Introducing this month's alum... Ariel Powers, 2018 MassSTAR Conference Alum
Interviewer: Chris Ackerman
Interviewee: Ariel Power
List of acronyms: AP=Ariel Powers, CA=Chris Ackerman
CA: Hi Ariel, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Can you give us a quick intro about yourself and your involvement with the MYL Foundation?
AP: Of course! I attended the conference in 2018 as a delegate from Norfolk County Agricultural High School, and I was a Junior Facilitator in 2019. I am also the Junior Staff Director for 2020. I am going to college in the fall (hopefully) at Western Kentucky University as an intended biology major, but plan to incorporate psychology or environmental science into my degree or another way throughout my time in school.
CA: I'm guessing most people in the Foundation have seen you around at some point. What's something you do outside of school/volunteering that people might not know about you?
AP: Well, I've been a competitive dancer for fifteen years, and I dance at Edge Studio of Dance in Canton. I do a lot of solos and actually won a student choreography award at my last competition! I do acrobatics, ballet, jazz, tap, hip-hop, and contemporary, and I teach younger kids, too.
CA: Wow, I had no idea! What is competitive dancing like?
AP: I think a lot of people have this image of really mean people from "Dance Moms", but it's not like that at all! We do work really hard, but the whole thing is super supportive. Unlike other sports, our "season" is almost year-round. My studio starts learning dances in September, and we keep practicing until February or March. Our showcase is in February, where we dance for all the parents. Then competitions start in March, and last until May. Competitions are really long. A lot of competitions are usually held at high schools. As one of the older dancers in my studio, I spend a lot of time organizing the little kids and cheering for them at competitions. Then, of course, I have to get my hair and makeup ready and actually dance. The last competition I went to was sixteen hours long on a Sunday!
CA: Are you planning to dance at WKU?
AP: Not my freshman year. The dance team looks really competitive, and I'd like to explore other aspects of college life first. I want to try intramural sports like volleyball, even though I've never played before! I might try to join a less competitive dance club in my second year, but we'll see.
CA: You went to an agricultural school for high school; what was that like?
AP: First off, the teachers were incredible. Teachers are incredible and caring in general, but a lot of the students at vocational high schools are more focused on their trade than on academics. Instead of getting frustrated, all the teachers at Norfolk Aggie were understanding and helped students work towards their goals, regardless of whether they were academic or not. I also really liked the way the days were organized. Unlike most vocational schools, we had all of our classes every day, so we would spend the mornings in academic classes and the afternoons working on our trades. It was really nice to get outside in the afternoon and spend time in nature.
CA: How did you decide to go to Norfolk Aggie?
AP: Well, I actually went to Catholic school until eighth grade, but I spent a lot of time at the Aggie growing up. It's only a mile from my house, and I went to a ton of programs there as a kid and really enjoyed my time. I knew I wanted to help people, but not as a doctor. I studied the environmental cluster at Aggie, and I learned how to build a ton of practical things. We learned all about clean water and providing access to people in other parts of the world. I did a program for the last two summers where I basically got paid to work at my school. We built these really awesome "solar carts"--I'll send you a picture(scroll down after the interview), since they're hard to explain.
CA: That's super cool! I'll make sure we share the photo so other people can see. Let's talk a little bit about your experience at the MassSTAR conference, and with the MYL Foundation. What lessons did you take back to your school/community?
AP: While I was there I learned about the Massachusetts Association of Student Councils. My school wasn’t yet a part of this organization, but I was able to introduce them to it. From there we have gone to many regional and state conferences that have brought back numerous fundraising ideas, etc. Leaving MassSTAR I don’t think I realized the extent of what I was about to bring back to the school. Shout out to Madeline Wilson for letting me know about MASC !
CA: How would you describe the conference to somebody who hasn't/won't be able to experience it?
AP: I feel like this question comes up a lot and no one ever really knows how to answer it, but I am going to try. Have you ever been to summer camp? I think this is honestly the best way to describe it. Now imagine you are going to summer camp without anyone you know. Your first year of summer camp you walk in really nervous and excited and don’t know anyone, but you might know someone that someone else knows, but otherwise you can kind of invent who you want to be right there. Once you’ve settled in you make friends, do some really fun activities, learn some cheers, and get t-shirts. Well now imagine all of this happens in one weekend, at a college, and it’s not a summer outdoorsy camp, but about leadership and becoming a better person. You leave happy and full and can’t wait to come back next year. Granted MassSTAR is so much more than that, but that is definitely the most relatable way to describe it.
CA: Are you still in touch with people from the conference? How do you stay in touch?
AP: Of course! I have a lot of the people I met on Snapchat or instagram. It’s nice to keep up with people’s lives and cheer them on! Especially now with everyone from my delegate year moving on to colleges, work, and the military. It’s really cool to help celebrate their success! I text a few close friends too - we check in on each other and talk about what’s happening at our schools. They are really resourceful for ideas about what to do at school.
CA: Why did you want to come back and stay involved with the Foundation?
AP: I knew from the moment they had the alumni panel speaking at the conference that I wanted to stick with MYL for as long as they would let me. The organization is built on faith in the youth and supports them on their way to the top. I think that is incredible and love everything that the foundation stands for and want to help the next generation the way that I was helped. Also, the MYL such a positive space to be in and that’s really amazing in this crazy world.
CA: What makes the Foundation unique? What do you like most about it?
AP: The two greatest things about the foundation is the atmosphere they create and the amount of volunteering they do. I think what makes it unique is that it brings people from all over the state together and creates the ability to stay connected with them for the rest of their life. The mentorship program, alumni events, and grant proposal opportunities are really such an asset for high schoolers.
CA: Let's follow up with some quickfire fun questions. What was your favorite activity at the conference?
AP: I really liked the rain meditation! It was a really nice way to unwind after a really eventful and exhilarating day!
CA: And how about your favorite cheer?
AP: MassSTAR Beat! Hands down! Or the Beat STARMass if you’re up for the challenge!
CA: What's a fun fact that people might not know about you?
AP: I strongly prefer triscuits to wheat thins, but I think everybody might know that by now. I danced at the Orange Bowl in 2014, though! People might not know that!
CA: That's awesome--I had no idea! Thanks for taking the time to talk to us.
Every month we'll be featuring an interview with one of our thousands of alums and Christopher Ackerman, Director of Alumni Relations. If you have any questions or would like to be featured in our Alumni Spotlight, please contact Chris at (firstname.lastname@example.org).