In the coming weeks, the 17-year-old will go to her prom and graduate from high school, but on Tuesday she was the youngest person in the room when she and 19 other college students from across the county were honored as members of the All-USA Community College Academic Team.
“It is a remarkable honor for one of our own Lorain County Community College students to win such a prestigious award,” Lorain County Community College President Roy Church said.
Among the accolades Victoria, daughter of Chandra and Jennifer Soewarna of Elyria, received were a $2,500 scholarship and medallion during the Annual Convention of the American Association of Community Colleges in San Francisco.
“It’s pretty amazing and I feel pretty accomplished, but I know I still have a lot to do.”
Victoria has shone at Lorain County Community College, where she attends Lorain County Early College High School. Under the tutelage of biology professor Harry Kestler, she is researching a cure for HIV/AIDS and was a presenter at a national science conference. She is the principal investigator for the research group that meets several times a week to research a cure using gene mutation therapy.
“Mr. Kestler really took me under his wing, and I fell in love with what he does,” she said Tuesday while waiting for a flight back to Ohio. “I want to be a doctor, and the work we did in the lab only let me know how much I really want that in my future.”
In a laboratory, Victoria said she learned to let go of her shyness and accept that people can recover from mistakes and still work together toward common goals.
In addition to the research group, Soewarna stays active in LCCC organizations.
She is a member of the Early College High School Leadership Club, a member of the LCCC PRIDE Club, a teaching assistant for chemistry and is a math and science tutor. Off campus, she volunteers for the Salvation Army and completed an internship at Mercy Hospital.
Victoria is set to graduate with her high school diploma and an associate of arts degree in May. Afterward, she plans to attend Ohio State University to study biology.
In hindsight, she said she doesn’t regret not attending a traditional high school. Early College students attend all classes on LCCC’s campus.
“I guess you can say I missed out on some things, but we had our own tight-knit family, and we created that kind of atmosphere,” she said.
Soewarna also earned honors at the state level. She, along with Julie O’Brien, of Columbia Station, earned All-Ohio Academic Team honors earlier this month.
O’Brien is vice president of Phi Theta Kappa honor society. In her role, she planned and hosted the Ohio Regional Phi Theta Kappa Honors in Action Convention at LCCC in October. She is also in charge of the society’s induction ceremonies in the spring and fall.
O’Brien has been a Lorain County 4-H adviser for more than 15 years. She mentors 4-H participants and organizes events, fundraisers and activities for the group. She also volunteers at her church, Lifespring Community Church, operating the church’s cafe before and after each service.
She also works full time as an office manager at a local manufacturing company and is on track to earn an associate of business degree in 2014. She plans to continue to earn a bachelor’s degree through LCCC’s University Partnership.
Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or firstname.lastname@example.org.