“You can learn the same material at any school in Georgia, but Walker provides you with more than simply an education,” says Diana Toro, a senior at Georgia Tech.
Toro credits her Walker experiences for teaching her a lot. While admitting she was more than well prepared to attend Tech, she recognizes that the academic prep was only part of what she has needed.
“One of my favorite teachers, Dr. Cindy Schafer, challenged me to question everything, even my own beliefs sometimes. She would gently remind me about the importance of listening by making a ‘V’ (for ‘volume’) in class. Looking back, I see how she was slowly teaching me the value of listening to others.”
Moving from Walker into the larger collegiate community, Diana felt confident in her ability to encounter all kinds of people – especially those with different opinions, personalities and beliefs. And, as Diana enters medical school this fall, she knows these listening skills will be of great value.
In addition to learning to listen, exploring a variety of opportunities at Walker (Pep Band Drum Major; performing a solo at Carnegie Hall; serving in leadership for the National Honor Society, the TRI-M Music Honor Society and the Spanish Club; and diving into Walker’s Guided Scientific Research program) helped her to develop the confidence she needed to stretch her wings at Tech.
“I learned not to be afraid to get out of my comfort zone, study abroad, start new programs, ask for help,” she said. “I urged myself not to be afraid of making mistakes.”
Walker’s intimate setting cemented Diana’s confidence.
“I wasn’t afraid to sit in the front row – even with over 100-plus people in the class. I wasn’t afraid to actively ask questions and to approach my professors for help. I felt comfortable building connections and networking early on.”
Through her involvement with Mrs. Emily Adams’ Guided Research Project, Diana built invaluable connections at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and developed a passion for research. At Tech, she was awarded the President’s Undergraduate Research Award for her work using laser-activated nanoparticles to improve drug delivery in human cancer cells.
But, the accomplishment that brings her the greatest pride is the founding of an organization called Little Einsteins, which leads STEM activities for kids in the Atlanta public school system.
“We grew to over 100 members and beyond inspiring a love for learning in kids,” she said. "Little Einsteins functions as a mentorship program where Georgia Tech students serve as role models in their community and develop meaningful bonds with at-risk kids in Atlanta.”
Finishing her last year at Georgia Tech – with a major in Biochemistry and, thanks to her Walker Spanish teacher (now retired, Diana Carlson), a minor in Spanish – Diana is looking forward to a very bright future. She will attend the Medical College of Georgia in August and is planning to specialize in pediatric cardiology.