Friday, May 26, 2017

Paloma June: A Citizen of the World

Lucille Ball once said that “If you want something done, ask a busy person to do it.”

At Westchester Academy for International Studies, that would be senior Paloma June.


Here are a few things she’s juggled during her high school years: National Honor Society, including holding an office; science and math honor societies; Mu Alpha Theta math competitions; Model United Nations, including annual competitions and international conferences; Medical Club; Prom Committee – she was voted Prom Queen.


She also played club lacrosse at Stratford High School. She’s been a Girl Scout for 12 years, active in its sailing program at Seabrook. And she does well in her rigorous International Baccalaureate course work.


She doesn’t bat an eye when she describes a week of back-to-back IB testing followed by a weekend in Seabrook to complete an intensive 40-hour course to earn a sailing instructor’s certification.


Her accomplishments have won the respect of WAIS classmates and faculty.


 “I appreciate Paloma’s independent spirit and her commitment to excellence,” said Beverly Martin, lead counselor. “She has pushed herself academically while balancing many extracurricular activities. She is trustworthy and fun to be around.”  


Paloma came to Westchester in the seventh grade. Though her dad, Larry June, is a Westchester grad, Paloma was born in the Netherlands and spent 11 years in Singapore.


She clearly remembers her introduction to the new school. Attending a PTA event with her mom, Maria-Luisa, she met two girls who invited her to their homes that same day. They’re still friends. “It was so easy to be accepted into a friend group,” she says.


It was the friends, myriad opportunities, Westchester’s supportive environment and the prospect of sailing with Girl Scouts that convinced Paloma to stay in Houston when her dad’s job in the energy industry took him to India. Paloma was a sophomore at the time, so her grandmother moved into the June home.


Paloma has visited her parents in India several times and is intrigued by the culture, food and colors, but she’s happy she could continue high school with her WAIS family. Life went on as usual.


Life as usual for Paloma is always interesting. IB classes excited her. She loved the opportunity to focus on six subjects over the last two years; it meant she got to know her teachers very well and concentrated on intriguing topics.


“In chemistry class, I focused on medicinal chemistry. It was a blast!” she said. “I’d go home and tell my grandmother and aunt all about it. I’m not sure they really cared, but they pretended to. IB history is both in-depth and broad. For instance, we looked at how the U.S. Great Depression affected Canada and Latin America.”


That history lesson pretty much sums up Paloma’s worldview: the world is connected. An adventurous traveler, she’s been to more than 20 countries, and in each she realized, “Man, I could live here.”


She learns something wherever she goes.

  • How to pick leeches off people – “My family likes to hike in unusual places.”
  • How to be Zen – “Things don’t always work out as you think they will.”
  • How to navigate without Google Maps – “Yes, I can use a paper map.”
  • How to use public transportation – “I can get just about anywhere.”
  • How to respect and be careful around animals – “There was an elephant incident.”
  • How to build self-reliance – “You learn to figure things out on your own.”
She’s become a keen observer of world events.

“We need to learn to listen to each other,” she said. “It’s really easy to live with people who agree with you, but that doesn’t fix anything.”


Fixing things – more specifically, people – is in Paloma’s future. After a summer job as a sailing instructor at Girl Scout camp in Seabrook, she’s off to the University of Texas to major in biology.


“We have great biology teachers at Westchester,” she said. “I fell in love with the subject because of their labs, experiments and field trips.”


After her first degree, she plans to go to medical school. She’s fascinated by how the body works.


“It’s a combination of biology, chemistry and physics,” she said. “Really small things can affect so many others.”


Paloma will no doubt achieve every one of her goals. That’s what busy and committed people do. The real question is this: Where in the world will that commitment take her?


by Rusty Graham
russell.graham@springbranchisd.com


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