Extraordinary Teen Awards 2018

If you need a reason to be optimistic about the future, look no further.

Call 2018 the Year of the Student. As high-schoolers across the country marched, spoke and signed petitions on a variety of issues, these local teens were directing their energy into STEM projects, generating awareness of racial injustice, tutoring their peers and organizing fundraisers for veterans. If you need a reason to be optimistic about the future, look no further: The kids are all right.

Photo by Michael Ventura.

Saleha Hoffman

Wakefield High School

As a STEM-focused female student, Saleha Hoffman has grappled with challenges well beyond coding and mechanical systems. She recalls the time she tried to correct her engineering teacher and he brushed her off until the boy sitting next to her said the same thing. At the end of the year, she says, that teacher expressed surprise that she had received an “A” in the class. (She’s now graduating from Wakefield with a GPA north of 4.0.)

Since then, Hoffman has made it her mission to empower other girls. When a robotics teammate said, “I’m stupid; I can’t understand it,” Hoffman told her to stop it. She started a mentoring program for girls called “Women of Wakefield.”

“I’ve spent years trying to get the boys on the team to respect girls as much as boys,” says the Arlington teen. “I definitely feel outnumbered by men, but I don’t feel disadvantaged by it because I contribute just as much, and the boys know that I know my worth.”

“She is very determined; no one can tell her ‘no,’ ” says robotics club adviser Wendy Maitland. “She’s passionate about getting more girls interested in STEM fields.”

Hoffman has other passions, too. Inspired by her encounters with homeless people during a trip to New York, she co-founded “Dimes for Dining,” in which students collect change from their families and friends, donating the money to the Arlington Food Assistance Center. She estimates AFAC has received about $8,000 so far. She also played on Wakefield’s soccer team and teaches violin to younger kids.

Hoffman has always loved math and biology, but her mom’s suggestion to take an engineering class during sophomore year got her thinking about a way to combine the three in a career. She will attend Case Western Reserve University in the fall, attracted to its five-year combined bachelor’s/master’s degree program, and then eventually head to graduate school for a doctorate in biomedical engineering.

Categories: People
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