MEET: Melissa

Interview of Melissa T by Freya Bennett

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Hi Melissa, how are you?

I’m doing quite well, thank you! How are you?

Good thanks! How old are you?
I’m 15 years old, but I’ll be 16 in a few months.
Where do you call home?
I’m not really sure where my home would be. I’ve moved a lot in the past few years, so I still haven’t really found a place, but if I have to answer, it would be Alberta. I didn’t live there for long, but people I met and the memories we made will always be with me.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m a really big reader. I absolutely love sitting down with a book and finishing it in one sitting.
My dad immigrated to Canada from the Philippines and my mom has traveled a lot and knows like, four languages. I could go on and on about how cool I think my mom is, but that would take a long time. Since I was surrounded by them, naturally I became interested in languages. Right now I’m studying ASL, Japanese, French, and Tagalog. I have a very long list that I want to learn after I get a grip on those.
Tell us what got you interested in STEM,
The college in the city where I went to middle school has an initiative to get girls interested in STEM careers, and when I was in grade 8 I had the opportunity to attend. It was such a great day. There were all sorts of workshops; I got to do biology and logic puzzle workshops. It was really cool because we got to do some job shadowing and talk to women who work in STEM and ask them questions about what they do and what it’s like to be one of few women in their workplace. It was a fun experience and I’m glad I got to go.
What would you like to see in the future of STEM?
It would definitely be nice to see more diversity in STEM. It’s been really cool to see more people addressing this issue and doing something about it. When I was younger there weren’t a lot of women in science that I knew of, so I had no one to look up to. But now there are so many young women, including women of colour, for little girls to look up to.

You’re also an artist! Tell us a bit about that.

I’m in art in school right now and I’m planning on taking it for all four years. These past few months I’ve been into painting; I did an oil painting at the beginning of the school year and I’m currently working on an acrylic painting on plexiglass. I try to consume as much in all its forms as much as possible. I’m pretty interested in photography; my favourite photographers are Petra Collins and Chloe Sheppard. Recently I’ve been reading and listening to a lot of poetry, specifically the works of Rhiannon McGavin, Rupi Kaur, and Lang Leav. I think exposing myself to different mediums had helped me a lot in my own art.
What is the hardest thing about being a teen girl?
I think the hardest part is all the expectations. We’re expected to be beautiful, smart, quiet, and able to handle everything that’s thrown at us. That last one I find incredibly difficult. There have been a lot of stressful events in my life and they have definitely not gone away. Sometimes I feel like the only option for me is to give up because the stress becomes overwhelming.
If you could change anything about the way girls are seen in the media, what would it be?
To portray girls as how they really are, not just the skinny, “pretty” women we see in ads, fashion, and television. I think showing typical, everyday women would probably help a lot of girls’ self esteem and body image issues.
What is your current goal?
My current goals are to graduate high school early, go to university, become conversational in Japanese and French, and study abroad. For short terms, I just want to get all A’s this semester, so far I’m doing pretty well.
If you could be an animal, what would you choose?
If I were an animal I would want to be a giraffe. I’m already tall with a long neck, so I’m halfway there!
What’s your favourite colour?
My favourite colour is yellow. It’s so bright and cheery, it helps put me in a good mood.
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What do you love about high school?
This will make me sound like a huge geek, but I’m not going to deny it. I love learning. I love discovering new things, learning how something works then connecting the dots to view the big picture. I am such a nerd. I also love being able to have been born in a part of the world where I have the opportunity to go to school. I try not to complain about school because I know that there are so many people who would kill to take my place. It really annoys me when my classmates carp about teachers and homework. They probably don’t understand how privileged they are, but hopefully as they grow older they will be able to see the big picture.
What’s difficult?
Okay this is going to make me sound like even more of a nerd. My school work isn’t challenging enough for me. I tend to finish my work quickly in class, so I’m left bored with nothing to do. When the teachers review topics that my peers struggle with I usually read a book or get started on the work. The social aspect of school is quite difficult for me. I’m a very quiet person who doesn’t make friends very well. I don’t really have anyone at school that I would call a friend. I eat lunch in the counselor’s office with the counselors and my English teacher. I don’t mind any of this though, I can get my work done faster.
If you could add any subject to the curriculum, what would it be?
I think it would be cool to add a class where you learn about other countries and their cultures to develop an understanding and acceptance of them. I think it would be beneficial to the students at my school.
If you could have a porthole in your cupboard, where would you want it to lead?
Probably a huge library with the ladders that slide across the shelves, I’ve always wanted to see some, or a mostly empty room for me to relax in when I need to take a break from everything.
Do you have any final words of advice?
I think some great advice that girls (myself included) need is to not be afraid to use your voice, and to not let anyone crush your dreams. I know it sounds so cheesy but it’s important.
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Freya Bennett

Freya Bennett is the Co-Founder and Director of Ramona Magazine. She is a writer and illustrator from Melbourne, Australia who loves dreary grey days, libraries and coffee.
With a passion for grassroots activism and creative community, Freya began Ramona Magazine as an alternative to boring, image-obsessed media. Ramona Magazine is founded upon Freya’s core values of creative expression, equality, kindness and a little bit of feminist rage. You can follow her @thecinnamonsociety

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