Challenging summer programs help Searcy student learn about herself

Story and photo
by Megan Ledbetter

Although Margaret Lim set out to challenge herself academically by studying English and sociology on college campuses the past two summers, along the way she discovered her love of genuine conversation and learning the background behind what makes people who they are.

Margaret Lim, a senior at Searcy High School, spent seven weeks at Harvard University in Cambridge, Mass., during the summer of 2016. She studied humanities and social sciences.

During the summer of 2017, she studied natural sciences at Arkansas Governor’s School at Hendrix College in Conway.

Throughout both experiences, while studying very different material, she discovered something about herself: she values real conversations.

Growing up in the Searcy School District her entire life, Lim created opportunities for herself. She has three older siblings and a golden retriever named Lucy, and she plays tennis, the piano and the oboe.

An advantage to growing up in the school district is that she has real bonds with her teachers. “The faculty is so amazing at Searcy [High School]. They are very supportive, and they are some of the best teachers and role models I’ve met,” Lim said.

Lim feels strongly that the school’s motto, striving for educational excellence, is exactly what they do. She has a supportive counselor, math teacher and band director who have all watched her grow and encouraged her along the way.

“It is cool that I get to have lasting contact with my teachers. … The teachers get to see us grow as students, and they are very supportive of what all of the students are doing, not just me,” Lim said.

Lim attended the Harvard Secondary School Program, a seven-week program that empowers students to challenge themselves academically, expand their worldview, become stronger college applicants, live independently and transform themselves along the way. She was the only student from Searcy, but thrived as she met new people including students from China and Turkey.

She took two courses in humanities and social sciences — an expository writing class titled the Essay and an Introduction to Sociology course. She spent about 12 hours a week in the classroom, but when she was not in class, her schedule was very relaxed. She spent her time doing homework, reading and writing while exploring the freedoms the program offered.

One of her favorite memories of the camp was walking to a local business, Insomnia Cookies, with two of her friends from the program. They would grab dessert and talk about countless different things.

“When I went there, since I was the only one from my school and I didn’t know anyone else, it was like I was in a whole new environment where people don’t know any background about you. People don’t have preconceived thoughts; everyone starts fresh. Everybody is making friends, and the conversations I had with the people were really cool — getting to know them and having good conversations with them,” Lim said.

Conversation was one of the biggest parts of Lim’s experience at Harvard. She loved hearing different people’s stories, backgrounds and perspectives. Through experiencing how fast the seven-week opportunity passed by, she realized it was a waste of time to be sad about it; she just needed to take advantage of every moment.

“I learned to get the most out of what you are doing at the moment and try to absorb everything you are living in and whatever knowledge is being taught to you or brought up in a conversation,” Lim said.

After the great experience at Harvard, Lim participated in Arkansas Governor’s School, a six-week program for the state’s most talented upcoming high school seniors in which students live and study on campus.

Although the schedule was more rigid, she carried lessons from Harvard with her and reminded herself to live in the moment and be happy, absorbing everything she could. She was immediately captivated when a speaker early in the program told them the main theme was civil discourse — engaging in conversation with the purpose of enhancing your understanding. She loved the interactions she was able to have with the people there whom she described as “supportive and enthusiastic and passionate.”

As far as the classes were concerned, she wanted to try something different and decided to study natural sciences. She took an anatomy, physics, bugs and insects, and ethics class along with the courses required for all AGS students which included philosophy and personal development. In addition to the classes, the students watched movies like “The Truman Show” at night to discuss in their classes and could attend optional, daily seminars that changed each week. The time she had left after all her academic activities and homework was spent around campus, often taking advantage of the tennis courts.

As Lim approaches her senior year of high school she plans to make the most of it and strives to balance tennis, band, academics and relationships before parting ways with many friends and transitioning to college after graduation.

Since she has such a vast array of interests, she is still undecided about what and where she wants to study in the fall of 2018, but she does know that college is in her future.

“I want to find what really tugs at my heart and what I am passionate about,” Lim said.

Whatever and wherever she decides to study in the fall, she will strive to take advantage of every moment and enjoy conversations with all the people around her.