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Maya McKinstry’s teachers introduced her to us as a “technology” student. Clearly accomplished in tech—with certificates in Microsoft applications and the ability to create her own websites—Maya is also an “artsy” person. We can see this, for example, in how she applied her web design skills. She built a website focused on her favorite bands (the “Arctic Junkies” is one that intrigues us).

By Lisa Cannon

As we get further into our conversation with this Momence High School sophomore, we learn that she plays the flute and piano, draws, and writes fiction. Maya, the young “Renaissance Woman,” is someone who purposefully pursues her interests and is not afraid to explore. When asked what advice she would give to her younger self, she replies “don’t feel afraid to take the ‘wrong’ courses” or stick only to things that fit into what you see as your career path. She adds that if you don’t explore other things, you won’t know what else you might be interested in. It would seem that Maya has followed her own advice to a “T.”

Maya is someone who purposefully pursues her interests and is not afraid to explore.

Not only does she pursue her varied interests, but takes the initiative to teach herself new things. Maya learned how to play the piano by watching YouTube videos. First, she learned all of the keys, and then placement, composition, etc. Maya is thorough and methodical in her thinking and how she approaches subjects. This kind of patience with a process is really valuable. In a world where we often expect immediate gratification, it is so important to realize that things worth doing often take time, effort, and a willingness to follow a series of steps toward achieving your end goal.


Maya credits her parents and teachers with inspiring her to pursue her interests. Miss McGraff (Technology, Finance); Miss Barnett and Miss Ader (English); and Mr. Toberman (History) stand out in this regard. She notes that they all go the extra mile in pointing out resources to help her challenge herself and go further in her learning.


We asked if she had an idea of what she wants to do after high school, or when she “jumps off the diving board” into post-secondary life. Maya says that she used to think she wanted to do something with animals, but now is considering a career in technology.


Regarding her love of drawing, Maya notes that she makes sure to leave time for this activity. Whenever possible, she works it into her school assignments. In English class, she created and sketched characters to illustrate a story she wrote. She feels it is important to show a character’s flaws, as it makes them more human. As an example, she cited one who is “very outgoing, but doesn’t know when to stop talking.” This makes us laugh and see a bit of ourselves in this fictional person!


If she had a magic wand, Maya would use it to protect her friends, family, and even folks she doesn’t know from illness and physical harm. We remark on the kindness of such a wish. In fact, so many of the students we speak to are generous and constructive with their magic wand wishes. Maya, and all of you, will make the world a better place. We look forward to seeing how each of you take your special interests, talents, and energy into the world and make your own magic!

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