Senior Icons: Katie Sierra


Photo Credit: Northport High School

Griffin Crafa, Contributor

It may not be surprising that Katie Sierra, finalist and one of the top 300 Regeneron Scholars nationwide and a National Merit Semifinalist, will be attending Harvard University in the fall. What is surprising, or more appropriately, amazing, is that Katie managed to make it through high school with relatively little stress, considering her numerous extracurricular activities and competitions and enrollment in the intense International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma program. Katie Sierra is a remarkable student.

As of now, March of her senior year, Katie thoroughly enjoys her IB Physics class, taught by Mr. Gregory Guido. According to Katie, Mr. Guido has many resources available to his students, and they often conduct many “cool” labs. Katie particularly likes physics because it involves the application of mathematical principles to real world situations. In addition to Physics, Katie likes her English class, IB Literature, mainly because she has a particular passion for writing essays. In fact, Katie claims she would much rather write an essay than take a multiple choice test, another reason she enrolled in  the IB Program. Although she is very intelligent and academics may be easier for her than for other students, Katie did have to work hard, study a lot, and go to her teachers when she didn’t understand the material. Though Katie really enjoys English and Physics, she loves all her courses. But, if she had to pick a least favorite class, Katie would say her “two left feet” have always made PE not as fun for her.

As mentioned above, in the middle of her sophomore year, Katie made the decision to pursue the IB Diploma Program in her Junior and Senior years. Katie wanted to take the most rigorous courses possible (both IB and AP courses are extremely challenging, however the IB Diploma requires out of class academic work such as the extended essay), while also being well prepared for college, which through constant reinforcement of appropriate time management, the IB Program does. Even though the program is a lot of work, Katie feels that her heaviest workloads occurred in sophomore year when she took AP European History and was bombarded with long readings each night, and several assessments (many surprise) each week. In her IB classes, Katie says the students are tested on what they know, rather than what they don’t. Possibly the biggest impact the program has had on Katie is it helped her to write and speak better, which she feels boosted her chances for getting into Harvard. Putting academics aside, Katie notes how strong the social bonding between IB Diploma Candidates is, saying they form a close knit “community.”

It is well known that a highly valued section of the college application process is one’s activities resume; it is, at times, valued more than a student’s academic transcript; a college wants to see that a student has been involved in his or her high school, and will thus be likely to do the same at his or her college. This reason could definitely have made Katie stand out in the tens of thousands of applications Harvard receives. Katie has three primary areas of extracurricular involvement, both inside and outside of school. The first is community service. Katie is very actively involved in NHS’s Students for 60,000, a service organization founded to help the estimated 60,000 homeless people living in New York City at the time, but is now also dedicated to helping those living in poverty throughout the world and in our  local Long Island community. Through this group, Katie has traveled to many places and participated in many service events, the most recent being the trip to West Virginia. Additionally, Katie is involved in Girl Scouts, where she received the Gold Award, and Interact, another community service group at the High School which runs numerous service projects, the most notable being the Jamaica Toy Drive. Katie’s second area of extracurricular involvement is music. At the school, Katie plays the flute and piccolo in the Marching Band, Symphonic Winds Honor Band, and the Pit Orchestra for the musical. Out of school, Katie benefits from unique repertoire and techniques through the Metropolitan Youth Orchestra (MYO) and the Long Island Youth Orchestra. Lastly, Katie actively does scientific research. For two years, Katie has studied how humans impact their coastal environments through a fellowship with Dr. Padilla at Stony Brook University. Katie has entered numerous competitions with this research, including the Regeneron, Siemens, and Long Island Science Conference competitions.

Because of her outstanding work ethic, passion for learning, and out of school involvement, it is no surprise that Katie has received many “high profile” honors and recognitions. Katie is one of the top scorers on the PSAT, most likely in the top 1% of the nation. Similarly (the National Merit Competition is initially based off of one’s PSAT scores), Katie is a National Merit semifinalist, preparing to receive information about the finalists in a few months. In addition to her phenomenal PSAT scores, Katie also had to write numerous essays about her activities to be considered for this high recognition. Katie is one of the top 300 Regeneron Scholars in the country, a competition which involved writing a 20 page research report (Katie based it off of her previous science research) and basically a second college application. For her achievement, Katie won $2,000 which she will put towards college.

As stated above, Katie has committed to Harvard (meaning she has decided to go there), and is currently undecided about a major. However, Katie is pretty sure she wants to study some sort of biological science, with the hope of one day going into biomedical research or becoming a doctor, while possibly pursuing a secondary concentration (minor) in Spanish. Katie says the hardest part of the college application was writing the essays and making them perfect. For Harvard, Katie had to write three: two about her activities and academic interests, and one without a specific question. To do these, Katie says she had to step out of her comfort zone in regards to content. Another challenge was the absence of an assigned format, like there usually is for a school essay. According to Katie, at first her writing wasn’t very good, but after a long amount of time spent revising and editing, she succeeded in conveying personality and character.

As one can imagine, it seems that Katie may have been often stressed throughout her high school career. While she sometimes suffered from a lack of sleep, over time, Katie got better at managing her workload, planning a week ahead. To destress, Katie jokes that she would watch The Office on the weekends because she likes comedy and it helped her relax. Likewise, Katie has taken away some valuable lessons, the most obvious being proper time management. Others include mentally preparing for each week and taking the time to de stress. Though high school has gone very well for Katie, she wishes she had made the time to hang out with her friends more, and reminds younger students to not isolate themselves in their rooms doing work.


Photo Credit: Northport High School
Photo Credit: Northport High School