When the time came to consider colleges, Sofia Caballero ’19 wanted an academic atmosphere where competition was balanced by a supportive community. That is what lead her to Oberlin College. "It feels like a school where people work together to accomplish one goal – everybody succeeds,” she says. “It’s more about achievement as a community, and I really like that."
After four years attending Peddie, where she was captain of the varsity softball team and helmed the Latinx Club, Sofia is ready to jump into college activities as a way to build friendships, expand her community, and hone her leadership skills. "I want to get a well-rounded experience at Oberlin," she says. "That’s what I did at Peddie. I joined all the clubs that I could, and I want to do the same thing in college. It’s easier for me to make friendships in a shared space where we all have something in common." In addition to participating in various on-campus clubs, she also hopes to join Oberlin’s softball team as a walk-on.
Although shy by nature, Sofia isn’t going to let that stop her from making an impact at Oberlin and taking advantage of opportunities. "College is a much bigger community than high school, so I have to put myself out there and be more extroverted. With determination, I’ll succeed. That’s something I learned at Harlem Academy."
Pursuing a Love of Science
It was determination to find answers that fueled Sofia’s interest in science. How does the human body function? How does DNA work? As a middle schooler here, she was eager to explore, experiment, and analyze in order to answer these and many other scientific questions. "I love human anatomy and physiology, and my interest in it first grew at Harlem Academy," says Sofia. "I remember doing a unit on emergency medicine in eighth grade, and that’s when it completely clicked for me."
She plans to follow a pre-med track at Oberlin majoring in neuroscience. "I want to combine my passion for medical science with my interest in helping people." Sofia is getting a head start as a participant in Oberlin’s STRONG program (Science and Technology Research Opportunities for a New Generation) for underrepresented first-year students interested in STEM, which begins this month. She will be mentored by STEM faculty, have the opportunity to conduct scientific research, and take part in a specialized curriculum designed to develop students’ STEM skillset.
Prepared for College Success
Although she knows pre-med courses will be rigorous, Sofia is ready for the challenge. "When I was at Harlem Academy, I learned that being organized and having good study habits can help you handle a challenging workload. It worked for me when I got to high school, and I know it will work for me in college too."
While a student here, she also discovered that not everyone learns the same way, and that’s OK. "Because Harlem Academy has small classes, it was easier for our teachers to give us individualized attention," Sofia recalls. "Seeing that, I realized that my way of learning may not be the same as another student’s. They may pick things up more slowly or faster than I do, but we are all able to learn the information."
The realization was an eye-opener for a young child figuring out how to be the best student she could be. Now, Sofia is eager to apply it to the next step in her journey. "I’m so happy that I had a space where I could grow and gain a strong sense of myself. I know who I am and what I want to do, and I’m excited for what comes next."
Thank you to the Harry Winston Hope Foundation, Con Edison, and Columbia Community Service for sponsoring our middle school science program.