One Alum's journey from Chelmsford to Namibia

Spring 2010

LAURA HAGOPIAN '00 was a member of the first graduating class of the charter school. When Laura graduated, there were only 145 students in grades 5-8 and the school was called the Chelmsford Public Charter School.

Where are you now? What are you doing?

Right now, I am finishing my last year at UMass Medical School. In general, medicine is an ideal field for me because it requires a great mix of science, art, and communication skills. I have gotten to do a lot of exciting things during the course of my education. For me, the highlight was a trip to Namibia (a country in Southern Africa). There, I helped perform surgeries, took part in an immunization campaign, and worked in rural clinics.

What did you gain from going to the charter school that you apply in your life/work now?

I think the most important thing the charter school taught me was the concept of Systems Thinking. In other schools, each topic was introduced separately with very little integration. At the charter school, topics were viewed individually but also put together to facilitate better understanding. I specifically remember a project we did about world hunger, learning about everything from nutrition to political climate to the economy. Seeing each component separately and as part of a whole (the so-called forest and trees) has given me great perspective within my chosen field of medicine but also in life as a whole. Another invaluable piece of information I learned was how to write well. I learned about composing strong thesis statements, crafting supporting arguments, and writing strong introductions and conclusions. After all of that, I discovered how to add in my own style. These are lessons I will never forget and use on a daily basis.

What is your favorite memory/ what did you enjoy the most at your time at the charter school?

One of my favorite memories of the charter school was helping put together the lockers before it first opened. My parents were on the Board that initially conceptualized the school, so they were intimately involved in the process. I remember how much time and effort they put into the school. Assembling the lockers was symbolic for me- my parents had achieved their goal, and I was going to benefit from the fruits of their labor. I remember on the first day when my teacher was taking attendance. He called my name and said, “Of course she’s
here, she’s been working here for the past week.” I also remember a fun project we did in science class. We were learning about basic
physics, including velocity and acceleration. As part of this, groups of students crafted small rockets, which we launched at Robert’s Field in Chelmsford. It was an entertaining way to apply the information we had learned (A project IACS students still proudly do today!) – Ed.

Where do you want to be in 5 years?

I hope to be a practicing physician in 5 years. At this point, I still have some postgraduate training left to complete. I’m not sure about the exact location of my practice, but I know that I enjoy working with urban, underserved communities. I also enjoy traveling and may integrate this into my future as well.

What would you say/what piece of advice would you give to the students at the charter school now about preparing for college and life after college?

It’s really important to choose a field that you enjoy, both in college and afterwards. Make sure that you have an opportunity to see what people with similar training do on a daily basis. I know that working as an EMT was an important piece of my decision to pursue a medical degree. With more life experiences, you will be able to make better decisions.