By Jessica Caterson
When Ana Caliri entered the high school as a freshman, she had no idea what to expect. As the oldest of three girls, Ana was the first in her family to attend EGHS, and had to rely on outside sources for information. For her, those sources were the upperclassmen of the cross country team. “I would not be the person I am today without having the team,” she said. “They were the main reason I was able to become acclimated to the school.” The high school’s running teams gave Ana an immediate family. Her participation in these sports changed who she was as both a person and a student. Academically, her teammates inspired her to really dig deep. Reflecting on running’s impact on her, Ana said,”Any running team is known for having the smartest kids in the school on their team, so I definitely tried to keep that up and try to keep my image good in that sense.” On a more introspective note, running taught Ana to work and succeed for herself. “Running, it is a team sport in that you train as a team, but it’s also very individual because you race by yourself. In that way, it’s taught me to do things for myself versus doing things for the pleasure of other people.”
Ana also credits her positive outlook on life to her experiences in cross country. “During sophomore year, I was at a high point in my running. For junior year, I thought it would just continue, but it didn’t, and my spirits got really down and my running just got worse. So, for senior year, I really tried to change my mindset and have a positive outlook on the team and training and what we could accomplish, and I think that really raised everyone’s goals and spirits into something great,” she said. After working tirelessly throughout the fall on both her physical and mental performance, Ana led the EG Girls Varsity Cross Country team to victory at their state meet.
“Winning state championships for cross country varsity states during my senior year is my favorite high school memory. I worked for that, I trained for that, I worked my mental attitude for that, so it was just a really awesome moment.”
Admittedly, however, her change in perspective did not happen overnight. Junior year is a taxing year for everyone, but to make matters worse for Ana, it was also the year she fell into a running slump. When her running performance wouldn’t improve, Ana found herself sinking lower emotionally and mentally as well. “I would get so caught up with a horrible race or workout, that I would be sad for the whole week, and that would set the tone for the rest of my runs, the rest of my workouts, the rest of my school work, and I would end up crying over all of those emotions that piled up.” Unlike many people in similar positions, Ana realized that what she was going through was more than something she could handle by herself. She admitted that she needed help, and that summer, Ana started seeing a therapist once a week.
“There’s still a stigma around it, and a lot of people think that you only go to therapists if you’re depressed or have major anxiety, but sometimes you just need a little bit of help,” she said. “I didn’t know any coping mechanisms to help myself, and in therapy, I learned them, and now I’m fine.” Ana hopes that people can relate to her story, and find the courage to seek out help if they need it. “If anything is getting to the point where it’s crippling your social and mental health, I definitely recommend getting help in some sort of way.” While she knows it can be difficult, asking for help is one of the best and bravest things she feels like she has done.
As though her courage wasn’t enough to distinguish her from a crowd, Ana also has a multi-faceted personality. “I’m not the type of person who fits into a box. That’s always been me even since freshman year. I’ve never fit into any one group,” she reflects, describing her place with the community at EGHS. “You know, I’m definitely a jock, people know me as being athletic, but I also have an academic side to me.” For Ana, “fitting in” or having a friend group had never been her priority. Instead, she focuses on being nice to everyone, regardless of who they are. She strives to be universally accepting, relating to people from all walks of life, and not taking what everyone says to heart. When asked what social advice she would give to her freshman self, Ana said, “Not everyone will like you, and that’s okay. Spend time with the people who make you happy, and don’t try to perform for the people who aren’t your friends. It’s not worth the time.”
For Ana, high school was a lesson in perspective. “I learned to not take things so seriously,” she says. Reflecting on her years as an underclassman, Ana described herself as getting caught up and frustrated by the little things. “I would get so worked up over them [the small things that went wrong in a day] and that would carry over into so many parts of my life.” However, in her true persevering fashion, Ana slowly learned how to overcome this inner struggle. She said, “I realized that there are bigger issues in the world, there are bigger things to worry about.” Her willingness to change is a perfect metaphor for both her personality and flexible outlook.
“I found that you need to go with the flow sometimes. I know it sounds corny, but it’s true.”
Ana’s adaptability served her well when applying to colleges. Thinking back to when she began looking at schools, Ana said, “I never really had a dream school. I just kinda went towards where my heart led me.” As a junior, Ana set herself up well, taking Advanced Placement classes that would highlight her strengths in the humanities, while lightening up on other subjects where she wasn’t as strong in order to emerge successful. She also didn’t start thinking about colleges until well after her junior year was done, in July. For Ana, her approach allowed for her to focus on what was at hand. When the time came to start applying, Ana sent her applications to all of the New England state schools and one private school, Quinnipiac University. “It came out to be only like 6 or 7 seven schools in total. Overall, it was a really easy process for me.” Ana didn’t care about a school’s name, so there was never the stress of getting into highly selective schools. In this way, she took inspiration from her mom, a successful chiropractor with her own business who earned her degree from a community college. “I figured out that it doesn’t really matter where you go, it matters what you do with that degree or what you do there.” For Ana, that place is Quinnipiac University.
Funnily enough, Ana wasn’t originally going to apply to Quinnipiac at all. “My dad went to Quinnipiac, and he wanted me to apply, so I did, but it never occurred to me that I would end up going there.” However, as she began to establish what she wanted in her future, Quinnipiac seemed to align more and more with her goals. She discovered that she couldn’t live without running, so she needed a school that could foster her athleticism, but she also wanted a school that would give her academic freedom to explore fields in health sciences. “Quinnipiac University quickly became the best fit for me in terms of my athleticism and my academics. It has a really good health science program, but it has so many options and I won’t ever be stuck in one major.” Ana will be attending Quinnipiac this fall and running both cross country and track and field for the school. She is currently enrolled in the school of health sciences and plans to enter a pre-PA program once she’s there.
Looking to the future, Ana is content. While she’s disheartened that she won’t be walking in a graduation ceremony with her class, she feels like there’s no purpose in getting upset over something she can’t control. “Graduation, for me, has always been a closure thing. The closure of 12 years in East Greenwich schools, with all the peers I’ve grown up with, having all shared the same experiences. I think it’s an untied thread right now, and I don’t know how I’m going to feel about it going into the rest of my life. But, you know, there’s nothing I can do about it. It’s out of my control, so I try not to get bothered by it.” While she is still unsure of what the pandemic will mean for her fall semester, she remains hopeful that she’ll be able to live on campus and at least have half of her classes in person. On a personal note, Ana hopes the future will let her spread happiness and positivity to the people around her. “I want to make people happy. I want to be a person who has a positive influence on people’s lives. I think even small, positive interactions can have big waves.” As for what this will look like on paper, Ana isn’t quite sure yet, but she’s in no rush to figure it out. Instead of having a set plan, Ana wants to follow her interests and invest in what makes her happy.
“I want to find happiness for myself. If that’s learning, then it’s learning, if that’s grad school, then it’s grad school, if it’s taking a year or two and traveling the world, then it is.”
Best of wishes to Ana and her future endeavors! You will be missed!
Jessica Caterson, a junior at East Greenwich High School, is editor of The Spectrum.
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