Westbury High School senior Danielle McDougall was recently recognized for winning first prize in Optimum Community’s Hispanic Heritage Month essay contest.
Middle and high school students were invited to write an essay about a Latino, past or present, with whom they would choose to spend the day with and why. For her winning essay, McDougall wrote about Servero Ochoa, a biochemist and molecular biologist who won the Nobel Prize for discovering an enzyme integral to the synthesis of RNA.
“I was particularly inspired by him because he won a Nobel prize. He had been a professor of biochemistry at NYU and I hope to go to NYU so I found that particularly interesting,” said McDougall. “I found his background and research over the course of decades very fascinating.”
In her essay, McDougall wrote that if she had the chance to spend the day with Ochoa, she would talk to him about his research and travels to Germany and England.
McDougall was recognized at a ceremony at the high school last week where she read her essay in front of the audience, which included Sen. Jack Martins. She was also awarded an Apple iPad.
The essay contest not only taught McDougall a lot about a breakthrough scientist, but also showed her an important lesson.
“I didn’t expect to win so I learned that if you try, if you put forth your best effort, you never know what will happen,” McDougall said. “As long as you try, that’s the best thing you can do.”
Shahana Khairoola is McDougall’s AP literature teacher and describes her as mature and confident.
“She is one of the most dedicated and hard-working students that I have ever met. She prides herself on doing well in her classes, but she also enjoys learning,” says Khairoola. “I, as well as many other teachers at Westbury High School, am thrilled that Danielle has been recognized for her writing talent and her dedication as a student. She absolutely deserves it.”
The 12th grader is hoping to major in biology and biochemistry in college, and has prepared herself well for a future in science by taking rigorous courses throughout her high school career.
“I’m really interested in the research and hands on aspect of it,” said McDougall. “I like the advancements you make and how you can use them to not only help yourself, but help people, like discovering innovative ways to create resources where there may not be any.”