Addisyn Budnick has very clear priorities, not only for an eighth grade, but for most of the high schoolers we’ve spoken to: 1) to get really good grades so that she can go to Harvard and study engineering, and: 2) to perfect her basketball and swimming. Wow! It is so wonderful when young people think so clearly about the future implications of the choices they make today. In his book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen R. Covey notes that habit number 2 is to begin with the end in mind. In other words, make a plan in accordance with a desired outcome. If Covey wanted to include a pictorial representation of what this might look like, his publisher might have included a picture of Addisyn.
Addisyn has been working towards these goals for quite a while. She decided on Harvard as a goal from the time she was a little kid. And, truthfully, it’s not at all a farfetched goal upon which to set one’s sights. Harvard and a handful of other big-name colleges and universities may be difficult to get into, but they are not impossible to get into. And while an excellent education can certainly be found at hundreds of other colleges and universities all over the country, and many within a short drive of Ottawa, staking a claim to a target like Harvard says something special about Addisyn. It says she wants to strive to be the best she can be and that she is prepared to put in the work to get there. We think that’s a very noble target vision. Because the better we can be at a thing, the more impact we can have on improving the lives of others. On top of ‘The Great Harvard Project,’ she has been swimming competitively for seven years and is about to move up a level. Swimming, like academic performance, rewards those who understand the value of habit and are prepared to leverage it in the service of incremental growth.
We ask what influence her family has had on her ambitious goals. She says without hesitation: “My parents, who are always there for me and push me forward.” Her Mom is a teacher at Parkside Middle School. Dad was himself a gifted student in a program where Addisyn says, “They did a lot of smart stuff.” She wants to emulate her parents and be like them. For starters, she is already a strong role model for her younger siblings, Clayton and Emma.
Asked about other likes at school, Addisyn says that she loves literature and language arts and writes fiction. We note that she has “both sides of the brain covered.” We also discuss the crossover between physical and mental activity, remarking that basketball is a great sport for strengthening one’s executive decision-making skills. Addisyn agrees with us that when playing basketball, you have to make a lot of decisions, make them fast, and be ready to pivot and adjust. She also adds: “And you have to figure out how to do it as part of a team.”
We shift gears and ask about what she likes to do outside of school. “I love hanging out with my friends. They are everything to me.” Her family is big into camping and have been all over Illinois as well as the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and Michigan. She excitedly tells us about offroading in the family truck through some giant sand dunes at Silver Lake.
Addisyn definitely plans to come back to Ottawa to live after college as all of her family and friends are here, as well as “Tone’s Cones” and the county fair. Or, she says after a moment, “I might live somewhere by the beach.” We have no doubt that Addisyn will achieve great things and make a “dent in the universe” wherever she goes. But our bet is clearly placed on Harvard.