Student:

Keelia Emery.

School:

Ridley High School, where she is a sophomore.

Achievements:

The 15-year-old from Ridley Park placed first at the county level of the statewide Health Careers Week essay contest.

Thirty-three Delaware County high school students participated in the competition, which required writers to describe inspiring professionals in the health-care field. The County Workforce Investment Board sponsored the event locally.

Kate Acker of Berwyn and Kate McGovern of Upper Providence - both sophomores at Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova - placed second and third.

Emery, who swims the breaststroke on Ridley's varsity team, has been at home in the water since she was 8. Earlier this year, a left shoulder injury caused her to start physical therapy, which she finished in September.

Question:

How did you hear about the essay contest?

Answer:

My English teacher handed out two different [topics] for an essay contest that we wrote for a writing grade, too. And out of those two, I picked the health-care careers one because I thought that was the better one.

Q:

What did you write about?

A:

I wrote about a physical therapist that I went to while I was getting better for swimming. [At first,] I went to a different physical therapist, who wasn't really great at all. . . . So I switched and I got her.

Q:

How was she better?

A:

She was more personable. I enjoyed going there to rehabilitate and also talk to her, because she talked to me the whole time I was there. . . . She was gentle. She didn't hurt me, either, when she was stretching my shoulder.

Q:

What would you talk about?

A:

Well, she always asked me what I was doing for the summer, vacations and stuff like that. Just little things.

Q:

Can you describe what happened when you injured your shoulder?

A:

I don't really remember. It just started to hurt really bad when I'd go to fall warmups to get ready for swimming. I went to the doctor's a couple times, and every time I went, it was something different. And finally they sent me to physical therapy.

Q:

What was the injury?

A:

I have MDI, which is multi-directional instability. So my shoulder's weaker. And I had to strengthen muscles.

Q:

How's your shoulder now?

A:

It's better, but it still hurts a little bit.

Q:

What do you like about swimming? How's it different from other sports?

A:

I kind of like how the whole team's like a family, kind of. We're all really close.

Q:

Have you been a lifeguard?

A:

I just got certified a few weeks ago for lifeguarding.

Q:

What are you looking forward to about it?

A:

Well, I guess getting paid to be at a pool, because I love the pool.

Q:

How did it feel when you found out you won the essay contest?

A:

I felt really surprised because I didn't expect anything from it. And I really didn't expect first place.

Q:

What do you think are some keys to writing a good essay?

A:

I actually think that style is a big thing. And using really strong verbs, adjectives and descriptives. . . . You put your voice into it, so it doesn't sound like it was forced. It actually sounds like you were just telling a story.

Q:

Are you interested in a career in health care?

A:

I want to be a forensic pathologist. I'm not sure if that's really health care, but I know it involves getting your doctorate and going to medical school.

Q:

How come you want to be a forensic pathologist?

A:

I've always wanted to do it, since I was really little. I used to watch

Forensic Files

with my mom.

What a teacher says:

"She's very outgoing and enthusiastic," said Deborah Vermeulen, who has taught Emery in ninth- and 10th-grade honors English.

"She's very good at expressing her ideas and asking questions. Often in an English classroom, you have to do reading at home, and then we discuss the story in class. She is confident in sharing her opinions, and she can relate to issues and characters and make connections with her own life."

- Ed Mahon