, and what did you love most about being a Girl Scout?

DC: My best friends were in a troop and encouraged me to join. I loved the opportunities it gave me! I had the chance to lead, learn, experience new things, and meet new people that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I also greatly enjoyed camping-nothing better than sitting around a campfire singing songs with your best friends!

CJ: What are the top three lessons you learned from being a Girl Scout?

DC: Have patience, be confident, and help others!

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CJ: To earn your Gold Award in Girl Scouts, you set out to better prepare the City of Lakewood for emergency and disaster situations. You took a multi-faceted approach to your project, including educating residents, acquiring emergency kits for local schools, and even designing menus that can feed hundreds of residents for several days in the immediate aftermath of a disaster. Why did you choose this topic for your project, and what did the process of putting it together entail?

DC: I believe people need to be prepared. They need to have the information and knowledge so they can be ready when an emergency happens. I feel that knowing about First Aid and how to help people is very important. My mom’s family is from Thailand, and when the tsunami hit, I thought it was interesting to watch the process of aid. Global issues interest me, and I wanted to share that locally.

Lots of meetings! I honestly enjoyed them though. I had the opportunity to interact and connect with people which I love to do. I focused on using my organization and time management skills to orderly conduct my project. This includes identifying who I would work with, steps I would take, and not having a delay to take action. Additionally, I communicated with my advisor, my troop, and others who helped me. I also prepared the teaching/presentation materials and activities I would use for the public and the students to educate them and raise awareness. I assigned tasks to my team, and was able to take action and lead a sustainable project.

CJ: How did you keep your project organized as you were working on it? How did you balance your workload with school, extracurricular activities, etc.?

DC: I had to really focus and hone my time management skills. I’m a visual person so I kept a planner. I allotted specific amounts of time for different tasks. However, I would sometimes procrastinate or underestimate the time to complete a task, but this project was definitely a learning process!

CJ: Do you have mentors? How did you go about finding them?

DC: My mentors constantly change-they depend on the time and situation. I believe life puts you in a situation where you build relationships with the people around you and a mentor-mentee relationship will naturally form.

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CJ: To you, what does it mean to be a good leader?

DC: A good leader wants to serve and tries their hardest to make the best out of a situation for themselves and others. They make dreams and ideas become reality. And leaders follow their heart, but always do the right thing even when it is hard.

CJ: How do you define success?

DC: Overall, I believe happiness equates to success. Success is when we reach the point of living the life we truly want/desire, and found and fulfilled our purpose in life. Lastly, making a positive impact on the world and leaving a legacy should be part of someone’s success story!

CJ: What advice would you give your 15-year-old self?

DC: Be more diligent in learning and retaining a language. I wish I had focused on learning Mandarin.

Deelyn Cheng

Images by Deelyn Cheng

EducationSkills

I remember the day I decided to take on a senior thesis in strangely vivid detail. I walked out of my advisor’s office feeling extremely confident and excited about the project I was about to undertake. However, by the time I had made it the three blocks back to my dorm, I was on the phone with my best friend in a panic, fervently begging her to talk me out of the decision I had just made.

As I look back now, over a year later, I can happily say that it was one of my better decisions. I currently work as an intern in a biological anthropology lab at The George Washington University studying primate behavioral ecology. For the past three years as an undergraduate student, I have studied data on maternal behavior and infant development in wild chimpanzees, wrestled with excel spreadsheets for countless hours, cataloged infinite sheets of behavioral data, and memorized an extensive protocol for entering data into excel and our online database. I came across this internship opportunity through an email sent out to all students pursuing their anthropology major.

My greatest passion has always been finding the answers to questions. I was never satisfied chalking things up to fate, chance, or destiny. Everything in my mind has to be answered with facts and correlations. I’ve always been curious; most of us are. The idea of research appealed to me because it is a way to establish facts and reach brand new conclusions – having tangible answers has always been crucial for me.

When I learned that the lab was working with Jane Goodall’s database, I knew I needed the job. Jane Goodall has been a personal inspiration my entire life. Her courage, strength, and dedication to science have always been traits that I admire. Jane embarked on a research journey in Tanzania in 1960 that many men and women would not have dreamed possible. Her independence and drive allowed her to succeed during a time when women were barely respected in scientific research. She individually named all of the chimpanzees she studied, researching their culture, hunting behaviors, and tool use. Her discoveries changed the worlds of primatology, anthropology, and the way we study evolution.

Although I didn’t necessarily plan on pursuing a career in primatology, I knew I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to get my foot in the door of research and learn more about something I loved. I’ve learned that in order to discover your true passions, trying new things and jumping on interesting opportunities is a must. Working in the lab taught me that research was something worth pursuing, even if biological anthropology and primatology weren’t my primary passions.

When I first began working in the lab, entering data was exciting and informative. However, I soon realized that I was itching to get more hands-on in the work that the other lab members were doing. I would watch as the graduate students developed their research questions for their dissertations, and the post docs queried data for their analyses. I wanted to see if I had what it took to create my own questions and pioneer my own project. I met with my research advisor to discuss options and she suggested I begin work on a senior honors thesis.

The concept of individual, original research can be daunting, and it has been anything but easy for me. My near-fatal flaws include procrastinating and a lack of organization, but over the past year I have learned many valuable lessons about pioneering my own major project. Hopefully these skills will be applicable to you throughout your own research, senior theses, or any other type of long-term project.

