18 Under 18 Highlight: Vanessa Straight

Posted in: 18 Under 18, Students

In our Junior Achievement 18 Under 18 recipients series, we’re next highlighting Vanessa Straight. From meeting with the U.S. President to coordinating a TedX event, to inventing a date-rape prevention method, Vanessa has achieved much in her youth.

We are honored to recognize her. Read on the hear why she was selected as an inaugural Junior Achievement 18 Under 18!

Vanessa Strait, Highland High School, Gilbert 17 years old

From traveling to the White House and meeting the President to sitting on the Governor’s Youth Commission or organizing Tedx Gilbert, it seems Vanessa always is searching for another way to give back. She has a passion for inclusivity, respect and civil discourse.“I like to be busy,” Vanessa said. That sounds like an understatement. 

She’s also changing lives: Vanessa is developing a bracelet that, when dipped in a liquid (such as a beverage), can detect the presence of the “date rape” drug. Her invention is in the prototype phase.

“I was nominated by my really, really wonderful honors lab biology teacher,” Vanessa said. “She has always instilled in me to have a ‘servitude’ attitude. It’s we before me, help never hurt, always think of others.”

What do you want to be doing in 10 years? I will probably be on a path to getting a graduate degree. By then I hope to be writing, a contributor to a news column. I’d like to be working heavily with civics education organizations. I’m an incredibly proud native Arizonan, and in the future I want to be involved in giving back to Arizona, to fill myself up with knowledge and come back. I want to get involved in public service and government, working on public education policy and reforming the public education system.

Who’s your biggest inspiration? Mrs. Jamie Blum – the lady who nominated me for this award. She’s the most selfless person I’ve ever met. She gives everything to her students. She’s had a profound effect on my life. She’s opened every door for me that she possibly could. I really want to be someone like her, someone who gives of themselves to others and leads through servant leadership.

What’s the best advice you’ve received?My dad says that there’s enough success in the world for everyone, so there’s no reason to be envious. I’m a very driven person and I’m surrounded by wonderful, driven people. They inspire me every day. He’s encouraged me. Just because one person’s light shines, it doesn’t mean another’s is dimmer. We can all grow and thrive together.