Odyssey 2019 Student Remarks

Our Rising and Shining Star award finalists prepared speeches in hopes of receiving an award at our 10th Annual Odyssey Luncheon. The students worked hard and practiced rigorously to perfect their speeches. For this reason, we wanted to give the community an opportunity to hear what these amazing girls had to say.


Anyang Ayai - Shining Star Award Recipient

My very first day at CGLA started off with a bundle of nerves knotting themselves in my stomach. A million different thoughts raced through my mind as I walked the short, infinite distance from my dad’s car to the. Would the teachers like me? Would I make friends? Would the work be hard?

When classes were up and running, I was fully thrust into the world of STEAM. In Mrs. Mount’s class, I learned about biomes, energy, and the engineering design process. That year, my first PBL project was a roller coaster I designed with my peers for a fictional amusement park. Last quarter, I created a photobioreactor system that grows algae which sequesters carbon dioxide emissions and increases oxygen levels; this quarter, I am creating an energy efficient trailer home for a person that has been struck by a natural disaster.

In these past six years, CGLA has exposed me to the various STEAM principles and the infinite possibilities they present. The CGLA curriculum has challenged me to question and to reason, to push the boundaries of what is possible; it has given me the chance to pursue passions rooted in the analytical and the creative, the hard sciences and the humanities – making them an integral part of my identity. Upon the completion of my education at CGLA, I plan on pursuing a double major in molecular and physiological biology, and biochemistry, while minoring in theatre. I will go on to medical school and earn my Doctorate of Medicine with a concentration in neuro, neonatal, or thoracic surgery. In my journey beyond the four walls of CGLA, I hope to still carry my passions for all areas of the STEAM fields.

I am thankful to the committee for bestowing me with this award, to the incredible faculty and staff who engage with students on a deeply intellectual level, and to my peers for being a constant force that motivates and inspires me. Lastly, I am thankful to my family, whose steadfast support has been a pillar of strength in my world.


Carrigan Collins - Shining Star Runner Up

Entering CGLA in 2014, I was the quiet girl with dull eyes and a timid spirit. After years of being sheltered and encouraged to stay within the walls of the box society created for me not only as a female but as an African American, I didn’t expect much from myself, and up until my first day at CGLA, neither had anyone else.

 But suddenly, I found myself engulfed in a space where my ideas were free to roam and my creativity was praised and encouraged. I was challenged until my brain ached, but it was an ache I was willing to get up for every morning, as I was finally growing into the young woman I never initially imagined I’d become, who was radiant, confident, and unafraid to take on any obstacle in my path. Going to CGLA gave me endless opportunities to flourish academically, especially in science, leading me to discover my passion for Psychology and Kinesics. 

One of the many examples of my academic achievements at CGLA is my participation and leadership in STEM projects. I learn best when I’m able to put what I learn to use, as in connecting elements of Geometry such as finding the areas and dimensions of various shapes, to calculating the exact measurements needed in order to recreate a car in a 3D modeling program. As I go through high school at CGLA, I continuously see the growth in my perception.


Kelly Perez Hernandez - Rising Star Award Recipient

My name is Kelly Perez Hernandez and I am in the  8th grade at CGLA. CGLA has prepared me to succeed in a STEAM career in many ways. Being at CGLA has made me become a better person. They have helped me realize the person I want to become. When I first came to CGLA, I knew that I wanted to be an engineer. When I was in the 6th grade, my teachers assigned us a presentation about our future careers in STEAM. I started researching more about engineering, and I decided to pursue a career in civil engineering. CGLA focuses on preparing us for college  They provide an environment where the students are able to focus on their work and improve their grades. We are currently working on building a mobile robot in  our project-based learning groups. This will help me in the future as I gain the knowledge to become a civil engineer. 

Before I came to CGLA, I was shy and had very few friends. Whenever I spoke, I spoke quietly. After I came to CGLA, everything changed. My teachers helped me realize that if I wanted something to happen, I had to speak out. I had to make sure people heard me. I became more vocal. I started to become more social and have confidence in myself. I decided that I was not going to let people’s words affect my effort because if I let their words get to me, I wouldn’t make any progress. I am going to focus on succeeding, because CGLA has provided me with the tools that I need to be successful.

I also learned that it’s up to me to make good use of the opportunities I have been provided. CGLA encourages us to take our chances. Our teachers always tell us that they want us to become someone important in life. They want us to be strong and brave. They want to see us become leaders. CGLA has changed my life, in so many ways, and I know that with their help I will be able to succeed in a STEAM career. Thank You.


Yesenia Pablo Rafael - Rising Star Runner Up

My name is Yesenia Pablo Rafael, and I’m an 8th grader. Chattanooga Girls Leadership Academy is a school that I will never forget. It has prepared me to succeed in a STEAM career by motivating me to learn, pushing my knowledge and my intelligence beyond limitation, and teaching me to manage my time so that I can finish each assignment.

Every day when I go to school, each teacher gives me a new assignment. These aren’t like the elementary’s, which takes about less than 20 minutes to finish. Each assignment takes time, so I, with the help of my school, have learned how to manage my time.

Also, these assignments hurt my brain. They expand my brain by putting it into thinking mode and go into greater depth. For example, when we learn about the universe in science class, we also research and evaluate how technology such as telescopes, spectroscopes, satellites, etc., help us provide information about objects in the solar system and in the universe.

It hurts my brain, but it’s worth it. I am saying this because, before I came into this school, I was the type of person who wouldn’t do her homework and who wouldn’t study. I didn’t think about who I wanted to be in the future. Then, when I came to this school, I had realized that it’s important to study and complete the homework so that by the end of the year, I can get all of these certificates. Some of the certificates may help me persuade people in my future career that I am capable and well enough of doing this type of work. If it wasn’t for this school, I still would not have realized that what I’m doing during my school years will affect my future career. Therefore, I give thanks to all of the teachers that pushed my brain and expanded my knowledge and curiosity. Thank you for your time.