Senior Alexandra Ayala is Gulliver Prep’s Silver Knight nominee in the area of Math.
Each nominee features a community service project in their application. Ayala’s project was GOALS, the community service club where members play soccer on the weekends with children who have autism.
“I started working with them in eighth grade,” she says.
As an officer, she coordinates Goals Clinics and other events.
Having worked with the children for so long, she’s become familiar with not only the kids but their families.
“We know the kids’ names and they know us,” she says. “We adjust the events of the day according to who is coming.”
Occasionally, GOALS partners with other foundations, clubs and schools for kids with autism.
“We’ve done rock climbing and baseball,” she says.
Working with GOALS has been a life-changer for her.
“Throughout my high school career, I’ve always liked sciences but didn’t know what I wanted to study,” she says. “Now I’m leaning toward neuroscience. I would love to find a cure for autism or a way to help.”
So far, she’s been accepted to Tulane and Northeastern. She’s still waiting for more schools, such as Boston College, Northwestern, Duke and several more to get back to her.
Currently, she’s using her science knowledge to write curriculum for Together We Innovate, a club that works with the Breakthrough Miami program. She’s president of the club. They teach classes in health, engineering, computer science and forensics to the students who are in fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades. The students come from under-resourced schools.
“We make the activities as fun as they can be,” she says. “We let them do the craziest things that are fun that help them learn.”
Last summer, Ayala participated in the Howard Hughes Medical Institute program, and interned with a University of Miami professor in the environmental engineering area.
They studied how the behavior of children playing on the beach could potentially harm them if they were to be playing on an oil contaminated beach.
“I helped them with the field data collection,” she says.
She worked up a 12-page research paper on a side project, where she worked with a researcher studying the bacteria Enterococcus. It’s found on beaches and comes from animal feces. It can be potentially harmful to the human intestines.
“We looked at the different concentrations and found that Crandon Beach had extremely high levels,” she says. Weeks later the beach was closed by a government agency because of those high levels. “It was interesting to have actual numbers with our own data.”
That internship made her realize she likes research.
Ayala is a member of the student disciplinary committee and a member of the Advisory Group. She works with a teacher and conducts a weekly meeting with a group of sophomores.
“Like an older sister or like a mentor that isn’t a teacher,” she says.
She is also part of Link Leaders, a program that helps orient freshmen on the first day of school. She meets with incoming students before school starts to brief them about Gulliver and the many possibilities they have in terms of clubs and programs. She also introduces them to other freshmen.
She’s a Gulliver Ambassador, giving tours to perspective parents and students.
Before eleventh grade, she attended a George Washington University for a two-week biomedical engineering program.
She’s in the Gulliver biomedical program and a member of HEAL, a biomedical club. She participated in a HOSA competition her sophomore year and scored well enough to qualify for the state competition.
Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld