We’re almost a year into the Coronavirus pandemic in Michigan and it has changed life for everyone. Students have had to make a lot of adjustments too. But for one high schooler in Traverse City the virus is fueling the passion for her career path.
Elizabeth “Liza” Courtright is a senior at Grand Traverse Academy. “This is my 13th year at GTA. I’ve been here since preschool. So I’ve been here for the long haul.” Liza is dual-enrolled: already taking college credits. “The ability to dual-enroll really helps me and puts me further ahead than other people. I take two college classes. Calculus and Chemistry.”
Stephanie Patrzik is the Grand Traverse Academy Guidance Counselor. “Liza is an amazing student. She really embodies the GTA spirit. She’s achieved 25 college credits so she’s done a fantastic job with maximizing preparedness for college. And she’s taken some AP classes and passed those exams and has those credits to go with it.”
When Liza graduates high school she’ll also have a year of college behind her. And she already has a plan. “I’m going to attend Michigan State in the fall. And I’m going to be in Lyman Briggs which is a science-based residential college. And I’m going to study chemistry with hopes of going to medical school.”
For Liza, the love of science is nothing new. “I’ve always felt like I needed to go in to the medical field. I felt like I was built for it. I’ve just wanted to help people. My freshman year I took Biomed. That really sparked it because we did such a variety of experiments and different sides of medicine.”
Patrzik says, “She’s always excelled at science. She excels at anything she does. But science has really been of particular interest for her.” But COVID-19 gave Liza a higher purpose – something to focus on.
“It kind of shined a light on what people with those jobs could actually do. I feel like infectious disease is a specialty that people don’t really think about that exists. But it does and it has importance.” Patrzik also knows Liza’s passion got an added boost with COVID. “It really just fueled that interest. And solidified that for her that that is the kind of path she she’s for herself. And she’s never wavered.”
Liza buries her head in school books. And when the vaccine came out she had something new to study in her free time. “When the vaccine was being distributed I read all the time about it. I was like, ‘when can I get it?’ That was my first question.” Working in the medical field, her mom has received the vaccine. “They give you this packet with all the information about the Pfizer vaccine. I read the whole thing. I was like, ‘this is so cool.’”
She’s eager to do more for science – and for patients. “You get a patient that doesn’t know what they have. It’s almost like a mystery you have to solve. Just a big problem-solving career I guess. Which I thought was really awesome.”
She knows it will take a lot of work – but that doesn’t scare her a bit. “It’s not easy. I already spend hours a day doing homework. I’m already preparing myself to dive into that. I really like studying and just want to keep doing that my whole life.”
Patrzik calls Liza “the full package,” saying that “she’s got it all. She’s got a very bright future.”
“Liza is a great example of how tries to make sure all of our students have equal opportunity for post-secondary enrollment. We want to make sure they have all of their doors open when they graduate. Whether they choose college, career, military or trade school, we want them to be fully prepared for whatever they decide for their future.”
GTA is a tuition-free, public charter school in Traverse City.