McKenzie Williams ’24 is an Upper from Boca Raton, Florida. On campus, she is a prefect in Nathan Hale and participates in Students in Medicine, Artificial Intelligence Club, and F-STOP, a student-run photography magazine. This past summer, she worked on cancer research with the Moffitt Cancer Center’s Integrated Mathematical Oncology Department.
Horrific, absolutely horrific… I really believed that my footwear, Dr. Martens, [were going to] help me not slip and fall. It did not. I slipped and fell several times, ended up on crutches once for a few days. It was rough. But this is my second winter here. So I feel a bit more prepared. [I would say that] I have the endurance that I have built up.
I would say the most memorable photo I took was at a protest that I went to in 2020 with my family. It was this photo of my two brothers, one who’s older and one who is younger, and I took a photo of them during a moment of silence. In the photo, my older brother’s looking down. He’s about 20 now and then my younger brother, who’s 15, is looking upwards. And I called it ‘Broken Hope’ because you can kind of see the juxtaposition between my older brother, who’s, of course, experienced an incredible deal of racism during his lifetime, sort of looking down and having the weight of understanding how hard it is to change things. [This is] in direct contrast to my younger brother, who’s definitely had his fair share of experiences, but just not as enough as the five year age difference.
I think being an African American woman, I would say the ideas of diversity, equity, [and] inclusion are always in the back of my mind because I’ve existed in majority-white spaces for most of my life. And it feels almost natural to me. But sometimes I’ll just look around and say, ‘Wait, I am the only Black person or Black girl in this room.’ And [that notion] has motivated me to help welcome younger Black girls and younger Black people, even, into these spaces.
My older brother did a lot of it when he was in high school… And I remember looking more into it, and realizing that they’re just these incredible disparities…[like how] African Americans have the highest death rates and shorter survival rates for most types of cancers. So after going back and seeing my older brother and being inspired by him and realizing that this is a true problem affecting my community, it really motivated me to get into it and start learning and make the contributions that I can.
I really got the experience of learning what professional research is like. And my mentors were really incredible, really willing to walk me through things and send me journals when I didn’t quite understand what was going on. Because I had never taken biology before, I had a steep learning curve. But my mentors and the program overall were really, really good about teaching us what we needed to know and giving the tools for me to succeed and make a meaningful contribution to the project.
I would say my work with Students in Medicine is helping me get a better view of the medical field… Also, I’m really, really excited because [it gives me] the opportunity to meet with established doctors. [For example,] we’re about to bring in a woman named Dr. DeAnne Collier, who is a Black dermatologist who owns her own practice, and she employs an all Black female staff.
I don’t think anyone’s ready for it. Honestly, I feel like the field is developing so fast that everything else is trying to keep up, especially legally, new laws definitely need to be passed. Socially, I don’t think many people are comfortable with the idea of artificial intelligence having such a wide role in our lives. But it is definitely coming, so we need to get ready for it.
We had a fire alarm go off at two in the morning. And that was the first time that’s ever happened to me. This was Lower Year. And I went out, and I was in this nightgown, basically. And it was probably 20 degrees outside.
I think Andover has given me a lot of opportunities for me to expand my interests…and there’s just so many resources here. Like I had lunch with [Head of School] Dr. [Raynard] Kington the other day because I was just interested in his journey through the medical field. I think being here and understanding how much is given to me [and] how much access I have is incredible… Andover has definitely given me a greater chance of becoming who I am or an earlier chance.
I’m not exactly sure what it would look like. I think if I pursue medical fields, I’ll be a student for a really long time. I’m thinking of pursuing an MD PhD program. But I think being at Andover has been such a hard environment, especially academically, [and it] has allowed me to build incredible life skills… So I would say being at Andover has informed my study skills and my life skills, even that I can shape and fit into whatever I want to become.
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