Bend High junior a chemistry whiz

Sarah Perkins has the right formula of academics and activities

By Megan Kehoe / The Bulletin

Sarah Perkins, 16

Bend High School junior

Activities: BHS National Honor Society, cross-country, track, tap-dancing, Deschutes Public Library volunteer

Favorite movie: “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”

Favorite TV shows: “Downton Abbey, “Parks and Recreation”

Favorite book: “The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

Last summer, while her friends were spending their days up at the lakes, Sarah Perkins was trapped in a concrete room.

Wearing goggles, arm-length gloves, and long pants, Sarah spent almost every day of freedom confined to a small, industrial laboratory in the Bend Research facility, wading through complicated pharmaceutical processes.

But while part of Sarah envied her friends, she didn’t regret spending her summer break as an intern at Bend Research. Sarah, a Bend High junior, is used to sacrificing her vacations to get ahead.

“It was a little difficult to be at the lab all summer, but at the same time, I really enjoyed it,” Sarah said. “I learned so much. Plus, I found out how much I love working there. It gave me a direction to go in.”

Sarah is one of those rare students who can be classified as nearly perfect. Second in her class with a 4.3 weighted GPA and secretary of Bend High’s National Honor Society, Sarah is a voracious learner who works hard both in and outside of school. She makes it a point not to squander her free time so she can get the most out of her education. This past summer, she completed an eight-week, full-time internship with Bend Research, where she worked alongside scientists in the laboratory. She completed a research project during this time as well and took classes through the Saturday Academy.

“She really seeks out challenges,” said Casie Bullock, Sarah’s International Baccalaureate chemistry teacher. “She’s not at all satisfied with basic understanding of just getting A’s. She finds her own challenges, and loves learning for the sake of learning.”

During the summer before her sophomore year, Sarah spent nearly every day buried in chemistry textbooks, with the goal that by the end of the break, she’d have learned enough to test into a higher level of the subject. She succeeded and entered into IB chemistry as a sophomore — a class that’s normally reserved for seniors.

“I find it fun to learn on my own,” Sarah said. “I like taking advantage of my time and being as productive as I can be.”

Bullock said despite the two-year gap between Sarah and most of the students in the class, the sophomore fit right in. “She’s a real mature student in that sense,” Bullock said. “She’s so independent and has spent a lot of time finding her own resources and teaching herself.”

Though she’s a dedicated student, Sarah also knows how to balance academics with other interests. She’s a captain of her varsity cross-country team and is one of the top runners at Bend High. She also participates in track and field, where she runs long-distance events.

Sarah said she didn’t always love running, and it’s been a long journey to get where she is now, starting when she ran her first 5K in sixth grade.

“It was a really horrible feeling,” Sarah said. “I didn’t train for it, so I wasn’t prepared at all. But I found that I really liked the feeling afterwards. I just kept going after that.”

And while Sarah has become a strong runner, her athletic ability isn’t the only thing that’s made her a standout on the team.

“She’ll happily take the time to help somebody else along if they’re struggling,” Bullock said. “She’s not one of those out-there, in-your-face class president types, but she’s got great leadership skills — she’s a true leader.”

Falling in line with her character, Sarah didn’t waste her spring break last week: She spent it touring colleges in California. She said after the tour, she’s set on going to Stanford University, where she wants to study chemical engineering, inspired by her time in the research lab this past summer.

“What I especially like about the idea of becoming a chemical engineer is that I’ll get a chance to help people — while still doing what I love,” Sarah said.

— Reporter: 541-383-0354, mkehoe@bendbulletin.com