MONROE — Sky Valley Education Center senior Michael Marcham is a bit of a Renaissance man.
In the classroom, he’s earned a 3.9 GPA and was named a National Merit Scholar semifinalist. On his own time, he’s taught himself seven languages and he plays piano, volunteers at Evergreen Medical Center and coaches and plays soccer.
Marcham will graduate in the spring and hopes to study to become an orthopedic surgeon.
Question: So, you enjoy languages. How’d that start and which do you speak?
Answer: I know basic stuff for each of them. Spanish, Portuguese, German, Irish, Arabic, Hebrew and I think there are some other ones. There are a lot. On top of that, I’ve looked at a little bit of Chinese and Japanese. It’s just kind of my thing. When I first started learning languages, I didn’t want to get them mixed up so I started going for a diverse range and also because my whole goal with studying languages and other cultures is to get an appreciation for how people communicate. Depending on what my interest was at the time, like if I were interested in the Far East I’d think, ‘Let’s learn how to write in Katakana.’ So I’d do that. Originally, it was scripts that kind of got me into it. We got these Russian icons that were written in Russian and I thought, ‘I wish I could read that.’ So I looked it up and from there, I started getting more interested in languages. Sometimes, that’s something that can inhibit because it’s so much work but it turned out to be something I really enjoyed.
Q: You recently coached a soccer team, too. How’d you get involved with that?
A: I did it over the summer and it was definitely something that I enjoyed because I love playing soccer. It was kind of rewarding because I couldn’t play soccer this year because I didn’t want to commit to a club team, but I got to go coach people and teach them how to play, which was fun.
The age range was like 18 months to 12 years. It was such a diverse group. You had to be able deal with kids at every development stage. It was interesting. I learned a lot.
Q: So with school, languages, soccer and volunteering, how do you balance your time?
A: It’s a lot of prayer and discernment when you’re figuring out what you need to do. It doesn’t feel busy though. It just kind of feels like I have time for it all. When you love doing something, it doesn’t really feel like it’s that much of a struggle fitting it into your schedule.
Q: As a senior, you’re applying to schools, right? I know Harvard and the University of Washington are on your list. Where do you hope to end up?
A: I’m still kind of deciding that. Ultimately, I want to go to medical school, so whatever college is going to prepare me best for medical school is the one I want to get in to. I’m applying to a wide range.
Q: What kind of medicine do you want to practice?
A: I would like to do orthopedics just because there’s a real need for that here. I broke my ankle when I was a freshman and the wait line just to get an appointment with the surgeon was ridiculous. It was like six weeks. Fortunately, I have a cousin that’s an orthopedic surgeon. Plus, I like it because it’s not as high pressure as heart surgery or brain surgery. But also you’re helping people walk again and get use of their limbs.
I’ve always wanted to help people. I just didn’t know what form that was going to take. My mom has seven siblings and the majority are doctors of one kind or another, so medicine runs in the family. But in about eighth grade was when I realized I really liked biology and the idea of healing people and it could be a really awesome career to shoot for.
Q: Do you think there’s a way to merge your love of languages and medicine?
A: I do. We have lots of doctors up here and that’s great but there are places, like communities in other countries where it’s difficult, especially because of the language barrier, to get them the help they need. It’s harder for developed countries to help lesser-developed countries if that communication isn’t there. I think it’d be really cool to go and serve in those communities and find a way to use those communication skills to give them good care and reach out to them.
Q: With so much going on, is there anything you wish you had more time for?
A: My schedule is so busy now I tend not to think of that. I could definitely put more commitment into music because I love playing piano. I used to do recitals at nursing homes. It’s cool to be able to serve them by playing music for them.
Q: When did you start playing?
A: Middle school. I had this one teacher who was super inspiring. She really pushed me to find my own voice in music. I started doing that and I started really enjoying it and I still play piano to this day. Recently, I played at my church for a little while for the youth choir they have there, which was different because playing in sync with people singing is totally different from playing solo.