Housatonic Valley Regional High School
SATs: 660v, 570m
Governor's Scholar; FFA (formerly known as Future Farmers of America) member; French Club; Lakeville Pony Club; Brian Parker Scholarship for FFA National Convention, Louisville, Ky.; National Pony Club Know Down horse knowledge competition; Earth Watch volunteer; student council.
What is your career aspiration? "I always wanted to be an equine veterinarian, but now, at age 18, I feel that I'm not in any position to limit myself to any one career. I'm most interested in ecology and environmental science."
Have your life goals or outlook on life changed since Sept. 11? "Definitely. My father is a journalist, so even before Sept. 11th we were aware of the terrorist activity out there through Dad. ... I think we've all come to realize the tragedy of Sept. 11th, and it has changed how my generation will look at foreign affairs for our whole lives."
What should adults know about teens today? "I can only speak for myself; I don't fit into any mold for an average teenager. But they should know there's no such thing as a typical teen. We're all individuals."
What advice do you have for high school freshmen? "Try as much as you can, academically speaking - go for everything you can when opportunities come your way. Don't limit yourself."
Do you have a hero? If so, who is it and why? "My veterinary science teacher, Mrs. [Karen] Davenport, has been the biggest inspiration in my entire life, encouraging me to try things and to test my limits as a person. She just finished treatment for breast cancer, and she's a real hero and a real fighter. She's been teaching through everything. She's a fantastic teacher and friend. Every student should have at least one teacher or role model like her."
Close-up: Last summer Ryan McLaughlin wanted to try something new, different and animal-oriented - so she tracked and trapped black bears in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. As an Earth Watch volunteer, she joined graduate students from North Carolina State and Auburn universities in an ecology research project.
Ryan, 18, said she enjoyed the hands-on experience, where they lured bears to traps with "sardines and smelly things," then tranquilized them, measured them, took their vital signs and attached radio collars. She also surveyed the berries, insects and squawroot the bears eat and helped treat one bear's injured paw.
But at home, it's horses that top this animal lover's activities. "There's something in me that's part horse," said Ryan, who's been riding since she was 9 years old and is active in the Lakeville Pony Club. She's won a long list of dressage and equestrian competitions with her palomino mare Lemon Twist, and she said she's most proud of competing with people from all over the East Coast to win the 2000 Northeastern Junior/Young Rider Dressage Championship.
Despite a school schedule filled with honors-level and advanced placement classes, student council and leadership activities and making the high honor roll every quarter, Ryan spends many hours volunteering at horse shows and teaching children to ride, exercise and groom their horses.
As a member of the Housatonic Valley Regional High School chapter of FFA, a group for students interested in any form of agriculture, she volunteers at community rabies clinics and shares her knowledge of animals with thousands of children at petting zoos at local fairs. It was her activities with FFA that led to her interest in ecology and the environment, Ryan said.
Ryan's biggest challenge came on her birthday last year, when she and her horse had a bad fall. "I was wearing my helmet, but I got a concussion, dislocated my shoulder and whacked my neck out of alignment," she said. Her doctors told her she would never ride again, but after eight months of physical rehabilitation therapy and her characteristic determination, she's not only riding, but also jumping again with Lemon Twist.
"I've had my trials and tribulations, but I'm lucky to be alive," she said.
- SUSAN KANIACopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times