1. Create a flexible timeline with small goals

This is extremely important for those of us who tend to leave things until the last minute. My thesis has taken place over the course of three semesters. I dedicated my first semester to creating proposals for two research topics, a major literature review, drafting preliminary research questions, and writing a 10 page introduction. I set deadlines for these individual tasks with my advisor in order to hold myself accountable. My second semester was all about performing the actual analyses and revising the questions after preliminary results. This semester, I’m finishing the final analyses and writing up the full body of the paper. Having smaller goals and requiring someone else to help keep you on track has really helped me stay organized and has limited my procrastination.

2. Keep an up-to-date spreadsheet tracking all of your sources/literature

The first step in research is almost always reading. There are so many studies that have already been done and it is crucial to educate yourself on the facts and information that already exist in the academic world. I ended up reading over a hundred journal articles in preparation for my research project. At first it was hard to keep track of the knowledge I was gaining just from the notes I had been jotting down, so I created a system to keep track. I started logging every article into an excel spreadsheet, listing the title, author, year, species, questions asked, methods, and results. This made it easy for me to look back and pull out the relevant information. I gained a foundational knowledge of my topic, as well as ideas for potential research questions and methods. For someone with severe organizational problems, this was a lifesaver, and I am constantly referring to this document. Make Excel your best friend!

3. Be proactive when it comes to meeting with your advisor

Fostering relationships with professors and mentors in college is one of the best moves you can make. Not only will they support you during your time in undergrad, but they typically have abundant connections that they are more than willing to share with you when it comes to your future. However, you are not their number one priority. Professors have multiple classes, conduct their own research, and are involved with countless other commitments. Therefore the responsibility is on you to be proactive when it comes to getting help with your project. You may have to be the one to schedule weekly meetings to touch base. You may have to be the one to create your own deadlines. Chances are that the more proactive you are the more your mentor will recognize your motivation and drive, and will do his or her part to help you succeed.

4. Treat the project as if it were a class

At most universities, working on an individual research project with an advisor can qualify you for research credits. For example, I got three credit hours towards my degree for each semester I performed undergraduate research. Therefore, I learned to treat my thesis as an actual class. If you think about it, you spend about two and a half hours in class per week, with an additional two to five hours on homework and readings. Each week, I try to dedicate that same amount of time to my project. This way, tasks don’t build up and you will feel less overwhelmed.

5. Utilize the people around you

I cannot stress this enough. Having other lab members around to support me has been absolutely invaluable. The grad students had all written senior theses in the past and are currently working on dissertations, which makes them excellent resources when it comes to research design, time management, and staying sane. At first, I felt a bit awkward approaching them; I wasn’t exactly sure that they would want to spend their time mentoring an undergrad when they already had so much on their plates. Luckily, they have been in your position before and understand the importance having mentors. Ask to grab coffee and talk about their projects and tips that they might have for you. People love talking about themselves and their work, and your colleagues want to see you succeed!

6. Never stop reading

New information is constantly being published. Even though I performed my major literature review over a year ago to jumpstart my research, there are countless new articles on my topic. It is so important to stay informed and always have the relevant and recent information on your topic. Reading the latest publications may give you new ideas for how you want to frame your paper, something else that you should control for, or another question you should be asking.

Good luck with your own research and thesis journey!

Image: Flickr

CollegeEducationLearn

I don’t know how many of you out there are working on a senior project, but let me tell you something: it’s hard. It’s really hard. On a scale of “ugh” to “I’m going to drop out of school and move into a forest to be a hermit,” I’m pretty close to the latter. For those of you who are going to wind up doing something like a senior capstone or a thesis (or for those of you who are in it and are suffering like me), here are some things you should keep in mind:

1. It’s never too early.

I so regret not starting my project half a year ago. You’re thinking, how can you plan a project or a paper or something half a year ago if you don’t even know what you’re doing? Well, that’s when you should start thinking about it! Spend your winter vacation or summer vacation reading up on what you’re doing your project on. If you’re a literature major, you can start researching authors, writing snippets, and outlining a draft. If you’re in the arts, you can start looking for influential artists and start messing around with various materials or techniques.

2. Talk to people.

Tell them you’re doing a thesis. Ask for their opinion. Be open to references or new ideas. I’m working on a photo thesis and a large point of it is process, progress, development. If you’re stuck with tunnel vision, your ideas or projects can’t really grow.

3. Try new things.

Another way to being open to ideas is gaining more experience. Go gallery hopping on the weekend with a friend who would appreciate contemporary art. Wander through a new section of the bookstore you never really thought you’d like. Wander around and study the architecture of your neighborhood, and stop by a cafe you’ve probably passed every day but never bothered to go into. If you’re stuck on an idea, a refreshing environment might help.

4. Be honest with yourself.

Is this project too easy? Is it too ambitious? Do I have the skills? Do I have enough information? Do I believe what I’m saying? Will I be willing to work on this for four months straight? Eight months straight? How much do I care about this? These are all important questions that you need to truly consider. Be brutally, objectively honest. You’ll save yourself trouble, embarrassment, and time if you admit to your weaknesses and find your strengths.

5. Don’t give up.

Now this one is important. Don’t be discouraged if things don’t work out the first, second, third, or fourth time (I’ve had to modify my idea that many times… ugh). Sometimes you’re just scratching the surface and you realize that after some trial and error. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes, but do try to learn from them. Keep going at it, you’ll definitely get it. Everyone works at a different pace, so just work at your own.

All of you out there working on your long­term projects, good luck. There is a long road ahead, but it will be rewarding. Have faith, don’t lose hope, and keep that chin up. See you on the flip side!