"WARE" Are They Now? Heather Bouchard
I graduated from Ware High in 2014 and am now in my junior year studying Neurobiological Science at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Florida. Throughout high school, I loved being involved in school as much as possible. I was able to select multiple AP and online college classes that provided me with 19 college credits to apply towards my college degree. My time in high school taught me the importance of leadership as I was elected Class President for the last 3 years of school and even branched out to be VP of the Western Massachusetts Student Council. Along with leadership I learned about coordinating events as I helped a classmate co-organize the first blood drive held at Ware High in years and was an involved member of the Honor Society and Domestic Violence Task Force. Athletics were also a huge part of my high school years; I was a three-season athlete and even competed in regional wakeboarding events over the summers. Like many teenagers, my high school years had its ups and downs and one of my most pivotal moments came early in my junior year when I sustained a serious concussion and was benched from playing soccer and basketball for the entire year. As a highly competitive athlete I was devastated, but after being treated by a Neuropsychologist I was inspired to pursue a career related to the impact of sports concussions.
Many of my high school experiences directly impacted the decisions I have made in college. I entered UF as a biology major with the academic goal of applying to UF's specialized neurobiological science track available to qualified students entering their junior year. I knew I wanted to be as involved as I was in high school so I spent a lot of time looking into different sports clubs and organizations. Finally, at the gym was where I found a poster for a club called Athlete Brain. This small student run organization that promotes traumatic brain injury education and awareness has created unexpected opportunities for me to meet graduate students and faculty members who are involved in concussion research. Through these connections, I gained the necessary faculty sponsors to apply to the neurobiological science track and to oversee my required research project for my track. I am honored to recently be accepted into this individualized major along with becoming a Research Assistant evaluating the Effects of Exercise on Neurorecovery Following Mild Traumatic Brain Injury and a part of the UF Concussion Research Center.
Ware High School also taught me the significance of community service. Learning how debilitating traumatic brain injuries can be, in addition to certain personal interactions I experienced in high school, influenced me to become a weekly Crisis Phone Councilor volunteer at the Alachua County Crisis Center. During the fall of my sophomore year at UF, I completed an intensive 6 week training session and was certified in Crisis Intervention and Suicidology. Time spent as a crisis volunteer is never easy but it’s always gratifying knowing you can change someone’s life by simply giving your time and letting them know you care.
Of course life at the University of Florida certainly isn’t always serious. I joined UF’s wakeboard club, Gator Wake, my first month here at school. Meeting these incredible people and making the national competition team has impacted my college experience more than I ever anticipated. I cannot imagine the college experience without these fun loving people this sport has introduced me to and all the adventures and trips it has brought me on. I was recently elected president of the club, and I can thank my leadership experiences in high school for preparing me for the position. Since my first year as the only freshman competing on the national team, we've won 3 consecutive national collegiate team titles. I’ve traveled to competitions all over the country and have built great relationships with wakeboarders from many states. This past September, I placed 1st in the highest women’s division at the 2016 USA Wakeboard Collegiate Nationals and last spring I was named the 2015 Female National Collegiate Rider of the Year. I was even nominated as one of UF’s Rec Sports Female Rookie Athletes of the year. I’ve been featured in various publications and articles on the web, the most recent being the October 3, 2016 issue of Sports Illustrated Faces in the Crowd.
I will forever be grateful to my classmates, teachers and coaches in the small community of Ware High for giving me the confidence and encouragement to be where I am today. I especially want to thank Mr. Orszulak for being the best class advisor, teacher, coach and influential mentor whose advice and support continue to mean so much to me. I encourage everyone reading this to follow your passions and get involved in whatever interests you because you never know where it might take you!