By Karen Cornelius
Returning to classes, the question of what did everyone do over the summer vacation usually comes up. Vermilion High School junior Mackenzie Harco will have quite a story to tell about her adventures at Harvard University for seven weeks during the summer. Seeing Harvard’s campus and eventually attending Harvard after graduation were obsessions of Harco’s every since she was a little girl. Much to her surprise, she applied to a summer program given at this prestigious university and was selected to attend seven weeks of classes.
“Really, I just stumbled over this opportunity,” said Harco. “I check the Harvard website all the time and came across their summer program. I immediately applied, and was accepted.” She added that she always wanted to go to Harvard, even as a little girl who was encouraged by a great uncle at six-years-old telling her that she would get there. “It was always my big goal.” Harco became enrolled in two classes, neuroscience and Stories of Mental Illness. She said the two classes actually tied together on how the brain works, and the entire nervous system as it relates to learning, memory, and behavior. There’s anatomy, physiology, and biochemistry. While studying mental illness they analyzed a huge amount of literature and had class discussions on what they read. Neuroscience had a lab on Fridays where she was able to disect a sheep’s brain. Classes were every other day lasting three hours each and there were long exams that also lasted two to three hours. “I was in the library by 7 a.m. until classes started,” said Harco. She said there was a lot of reading and paper writing. The classes were hard and kept her on her toes. She shared classes with grad students and neuroscience had 150 people attending, but mental health was smaller with 17 students.
All in all, it was the ultimate, perfect college experience as she also stayed in a Harvard dormitory and had a roommate from Saudi Arabia. “Our room faced Harvard Yard and it was so pretty,” said Harco. Her roommate experience was “cool” as she learned all about her roommate’s culture. “I met people from all over the world,” and was able to join Harvard tours to see Yale University, Brown, Boston’s Fourth of July celebration, and visit Cape Cod,” said Caho. She added that Provincetown reminded her of Vermilion, but with more shops. She said there was freedom to come and go until curfew which was 11 p.m. on weekdays and 12:30 a.m. on weekends.
“I was just in awe, I had always dreamed of Harvard, and I was actually there, it was reality. Everyone was so nice.” She said the summer session was a great way to get a headstart and get the feel for college. It was also a good way to improve her social skills. She advises everyone with a dream to follow it.
Her big goal is still there to attend Harvard once she graduates from Vermilion High. She does have letters of recommendation from teaching assistants under her belt and hopes her attendance at summer school will work to her advantage. She also wants to fly to Yale and see its medical school in the near future as another option. She would like to pursue neuroscience and became a neurosurgeon. Harco stated she realizes this is a lofty goal and if it doesn’t happen quite that way she still wants to at least be in the medical field. She also would like to thank many people for their support and Vermilion Rotary and Vermilion Lions for their financial support for extra spending money and for travel.
Harco just turned sixteen and will have a busy junior year as she is a varsity football cheerleader, a member of the Vermilion High School Marching Band, a participant in track, student council, Move To Stand, and Speech and Debate.