What I’m thankful for in 2014

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Earlier this year, I had no idea I would even make it to the end of the year. My life seemed like it’d forever be just a few things: adjusting to school and doing election work. But, as it’s very clear to see, I made it. And with Christmas and New Year’s ahead of us, I thought this would be a good time to reflect on the many things I have to be thankful for.

I’m thankful for my friends and family who’ve supported me through all my endeavors. And even when I ask a lot from them, they’ve always continued standing by my side.

I’m thankful for a strong end to my sophomore year and the incredible amount of progress I’ve made through my junior year, even though it’s been a little rocky.

I’m thankful for having had the opportunity to travel this year—spanning from New Orleans, to Washington, D.C., to New York City—and being able to see both old places and new places.

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The Capitol as seen from the deck of the Newseum.

I’m thankful for my three weeks of debate camp and the chance to live at the University of Texas at Austin on my own. Even though I desperately missed home a lot, I’m incredibly grateful for the amazing people I met and the sometimes crazy (in the nerdiest of ways) experiences that come with being with a group of intelligent high schoolers trying to survive twenty-one days on their own.

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Live music and food trucks at the UT Co-op Food Court.

I’m thankful for a year of trying new things and learning about others’ cultures and personal experiences. And I hope to continue seeking out new ways to learn about the incredible diversity there is in humanity, as well as the many similarities that make us one people.

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Drinking coconut water at the Thai Culture and Food Festival in Dallas.

I’m thankful for the great people I met while volunteering at Children’s Medical Center. While I only spent forty hours this summer with them, I’m incredibly grateful for the nurses, doctors, clinic workers, and other staff members who helped show me that even amidst great difficulties beyond our control, there is still so much to hope for—and it’s up to us to work for it.

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Having too much fun with the OR supply chain at Children’s.

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An unexpected going away gift from the neurology clinic.

I’m thankful for being able to work with Battleground Texas on Wendy Davis’ gubernatorial campaign. Even though Wendy Davis was unsuccessful on Election Day, I’ve met so many great people and learned so many important skills—from how to effectively communicate my points, to how to build and manage a team, to even the courage that comes with being a 16-year-old trying to get people to vote for a Democrat in a notoriously conservative city. These are skills I will carry with me, not only into future election cycles but also into my daily and professional life in the future.

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My friend Alessia and I right before heading out to canvass in the ridiculous Texas summer heat.

I’m thankful for finally having the courage to speak up and openly say what I believe in. This year I finally decided to not stay silent when it came to my deeply held personal and political views. And while, unfortunately, much of the student body was less open-minded than I had hoped, I would never trade silence and complacency for the inevitable firestorm I created by publicly writing frankly about the way we treat immigrants, as well as the importance of having a governor who protected all Texans.

I’m thankful for the people who disagreed with me and remained civil. I’m thankful for the people who recognized that they didn’t know enough about the issues and decided to seek out more voices and more information. I’m thankful for the people who privately reached out to me and thanked me for letting them know they weren’t alone in their beliefs and experiences. I’m thankful for being able to proudly and openly be the voice of the minority. And I’m thankful for the people who have given me the courage to jump right into that role once again.

I am vocal, and I refuse to let others silence me.

The laptop case of a vocal person who refuses to sit down.

I’m thankful for the school I go to, especially for the students and teachers I have the privilege of interacting with nearly every single day. And though the workload is heavy and I oftentimes get exhausted of being at school for about ten hours a day, five days a week, my school has had such an important part in shaping who I am and how I view the world.

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Last-minute scrambling to finish a lab on time. (Ignore the nerdishness—we’re all a little nerdy in AP Physics 2.)

I’m thankful for a year of success, in my academic career and in my personal growth. After countless too many hours spent for certain classes—I’m looking at you, AP World History, and the 180+ extra hours I spent just for you—I ended up with a 100 in the class, a perfect score on the AP test, and nearly a perfect score on the SAT subject test (one question away!). I’m thankful for the people who pushed me to that point, even as my motivation flagged, because now I have something to show for all the hard work I’ve done.

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A new planner set up for 2015?

I hope that 2015 continues to bring about great successes—especially in the college admissions department!—and while I haven’t decided on any New Year’s resolutions as of yet, I look forward to a year filled with opportunity and personal growth.

Have a great holiday season, and I hope to see you soon next year.

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