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Brophy: “It’s easy to give a kid like her a recommendation…”

By Annika Prom, Lifestyle Editor

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When opportunities present themselves, super senior Hailee Malins doesn’t need to think twice before she seizes them. Once she heard of an exchange program she could take part in, Malins had no concern missing graduation, prom, any significant others, friends or family to instead pursue what she loves.

During her senior year of 2015-2016, Malins was an exchange student to Germany. Under the Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange (CBYX), a total of 500 students participate in exchange programs between the U.S. and Germany annually.

Malins initially heard about CBYX from her co-worker, who is like a mother figure to her and had hosted a man from Germany through the program in the previous year.

“I’ve always wanted to go on exchanges throughout my life. I just think it’s real interesting to look at the world in a new perspective and to gain better understanding of how people live their lives,” she said.

Abroad, Malins learned that American and German culture are “not awfully different.” The biggest culture shock Malins encountered was being asked to squeegee the shower, she joked. From a social perspective, Malins said people her age hold more responsibility in Germany, which they are to treat with respect, or they would be rejected that privilege.

“I’ve always wanted to travel, but I always wanted to get to know new cultures. And this was a way for me to do it. It wasn’t just going off for a year and having a lot of fun, it was also a lot of hard work and there was a lot of presenting I needed to do,” Malins said. “I think that stuff in combination is what made [the program] for me as I enjoy all aspects of that.”

Prior to the exchange, all CBYX participants going to Germany gathered in Washington D.C., met the Congress members who represent them and held a meeting at the U.S. State Department. They then flew out to their language camp in Aachen for three weeks and began their exchange student experience afterward.

Malins’ biggest supporters at the time included humanities teacher Christopher Ellinger and history teacher David Brophy, who supported her decisions and helped recommend Malins to CBYX to increase her appeal for being chosen as an exchange student.

“It’s easy to give a kid like her a recommendation because she’s an excellent student and excellent athlete and a very, very good person,” Brophy said.

Despite being out of the loop and having limited control over her life in Germany, Malins is grateful to have gone. She said she opened up in her global minded thinking and became “less ignorant of the real world.”

“There’s no reward without some level of risk. [With something] as small as me trying to speak up in class, there’s always a little bit of putting yourself out there that is always slightly uncomfortable but if I didn’t ever do that, then I doubt I would have ever learned German [or] seen places I hadn’t ever seen,” she said.

Malins elected to have that school year not count toward her graduation requirements to instead focus on absorbing German culture rather than worry about grades. In doing so, Malins was required to fulfill her senior year credits after returning from Germany. There, Malins instead set goals for language learning and cultural development.

“I would have had to worry about grades. As a person who doesn’t speak German, going over there would have been very hard for me to really absorb everything that had been happening in class and keep my grades good enough to get into college,” Malins said.

The differences in the education systems between Washington and Germany, such as class times, number of classes and grades, made it difficult for Malins to be able to earn credit for her schooling in Germany. Additionally, as being part of the Science Technology Engineering Mathematics (STEM) program in the aerospace pathway, electing to take her senior year off would allow her to earn her STEM diploma once she returned.

She is considered a super senior due to attending five years of high school and has been struck with “hard senioritis.” However, Malins has no regrets when it comes to being a super senior and feels it was “totally worth it” to miss out on graduating with the class of 2016.

There will be times where class and school will seem like a lot, and I know this is very cliché, but all this work does go for something.”

— Hailee Malins

“There are times that I get frustrated being a super senior and I think some of that is [because] I feel like I should be done now,” Malins said. “But when I look at what I gained in comparison, I don’t regret the decision I made at all. I would not have had the experiences I had, I wouldn’t have been able to travel to the places that I did if I was sitting inside of my house in Germany and just being hyper studious.”

A main difference between German and American schooling is that Malins had 13 classes during her time abroad. However, the schedule did not call for attending every class every day. Additionally, the ages of students in her grade ranged from 15 to 26 and teachers had more formal relationships with students.

Managing her confusing schedule in Germany posed no problem to Malins as she enjoys keeping herself busy at all times. She serves as a jack of all trades as she works as a lifeguard and swim instructor, does volunteer work with environmental rehabilitation with the Student Conservation Association (SCA), serves as the only senior in the MTHS Technology Student Association (TSA) and has been part of three sports teams.

Malins took a biotechnology approach in her senior STEM project with partners Alex Hermann and Alina Poff, which focused on finding ways to effectively filter water runoff. The project won second place in a state competition and she was offered an internship from a company working with the Edmonds School District to solve water problems at the bus depot.

