Cheryl Jennings spent the day with one top scholar who hopes to use her knowledge to help impoverished communities.
"Hi. My name is Denise Ramirez. I'm from San Francisco. I go to Lick-Wilmerding High School. Next fall, I will be attending Brown University and I'll hopefully be studying chemistry or sociology," she said. "I feel like if I were to go into those fields, especially in the research aspects of those fields, I could really make a difference."
Denise has long dreamed of making a positive impact on impoverished communities. "Helping other communities isn't just like helping others, it's also helping my own community and helping people that come from my same background, which I feel is a closer connection, which really does inspire me," she says.
Denise says poverty is part of her history. She saw it every summer while visiting her grandmother in Mexico, where her parents emigrated from some 25 years ago. "Just seeing the conditions people live in, not necessarily just my family but in general, in the town. It makes me feel like it's not a world I'm seeing in books or on TV or something like that. It's just part of me, you know, part of my background. It's part of who I am," she says.
The student leader maintains a 3.8 grade point average while volunteering to teach Spanish-speaking adults English as a second language. "I also do Latinos Unidos which is a club that celebrates Latino heritage and we do a variety of events," she says. But for fun, she sings. "I've always enjoyed singing, just as a pastime kind of thing," she says.
But, it's her life-long dream of helping others that keeps her focused on academia. "Studying isn't what people would consider fun or the most fun thing to do. I know that in the long run it will definitely help me reach the goals I want to reach," she says.
"Since the beginning of my time here? I don't know. A lot. I don't know," Denise says, asked how many hours she thought she'd spent in the library studying. "I can't quantify it, but a lot," she says like a true scientist. "There's just so much that can be done and so much that I can contribute to this field. I can make a big impact on not only my community or not even in the U.S., but like many different settings in many different communities."
Congratulations to Denise Ramirez for her amazing accomplishments.
Join ABC7 News on Sunday, June 17 at 10 a.m. for a half-hour special on all seven of this year's top scholars.