There are high school students who make the front page with an amazing one-handed touchdown catch or a buzzer-beating 3-pointer, but there is a young lady who is a shooting star at East Kentwood and her specialty is academics.
Kaitlin Williams is sailing through her senior year at East Kentwood with a grade point average of 4.465. To her, knowledge is her goal and academic pursuits are her passion.
I met with Kaitlin to discuss her advancement to the state finals of the Michigan History Day competition. The theme of this year’s competition is Rights and Responsibilities. In what began as a class assignment for Advanced Placement U.S. History, Kaitlin found herself stepping outside of her usual field of interest, science, and researching the early forms of religion and their evolution to monotheism.
Upon researching their selected topic, students choose to present their work as a paper, an exhibit, a performance, a documentary, or a web site. By employing a green screen and a Mac computer, Kaitlin worked independently to create her documentary; literally researching, writing, directing, narrating, filming, and editing her entry.
“It was a challenge,” she admits. “I had hours more video than I needed. It was difficult to edit it to ten minutes.”
Her documentary entitled “Monotheism: A Baby Story” explores how the circumstances in which monotheism arose and affects the way the religions of Islam, Christianity, and Judaism view land ownership and the rights of groups of people.
“I am especially interested in how the polytheistic religions of Mesopotamia evolved into Zoroastrianism (the first monotheistic religion) and how this interaction encouraged or even caused the rise of urbanization and the world we know today,” explains Kaitlin. She went on to recount how conquering nations would force smaller polytheistic peoples to adopt their monotheistic beliefs.
When asked about her personal faith life, Kaitlin speaks from the point of view of an observer. Although she says she is not a churchgoer, she is interested in the discussions her fellow students have about their religious beliefs.
“I have many friends who are actively involved in their faith or church, whether they be Christians, Jews, or Muslims.”
A wisp of a young woman, Kaitlin is an all-star in the academic arena. Beginning in sophomore year, Kaitlin has worked her way through the toughest classes at East Kentwood starting with A.P. World History and 2 A.P. level economics classes. Junior year she tackled A. P. Psychology, A. P. Language and Composition, A. P. Calculus, and A. P. Chemistry. As a senior she is currently taking A.P. Literature and Composition, A.P. Biology, A.P. Physics, A. P. U.S. History, and A. P. Statistics. Whew!
With school labs starting at 6:30 a.m. and a full day’s schedule of classes to follow, Kaitlin is a self-proclaimed “master of time management!” And she would have to be as she is also a Senior Captain of the track and field team at East Kentwood. In addition to her study workload, Kaitlin stays after school to train and mentor others in hurdling competition and the 4 x 4 relay.
Having taken her Advanced Placement College Board exams, Kaitlin has passed most with a top rating of “Extremely Well Qualified” – a sure sign she is excited about the opportunity to study at the college level. Although she has applied to as many as 11 universities and colleges, she has yet to decide where to attend. Regardless of where she goes, Kaitlin knows what she’d like to be doing in 10 years.
“I hope to be finished with a PhD in Biology and making a contribution to our knowledge of organic processes and interactions.”
Meanwhile, Kaitlin’s documentary will advance to the Michigan History Day competition at Saline High School on April 26. 2014. Participants are encouraged to revise their work before submission to each new level.
“I think I would like to interview a rabbi, a caliph, and a priest to get their views, but maybe not in the same room at the same time!” If chosen to advance at this level, Kaitlin will head to the National History Day event in Maryland in June.
When asked if there are prizes at this level Kaitlin demurs, stating that she has not checked into that yet. Upon researching the competition, the winning documentary can win $1,000. It seems to me that the knowledge and experience of participating give Kaitlin the most satisfaction from this project; any medals or cash prizes would just be the icing on the cake.
Kaitlin is an example of the many quiet shooting stars in our local schools. She has devoted herself to learning and knowledge, the same way a sports star or musician practices their craft. Headlines for academic all-stars seem too few and far between. Yet quietly and confidently Kaitlin Williams is sure to be a success in whatever she chooses to pursue.