Despite being in the aerospace pathway, Malins’ heart lies more in environmental science. After volunteering with the SCA for over four years, Malins aspires to become an official crew leader for the organization when she’s the eligible age of 21.

In addition to continuing her environmental service, Malins plans to attend the California Polytechnic State University (Cal Poly) to pursue a degree in architecture, an interest she’s held close to her since she was six-years-old. In this year’s TSA state competition, Malins earned an honor in architectural design and qualified for nationals.

“I’ve always been really interested in the relationships people have with their environment which I think is part of the reason why I’ve done my SCA crews in the past. That and I like the design and the art and the thought that goes into [architecture],” Malins said. “I want something that is going to best serve a person.”

Because Malins will be moving away for college, she began packing her things and encountered old housing plans from when she was an eight-year-old.

It’s easy to give a kid like her a recommendation because she’s an excellent student and excellent athlete and a very, very good person.”

— David Brophy

“You can tell [architecture] was something I enjoyed doing because there were iterations of the same house. I just remember saving up money to buy these premade housing floor plans from like Lowe’s and Home Depot just because I wanted to flip through them,” Malins said.

Her passion for architecture pushed her to join STEM to become better at designing. Malins participated in an architecture summer career workshop at Cal Poly which “further cemented [her] love for architecture.” Out of about 100 attendees, Malins along with a male student both won Director’s Awards.

“I think it’s incredibly important [to empower women in STEM]. When you’re looking at the demographics of the world, and while this may not be exactly correct, women and men are 50/50,” Malins said. “But to go into the STEM world and see that there are not as many women as there are men… I think it’s important to recognize that these are fields that are not known as well for having large women players or maybe one or two women players.”

However, the issue of a lack of female representation expands beyond STEM fields. While Malins participated in three seasons of swim and track/field, she also participated in two seasons of co-ed wrestling as the only female wrestler.

“Not having necessarily a female role model in the room to look up to was sort of a challenge because that’s what I do for swim and track as I have both male and female role models,” Malins said. “It was just hard to have someone to relate to because no one was experiencing exactly what I was experiencing.”

Malins feels she never really followed typical gender roles, but being the only female wrestler made her nervous. Many people questioned why she did wrestling, which hurt her because she was “just there to wrestle and do [her] best.”

“I mainly just ignored them and I showed them how good I was,” she said. “I realized that I kind of have to just stop caring. There’s thousands of women in the world who do the same exactly sports as me so why should I feel like I can’t do it because they’re considered too masculine?”

All in all, Malins took on these three sports because she enjoys finding ways to make herself competitive.

“I think that my body is shaped in a way that helps my ability to do those sports so I’m gonna play off that and be the best athlete I can be versus assuming that these sports are only for men and not do them and not be the best I can be,” she said.

But when I look at what I gained in comparison, I don’t regret the decision I made at all. I would not have had the experiences I had.”

— Hailee Malins

In addition to having Brophy as her AP U.S. History teacher, he was also her track coach when she was a discus and shot put thrower. Malins looks up to Brophy because he guided her as both a teacher and coach to see that she “did everything that he possibly could to make sure [she] succeeded.” She appreciates his selfless giving and care for her throughout the years.

“When I first started coaching her, I think she was a little hesitant to listen to different philosophy but it didn’t take that long to see that there was method to my madness,” Brophy said.

His fondest track memory with Malins was at a state meet where they couldn’t speak much to each other and she had a “discovery part” where she suddenly understood discus and threw it further than she usually does. Brophy said he would like if Malins told him he was her Yoda before she graduates, similar to what another athlete had told Brophy in the past.

“Kind of like the thing I admire the most [about Malins], she needs to stay true, not lose sight and not let others interfere with [her] goals and eventualities,” Brophy said. “She doesn’t need my luck, good luck, because she’s going to make it. She’s an accomplisher.”

Malins has earned a letter in swim for being inspirational swimmer of the year and in track for being thrower of the year, a team captain and a state meet participant, among others.

However, her eligibility for being in high school sports expired while she was in Germany. When she returned for her super senior year, she instead joined TSA to challenge herself and keep herself busy. She initially joined TSA in eighth grade but had to stop in high school to dedicate more time to sports, but with sports aside now, she rejoined.

To her freshman brother, Lukas, Malins hopes he will persevere and work hard to be successful because his efforts will pay off.

“There will be times where class and school will seem like a lot, and I know this is very cliché, but all this work does go for something,” Malins said. “And while you may hate what you’re doing now, all this work is incredibly important to do something you love in the end.”

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The student news site of Mountlake Terrace High School in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.
Brophy: “It’s easy to give a kid like her a recommendation…”