Kaila Thatcher is setting her sights on a career in pediatric medicine.
The senior gets an up-close look at the medical field as a volunteer at Ridgeview Medical Center’s emergency department and maternal ward.
“I help with patient room changes, take food trays to patients, restock supplies, and blow up balloons for kids,” Thatcher explained. “I like helping the nurses during their busy day so they can help the patients.”
“It’s a great way to see if you really want to be in the medical field,” she added. “I personally love it.”
At school, Thatcher’s favorite class so far was Advanced Placement Biology. “I like figuring out how things work,” she said. “I also knew that I would most likely major in some form of biology in college and taking biology at the college level in high school would help me later on.”
Thatcher also enjoys math. She credits Minnetonka teachers David Surver and Ann Hersman for fostering her interest in the subject.
“They are exceptional teachers and always made class, and math, interesting,” she said.
Thatcher has made the A honor roll every semester of high school so far. The key to success? “Stay on top of academics right away,” she said. “Your freshman GPA counts just as much as your senior GPA."
Thatcher hopes to combine her interest in science with her passion for kids. This summer, she worked with preschoolers at OK Kids in Orono.
“We played games, made crafts and did activities that help kids learn skills like counting,” she said. “I really love being with kids. I can’t even believe I get paid for what I do.”
Thatcher also volunteers as a Sunday school teacher at Excelsior’s Mount Calvary Lutheran Church.
“I get attached to the kids,” she said.
Her students include a young boy with Down’s syndrome. “I especially love kids with special needs. They can teach us lessons about life.”
The Sunday school curriculum includes music, and music is a big part of Thatcher’s life. Her tastes range from classical to Coldplay.
Thatcher plays violin in the school orchestra. Last spring, the orchestra and band traveled to Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic for a school trip. The experience was eye-opening for Thatcher.
“We visited the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria while I was studying World War II in my European History class,” she said. “I was able to see with my own eyes the atrocities of the Nazis while reading about them for class.”
She also found the cultural differences interesting.
“Dinner came in courses and it sometimes lasted for hours, which is way longer than I was used to,” she said. “I wish I could be as multi-lingual as the people over there. I met a shopkeeper who knew twelve languages!”
Like many high school seniors, Thatcher is focusing on the college application process this fall. She plans to apply to University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota and Stanford University.
Her top choice? “Probably Madison,” she said. “I’ve wanted to go there since I was in eighth grade.”
The Thatcher family visited the campus this summer, which Thatcher described as “amazing.”
Thatcher credits next-door neighbor Stephanie Kerkvliet, now a college student, for guiding her through the college search process and describing what to look for in a medical program.
“We have been neighbors since I was two so we grew up together,” Thatcher said.
Leaving friends and family for college will be bittersweet. “It will be especially hard to leave my sister, Lexi, who is twelve,” Thatcher said. “We hang out together all the time.”
The Thatcher family also includes parents Kristen and Ken.
One family tradition they are likely to continue is Gotcha Day, celebrating the January day that Thatcher arrived in Minnesota from her birth country, Colombia. “My mom bought different knick-knacks and keepsakes in Colombia and saved them,” said Thatcher. “She gives one to me each year on Gotcha Day.”
The Thatchers also get together annually with other Minnesota families that they met in Colombia during the adoption journey. “One girl invited us to her quinceanera,” Thatcher said, referring to the celebration of a girl’s fifteenth birthday in Latin American communities.
Senior year is busy, but when Thatcher does have leisure time, she is likely reading.
“I love books,” said the John Grisham and J.K. Rowling fan, admitting she's read the entire Harry Potter series "at least five times.”