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I stood up. My feet shook as I slowly rose from my squatting position on the 40 foot high telephone pole. One tiny misstep and I would be swinging through the air by my harness. I don’t remember taking a single breath while atop the post. I felt like a shaken present, my insides tumbling. So the hard part is over, I thought to myself. But I was wrong.

A metal bell dangled five feet in front of me. I was supposed to jump into the air and ring the bell. But, I didn’t want to leave the shaky pole and jump into the empty space around me. After a minute or so of contemplating whether or not I wanted to jump into the abyss, a friend shouted, “You can do it, Sarah!” And so I jumped.

My experiences have taught me that I will be a more effective engineer if I take appropriate chances in my field. I am not content with blending in with the crowd. I am driven to make a difference.

I grew up on Beaver Lake, 300 acres of the bluest water imaginable. I sailed, swam, and played on the beach. My more scientific love for water began with the seventh grade science fair. I tested the water in the area watershed for nutrients, pH level, and turbidity and spent time taking samples of water from each body of water, testing the water, and recording results. Before high school, I volunteered for three summers testing the water and gained an appreciation for the lake I took for granted when I was younger. My findings led to professional water testing for algae and precautions to lake residents about swimming in unhealthy water. In tenth grade I wrote a research paper for a chemistry class. By talking to DNR officials and performing research, my knowledge of lake water health and its effect on surrounding life forms expanded.

My years at Cornell University will let me plunge even deeper into the water. I look forward to participating in internships and in programs such as the Cornell AguaClara Project. These programs fulfill my desire to learn about the engineering of water resources in real life situations. My experiences traveling outside of the United States will sculpt my problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills and give me an appreciation for others. What matters most to me is the positive impact I can make on the world.

Every time I encounter a new challenge, a single image pops into my head: a bell. It’s far enough away that if I don’t try hard enough, I will never reach it. It doesn’t matter if the last time I tried I didn’t quite make it, or if I sailed through the air with ease. I am always determined to jump for that bell.