EVERETT — Avery Riggs is a sophomore at Cascade High School, where she plays varsity volleyball and is preparing to study medicine after graduation. A trip in June could inform Avery’s plans. The 16-year-old has been selected as a delegate to the Congress of Future Medical Leaders in Lowell, Massachusetts. The three-day program is for high school students who want to become doctors or medical researchers.
Question: What are you studying now?
Answer: I’ve always been interested in the medical field. In eighth grade, I took coordinated science. That’s kind of like a little taste of everything: physics, chemistry and stuff like that. I really got interested in chemistry at that time. I’m taking a chemistry class right now. Normally it’s for juniors.
Q: Have you narrowed down which fields of medicine interest you?
A: I’ve gone back and forth with a lot of things. When I started playing volleyball in sixth or seventh grade, I started to get interested in sports medicine and being an orthopedic surgeon. Right now, I’m focused on becoming a pediatric hematologist-oncologist — that’s basically the study of cancer in kids’ blood. I want to be able to help and I think chemistry will help me with pursuing that.
Q: What do you like about chemistry?
A: The periodic table. I like how everything has an order and a place. I like it when things are organized and have a pattern.
Q: What about college?
A: Basically, my dream college is Stanford. If I could go anywhere, I’d go to Stanford. More realistically, nearby we have the University of Washington and they have a great medical school so that’s really convenient for me, especially because it’s in state. The main goal would be to play volleyball, too. I want to go somewhere where I could pursue medical studies, but also have the ability to play volleyball in college.
Q: Tell me more about volleyball.
A: I started playing volleyball at Evergreen Middle School. I played on their seventh- and eighth-grade teams. At Cascade, I made varsity my freshman year. That was a really cool experience. This year I made varsity again. I’ve gotten to know a lot of the older players and coaches a lot better. I plan on continuing to play for Cascade.
Q: What do you like to do outside of school?
A: I’m the type of person who can’t really sit still for a very long time. I like to be doing something at all times, whether it’s going to the beach or going on hikes with my friends. Or even just hanging out. We go get bubble tea at Pochi (Bubble Tea Cafe in Lynnwood). I love meeting new people.
Q: Is that how you usually unwind, or are there other things you like do?
A: I guess you could say I’m artistic. When I was younger, I would always do arts and crafts and leave messes on my bedroom floor. I took intro to draw and paint my freshman year and that was really interesting.
Q: How has your family influenced you?
A: My parents, they’ve always been supportive. I’ve always been wanting to do more and more and more and wanting to get ahead in everything. In middle school, I was taking a year ahead in math, a year ahead in science and a year ahead in English. They helped push me to take those classes. Eventually, that will help me get an earlier start on what I want to study.
Q: Do you have siblings?
A: I have an older brother, Teague. He’s 17 and he’s a senior here at Cascade.
Q: Are you alike or different?
A: I’d say we’re pretty much complete opposites.
Q: Does anyone in your family work in medicine or related fields?
A: My mom, she’s a massage therapist. So are my grandma and my aunt.
Q: Tell me more about the Congress of Future Medical Leaders. What kind of a program is that? What do participants do?
A: (Nominees are from high schools all over the country. Avery’s nomination letter was signed by Dr. Mario Capecchi, a winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine.) They get to meet a bunch of medical professionals and PhDs. They have a surgery you can watch. It’s to help people narrow down their options and to figure out what they want to study.