EVERETT — One day Megan Black, 17, could see herself working for the U.S. Federal Reserve. Or maybe the White House.
Either way, she’s off to a solid start.
She aced 11 Advanced Placement classes at Henry M. Jackson High School; self-studied four more AP tests; and took an online math course beyond what’s offered at the school, multivariable calculus.
She has worked behind the scenes on school plays and competed on the swim team. After earning a perfect score on the ACT, she became a semifinalist for the U.S. Presidential Scholars Program.
Megan was accepted at several top colleges across the country. She will continue her studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Q: I imagine you had to write multiple essays to all of these colleges. What did you write about?
A: One of the nice topics that they use for college is, “What is a challenge you have faced?” So I wrote about changing swimming coaches. I had the same coach for five years, and changing was really hard on me mentally. MIT actually asked, “What is something I do to completely relax for the fun of it?” And I wrote about how I do a lot of different number puzzles. Sudoku. Kakuro. I talked about how I find comfort in that there’s a single answer, and no matter what I know there’s a way to work to that answer. Sometimes life gets really complex. And for me, it’s nice to step back and have something concrete.
Q: So you’ve been swimming for a while?
A: I joined the official team when I was 8. I didn’t always take it seriously. But I got really invested around my eighth-grade year. I think it’s always better to get a break from using your brain. It gives me this really good channel for doing something physical. If I don’t swim for four days now, I get really antsy and I can’t focus on anything.
Q: What do you like about the act of swimming?
A: I really like being in the water and having everything suspended. I’m a sprinter. I go really fast, so I get really high-spiked adrenaline when I race, which means I’m not having as much fun in practice, because you don’t spike your adrenaline quite as high. I really like the power that you get. You’re in the water. Proportionally you’re using a lot more of your arms than your legs, (compared to) most sports when you’re on land. It’s this absolute power and feeling that you get. Nothing can beat it.
Q: Did you play any other sports growing up?
A: Not really. I’ve never been good on land with coordination.
Q: What do you most look forward to about being an adult?
A: I really enjoy cooking, but my parents get mad because I’ll use food that they thought that they had. And they’re like, ‘I thought we had the Parmesan cheese in here?’ But I used it up last night. Controlling what food is in the house, by myself — that would be nice.
Q: Outside of school are there any challenges that you’ve faced, that you want to talk about?
A: My biggest struggle is to remember to do things that aren’t school, because I like to learn, and want to learn, but a lot of stuff that I want to do is me sitting at a coffee shop, alone, for six hours doing math, which I find interesting, but is not necessarily social. So I should be talking to other people sometimes for my own good. I struggle with trying to balance my life, because there are things that I want to do, versus things that I — I genuinely enjoy talking to other people and hanging out, when I get to it, but it feels like a struggle to get to it.
Q: How did you get into theater?
A: You have to take arts classes that are required to graduate.
Q: So you enthusiastically signed up?
A: I actually wish I was good at art, but I’m so bad at it. I wish I was good at any form of art. Any form. But I’m not. So in eighth grade I’m looking at the art requirements, because the best time to fit this in is my freshman year, and lo and behold, they have something called Tech Theater. And I’m like, ‘Tech! The closest I’m going to get to something I can do!’
Q: How does your brain work?
A: I’m definitely very math-oriented, but I’m not just math-oriented. Regardless of the topic, I think of the world as a bunch of systems.
Q: What is this about wanting to work at the Federal Reserve?
A: After MIT, I’m really interested in the policy side of economics. MIT doesn’t let you declare a major until the end of my freshman year, and they have a completely open major. So I can basically say I want to change into computer science at the end of my junior year. And they’re like, ‘All right, just make sure you get the credits, and you can.’ But right now I’m looking at economics and I’m really interested the Federal Reserve, as well as law-making. So possibly working in the Library of Congress, or working as a Congressperson myself, or in the White House. I really find that idea of the policy making really interesting. So the Federal Reserve would be really cool, but it’s not like your first job out of college.
Q: When you say working in the White House, you mean staff, right? You’re not launching your campaign, are you?
A: I mean — I would be OK with either.
Q: Everybody seems to be jumping in right now.
A: Everyone’s jumping in. I would like a little more experience. I actually find the idea of working in the White House, as staff, would be really interesting, but I also wouldn’t mind running for candidacy for some things, like Congress or the presidency. But I feel like I’d need more experience with lower-level government before I tried to jump into that. That’s my personal opinion — that we should have, like, knowledge before we go into things.
Caleb Hutton: 425-339-3454; firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @snocaleb.