Today’s Student Spotlight is with Ana Cristian, a junior at Alan C. Pope High School in Cobb County. Ana, 17, is a USA Fencing All-Academic First Team member and the 2014-15 Women’s Champion for the Georgia High School Fencing League. She volunteers with Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross, serves as a peer tutor in French, and is a member of the National Honor Society, the Science National Honor Society, the National English Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta, the French Club, and Foreign Languages of Pope.
She shares here about her wide range of interests – fencing, volunteer work, calculus, French – and the teachers who’ve made a difference in her education.
Tell us about your experience in Georgia’s public schools. What aspects of your education have been most valuable to you? What has been most challenging?
For me, I love learning about something new and instantly being able to apply it and make connections to what is going on directly around me and on a global scale. It is so cool to learn something in Calculus and see it also apply to physics, or to learn about a small event in history and see how it has had a huge impact on our modern lives. Furthermore, I like the opportunities that I get to learn about the world and WHY it functions the way it does, not just how. Many of my current and past teachers have been incredibly passionate about what they teach, and they have imparted that passion onto me, going above and beyond just teaching the curriculum. Those are always the best classes: when the entire class is attentive and desires to learn because the teacher does a great job teaching in a fun and engaging manner. An aspect that has been challenging for me is finding the time to juggle everything that I do. Between good grades, AP classes, fencing, and volunteering, I struggle with finding time for myself. The phrase “a good night’s sleep” has definitely taken on a new meaning for me during my junior year. Fortunately, most of my teachers are understanding and can relate to the stress and exhaustion that I often feel, and they do not mind making adjustments to schedules to meet the preferences of students.
How has your extracurricular involvement (including through the Georgia High School Fencing League) enhanced your educational experience?
Joining fencing has undoubtedly changed my life. I used to be very reserved, but now I always feel confident and empowered. Contrary to what many might believe, consistently going to fencing practice has not hurt my grades either, because I have had to adapt and learn how to develop a work ethic to meet the growing demands of both school and fencing. Outside of fencing, volunteering has really expanded my horizons and made me get out of my comfort zone, and I have made a lot of friends in the process. Being in French Club and Foreign Languages of Pope has developed what used to be just a knack for speaking French into a full-time passion, and it has led me to consider doing a semester abroad in France when I am in college.
What do you hope to do after graduating high school – and how has your education prepared you for that next step?
I want to go fence NCAA at a college like Northwestern or Duke or stay in state and go to Georgia Tech. I am still deciding between the two, since both have benefits and downsides. I would also like to possibly do a semester abroad, but that would depend on where I go to college. In regards to French, I definitely feel like my current French teacher has been a catalyzer in making me passionate about it because she has taught French in a manner that is so easy to pick up on. Even though I already spoke another language (Romanian) before starting to learn French, I still do not think it would have been as easy to grasp had I not had her as a teacher. In my core subject classes, I have had lots of great teachers across the board who have made learning a lot less daunting. For example, with math, it was always a subject which I enjoyed but never thought I could do at a very complex level until I took Calculus. Most people hear Calculus and think, “Oh, that’s what my nightmares are made of!” but my teacher did such a great job teaching it and helping me understand all aspects of Calculus that I am even considering a major in math now.
What advice would you give to other students?
If you are a nerd like me who used to think that you cannot be smart and athletic at the same time, I really recommend that you dissolve that mentality and try fencing. It is fun, active, and intelligent, and many call it “chess with swords” because of the strategy and tactics that happen behind every single action. You do not have to do it professionally to reap the mental and physical rewards – just try it out a few times at the numerous fencing clubs in Georgia and see if you like it. For me, it helped me get out of my comfort zone and turned me into a more confident person. My grades did not suffer at all, and fencing gave me a way to relax and have fun. Most importantly, it opened up new doors and opportunities to pursue a sport into, and possibly through, college, which is something that I never imagined I would do.