Founder of her school’s Student Activism Club, president of the National Honors Society, active member of the Interact Club and an AP Capstone diploma recipient, Kaitlyn Naff capped it all off by being named one of this year’s co-salutatorians at Rio Rico High School.
One of the keys that led to her accomplishments, she said, was replacing her doubts with hard work and dedication.
“My biggest obstacle going into high school was that I felt that certain courses or topics were out of my reach. I felt like you could only do them if you were a genius, which I was not, so there was no way I was going to be able to succeed,” Naff said.
“It’s worth it when you see yourself succeed and you realize that you’ve proved yourself wrong,” she added.
Throughout her journey in overcoming those obstacles, Naff said, she counted on the help of a few mentors who gave her the extra push.
Her AP calculus teacher Nagesh Kumar, for example, taught her how a little extra work can go a really long way.
“He just takes a really avid interest in our futures and he makes it a point that he thinks you can be really successful and your potential is kind of unbound,” she said. “He kind of made me realize that as long as I was willing to put in the work, there was nothing holding me back.”
But as Naff put in the extra effort to succeed in her classes and become involved in different activities, she admitted that school sometimes became overwhelming for her.
To ease the stress and take a break for school, Naff made time for weightlifting at the gym, practicing her photography skills and making her way down the list of classic works of literature. Summertime, she said, was always a compensation for all those things she didn’t get to do during the school year.
During moments of hardship, she also found peace and encouragement from her mother, whom she said is also her best friend.
“She has always put me and my education first. When things got crazy or didn’t go the way any of us planned, she was really there for me and made sure that I had everything I needed to be successful, always,” Naff said.
Naff’s next step is to study physiology at the University of Arizona, where she was admitted into the Honors College. After finishing her undergraduate studies, she hopes to go to medical school and become a pediatrician.
“After high school and after having taken those challenges, being pushed by my teachers and my family to take on things that are hard, I’ve realized that there really are no limits to what you can do,” she said.