Palmetto High School senior Carolina Carriazo wanted to volunteer at the Miami Museum of Science. She approached museum officials in the summer before her junior year and she kept contacting them until they finally found a place for her.
As a museum volunteer, Carriazo promotes science to patrons.
“I go around — we call it pitching demonstrations — explaining scientific concept to people,” she says. “I figure out my favorite demonstrations and I wait for people to pass my table. It’s very rewarding when a child stops.”
Carriazo’s demonstrations include things like liquid nitrogen, leaves and balloons. Because leaves have water, the water will expand when exposed to the liquid nitrogen. The veins of the leaf rupture and the leaf shatters.
“It’s really cool,” she says. “When people see it, it blows their mind. The main goal with presenting people with these experiments is to make them question the world around them.”
Carriazo became interested in science at an early age, so she thought the science museum would be the perfect place to do her volunteer work.
“It’s been a part of me all my life to question things,” she says.
This type of volunteer work is harder for Carriazo than for most teens – she has cerebral palsy.
“I guess that has been a factor in the way I’ve come to view things,” she says. “I’m not in a wheelchair. Obviously, I don’t have any mental problems. I do have trouble walking and I have had two corrective surgeries. It has given me a sense of what is important in the world and it has given me a driven mindset that I’ve grown up with all my life. My parents have always told me not to think of what I can’t do, but to think of what I can do. It has shaped my person.”
At Palmetto High School, Carriazo is in the Science Competitors Club and the Creative Writing Club.
“Those are my two main interests, science and writing,” she says. “I’m kind of split down the middle between science and humanities.”
Carriazo participated in the U.S. Biology Olympiad. Although she didn’t make it into the semi-finals, she enjoyed the experience enough that she plans to participate in the physics and chemistry Olympiads next year.
Carriazo says she also enjoys being in the Creative Writing Club. She likes the challenge of writing to the prompt given as soon as the club meeting begins.
“It helps me unwind for the week,” she says.
Carriazo is actually interested in having a career in science writing.
“I could become a science journalist,” she says. “That would probably be ideal in the future.”
Carriazo has won a few writing competitions, including the National Scholastic Art and Writing Award. She has also won three Silver Keys for her poetry.
“I got a poem published in a literary magazine,” she says. “I also recently placed in a local competition — The Big Read.I got third place.”
Carriazo also loves to learn languages. She speaks English, Spanish and German. She liked the sound of German, so she taught herself to speak the language by going to the website www.Sharedtalk.com.
“I practice every day with German speakers on the Internet,” she says. She teaches them English and they teach her German.
And while she doesn’t consider it volunteering, she does teach English to children who have come to the U.S., most recently helping an immigrant from Peru to learn English during their lunch hour.
By Linda Bernfeld Rodriguez