SMOKEY POINT — Stella Seth, 18, is a senior at Lakewood High School. She is president of the Associated Student Body and a sprinter in track. She plans on going to the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, where she hopes to pursue a career in intelligence. She grew up in Haiti and lived in an orphanage there before coming to Snohomish County.
Question: Why do you want to go to West Point?
Answer: I’m adopted. I used to live in an orphanage (in Haiti). … When I came here I had so many opportunities, so I just wanted to give back to the people who gave me a home. With my characteristics, it’s kind of how I roll. I’m a very disciplined person.
I went to a conference (for the academy) in Seattle, and that was it, I’m going to West Point … they try to scare you. It’s the Army. You’re going to have to do things you might not enjoy. And I’m like, yeah, that’s where I want to go.
I went there for an organized stay. … I followed one of the cadets around, she was also a person of color like me, so I learned what it was like to be a person of color at West Point.
Q: So are you officially going?
A: I turned in everything. After that, I’m just waiting for my appointment. I’m pretty confident in me getting there.
Q: What do you do in track?
A: I’m a sprinter. I do 100, 200.
Q: Are you any good at it?
A: I wouldn’t say I’m good. I tore my ACL my sophomore year. I was good for my age.
Q: What was it like when you tore your ACL?
A: It was really hard when I tore my ACL, because my doctor was like you can’t do this, you can’t do that. … I’ve always been active. As a kid I used to climb trees, do whatever, get myself in trouble.
My freshman year I had a pretty good track season. I was building myself up (my sophomore year). I think I was in the best shape I could’ve been.
The Friday before track season started, I tore my ACL doing tag. I landed wrong, and just (she smacks the palms of her hands against each other).
I didn’t really think it was a big deal. I was like, oh, stuff like that happens all the time. It hurts. Got up, shook it off a little bit. And two weeks later, (the doctors said) you tore your ACL and you’ve been walking on it and you shouldn’t have been.
Q: What was rehab like?
A: I was lying around, kind of mad, because I couldn’t move my leg for a whole week. I did not enjoy that experience. … I went down to the track to watch the others. It was kind of sad, but I was going to still support them, because I was part of the team.
Q: Sounds like you’re back at it again?
A: Yeah, I’m good.
Q: How long were you at the orphanage?
A: I lived in Haiti for 9 years. I was in the orphanage for three. There was no year or date, you were just there for a long time, that’s what it felt like.
Q: How did you end up in Snohomish County?
A: My parents wanted a little boy. They found my brother Jacob, and they’re like, oh he’s cute, we’ll adopt him.
And they found out later Jacob had a sister. (They said) we’re not going to separate them, so we’re just going to adopt them together; 2010, January, I came here.
Q: How was the transition?
A: It was very rough. We came in, and we didn’t know any English, my brother and I. Since he was younger he didn’t really care. But for me it was harder, because I was older, I already went to school and learned all these languages.
My parents were hilarious. They had this notebook of Haitian Creole in it, and they would read it out and say it to us — and we wouldn’t understand any of it because the accent wasn’t right. We were like, what are you saying?
Within a couple of months I started learning English. … I don’t remember anything (from Haitian Creole). I had to change my focus so much; I have to get rid of these languages and learn another language, so I can be understood.
Q: What’s it like approaching the end of your last year of high school?
A: When I pause to think about it, I’m like oh my gosh, I’m growing old.
For me, I’m going to the military … 10 years of my life is already planned out. It’s weird.
Q: Is there anything in particular you want to pursue in the military?
A: I’ve always known that I want to do something in languages and culture. I want to learn as many languages as I can. I want to travel the world and learn people’s cultures.
Since I’m going to West Point, I’ll have an opportunity to learn a language there, and I can decide what branches I want to go to, like the infantry, or intelligence. …
That’s my plan, but you know, it never goes to script.
Q: Will it be scary to be on the other side of the country from your family?
A: No, not really. As a child I was used to being moved everywhere, so it doesn’t really affect me. … I’m like, “Mom, we always have a phone, so you can call.”