Mariame Sissoko

CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL

Q: What clubs/activities are you engaged in at your school?

A: I am the founder and president of S.O.S., which stands for Stressed Out Students. It’s a mental health club at Central where we basically meet once a week and you can just talk about what you’re feeling, cry, that type of thing, and once a year we do a fundraiser for a mental health organization. I am also a co-captain of the debate team and I’m involved in Central Thon, which is a dance-a-thon held with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, as well as Model UN. I also helped start a class called Advanced Class Minority Mentorship, which helps minority students get into advanced classes like AP and IB. Additionally, I worked with one of my history teachers and other students to create the district’s first ever LGBT+ elective, which will be offered next year at central.

Q: What do you want/plan to do after high school?

A: I'm going to Barnard College, and I just really plan on getting a bachelor’s in environmental

sustainability and hopefully a master’s in international affairs to go to law school and work with how to mend the environmental aspect along with racial issues. 

Q: What is your best memory from senior year? 

A: It was cut short, but I think there were a lot of good times. I think one of them was when Central’s debate team got second place in our public forum debate league for the city, and it was super special because we haven't won anything since I was a freshman. That was one of my goals as a captain. 

Q: What is your best memory from all of high school?

A: One of my best conglomerative memories is just being after school with stressed out students. There's a lot of moments with them that were really special. That’s an overall arching great memory for me. 

Q: What is your greatest achievement?

A: This isn’t a school thing but more of a personal thing. I help take care of my siblings, so being there to support them because they don't necessarily have that sometimes, and being someone that they look up to. 

Q: What is one thing you will miss about your school?

A: The people, I think. I’ve gained some of my best friendships and had amazing memories, and I’ve just grown as a person because I’ve been challenged and nurtured by the people there and it made me more driven to make a difference. 

 

Q: How has your high school experience shaped you?

A: I would say that, like I said, it made me more of a driven person. I’ve always been more of a type A, but I was a lot more shy and less self aware in ninth grade, and so in an environment where you either make it yourself or get left behind it made me more informed and driven. If I want to be able to say my beliefs or say how I feel about something, I need to have evidence backing that up or knowledge. 

 

Q: What has been your most formative high school experience? 

A: I would say being in the International Baccalaureate program, just being surrounded by that specific group of people has helped me learn how to interact with diverse groups, which I think is one of my greatest strengths. Being able to connect with people who don't think like me and look like me, and understanding their perspective and what we bring to an overall global perspective. 

 

Q: Do you have any advice to give to incoming freshmen? 

A: Take it one day at a time; it does get tough but at the same time it’s better as long as you realize there's always another day. If you make a mistake one day you don't have to make the same one the next day; you can always improve on yourself and you can take time to relax. You don't have time to do everything. 

 

Q: How are you feeling during the quarantine? What are you doing to keep yourself engaged?

A: It's strange because it really hasn't hit me yet, I'm kind of just in this weird in between; I know it’s going on and serious but I’m just kind of in denial. In order to keep busy, I’ve been reading different books and also just playing with my siblings, which is a plus because I didn’t always have that time before. 

 

Q: How do you feel about your senior year being cut short?

A: It's super disappointing. It’s one of those things where you worked so hard for the past three and a half years and this is the part where you celebrate, so for me it’s really heart wrenching because there's so many things that I won't be able to do for the last time. The most disappointing part of it all is missing those regular days that you normally hate, like the mundane days being in class. You don't realize how much you’ll miss it until it's gone. 

 

Q: If you could change one thing about your school, what would it be?

A: I think one of our biggest issues is that Central is incredibly diverse and I do appreciate that, but I think they focus more on diversity than inclusivity. When you have a lot of different groups engaging with each other for the first time ignorance can come out, and Central can be more reactive than proactive and wait for something bad to happen. 

 

Q: If you could change one thing about the school district, what would it be?

A: I don’t know if I know enough about the district to say that, but I guess I wish they were more open. I guess I feel like sometimes they try to just cover things up. Just thinking of SLA, there were a lot of issues and people just want answers and information to be more visible and want to know what is happening. Also in the whole COVID-19 thing, we didn't even know our last day was our last day.

 

Q: If you could change one thing about Philadelphia, what would it be?

A: Philly’s problems are very similar to Central’s problems. It’s a diverse city but it's so segregated, and this is just the optimist in me but I wish the various cultures were able to connect more. We have more similarities than differences, and people are so focused on how different we are that they don’t realize that at the core we have the same problems.