Cool Girls with Tag: student

Claire Koster

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster HeadshotName: Claire Koster
Age: 18
Location: St. Louis, MO
Occupation: Student, STEM Instructor, Teaching Assistant, Volunteer

At only 18 years old, Claire Koster already has made an impact on her community, running the Women’s Advocacy Group at her high-school, volunteering at a homeless outreach center, assisting in a STEM program, studying to become an educator, and speaking out for those who confront societal challenges.

Her empathy and compassion are what spurred her to apply action to her emotion.

“When you see that there are obstacles keeping people from joy or security or happiness, those obstacles become yours, too, in certain ways. I have a younger brother with Down Syndrome who is the most fantastic human I have ever met in my life, and once I was old enough to understand that he would have a harder time living the life he desired than I may have, it made me want to understand what causes those sorts of obstacles and how they can be solved. That totally snowballed into caring deeply about the ways other forms of identity cause one to be marginalized,” she explains.

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster with her brother standing in front of a river.

Never one to shy away from a challenge, Claire took over running the Women’s Advocacy Group at her conservative, Catholic, all-female high-school after the founder graduated.

Trees with text: "Love has the kind of power cynicism only wishes it had." -Bob Goff“There were certain topics that pertain intensely to gender equality but we weren’t able to talk about as openly as we would have liked to because they did not align politically with Catholic values. That was certainly frustrating, but meant that we chose to take our conversations in a direction of opening a dialogue about gender and equality in a way that felt accessible to everyone. It was exciting to see how willing people were to enter into that dialogue,” she says.

Beyond her education and in-school advocacy, Claire also volunteered her services at the Marian STEM Club, an enrichment activity that was offered as part of their curriculum.

“Marian Middle School has an extended-day, extended-year model, so from 4:00-5:30 each day the students choose an enrichment to participate in. Each Thursday, we would come and do STEM activities with about 12 students,” she says. “It has been such a joy to get to grow in community with the students and learn with and from them.”

Text image: "The nonevent is the best part of life."Outside of school and supplemental activities, Claire also spends time at the St. Patrick’s Center, a homeless outreach organization, where she volunteers during their Women’s Nights, where they make, serve, and eat dinner with the women seeking shelter and assistance.

As she prepares for college, Claire looks forward to becoming a teacher herself.

“I’m currently majoring in secondary teaching, and I will study either sociology or english, or maybe both! I have been so incredibly impacted by teachers who have supported me and seen me as someone more capable than I saw myself. That sounds trite, but is such a deeply impactful thing. I can’t think of a better way to spend my life than to seek to do that for others.”

What wisdom does this brilliant young lady have for other young girls who, like her, are growing up and trying to do the best they can with what they were given?

Sock It to Me Cool Girl Clair Koster with her brother, close up.“I think that as we get older, we discover things about ourselves that prevent us from “fitting in” with the people around us. We’ve been told that, one day, these things will be our superpowers. But they certainly aren’t yet, or at least they don’t feel that way. My best advice is to learn to sit with those things. You don’t have to love them, you don’t have to show them off or build a life around them, but try your best not to push them down and away from you, because one day, you and I will both realize that they are superpowers, and we will want them back.”

For her maturity, poise, benevolence, and grace, we think Claire Koster is an incredible human being and one super Cool Girl!

A $200 donation was made to Marian Middle School on behalf of Claire. You can donate here.

Minh Nguyen

Name: Minh Anh Nguyen
Age: 18
Location: Portland, OR
Occupation: College Student

Scholar extraordinaire, Minh Nguyen has transcended high-school to become one of the more profoundly brilliant and unique academics around. A math wiz, viola player, rocket launcher, and researcher, Minh is also a new student at Yale, and yet she remains humble.

MinhSeattle-Resize“All of these accomplishments were not achieved alone,” she says. “I received tremendous support from my family, friends, and mentors. Again, I’m not particularly amazing. I set goals for myself and worked hard.”

Well, we think that Minh’s pretty amazing! She’s been awarded the super-selective Gates Millennium scholarship, and took eight AP classes during high school, all while leading the school’s competitive rocketry team, playing viola, researching pediatric cardiology, and yodeling with her besties in her free time.

As a young student, new to the United States, Minh nurtured her familiar relationship with math to help her learn a new language.

“When I first moved to the US, I didn’t know any English,” she explains. “But the one thing that is pretty much universal is numbers. Math is the same in any language. As I got older, the logical flow of algebra was almost therapeutic to me. It really is applicable everywhere.”

That’s not to say that it’s always been easy. Minh admits that some more complex classes are trickier to her, such as physics. But the difficulty isn’t a reason for her to give up. If anything, it has taught her new ways of approaching the brain-bending studies she holds so dear.

“The things you love to do doesn’t have to be the thing you’re the best at, or things that come easily to you. If you really love it, it’s worth it,” she confides.

During the summers, Minh has worked with the pediatric cardiology team at OHSU. Her research with Dr. Sahn has taught her valuable lessons in tenacity and task management.

“I learned that research isn’t glamorous and fast-paced as movies and books portray them. It takes loads of patience and determination to complete a project. The pediatric cardiology research taught me that organizing and having a methodical procedure are very important. Despite the work, the thrill of seeing my results tie together at the end was very rewarding,” she says.

MinhAndFriends-ResizeMinh has two close friends that have accompanied her on her journey, Kathy and Sarah.

“Kathy and I became friends through orchestra, where we were stand-partners. We both play the viola. I met Sarah in high school orchestra, she plays violin. Because the three of us have so many classes together, it was almost inevitable!” she says. “We are very close and think very similarly. They are my biggest pillars of support. When one of us freaked out over deadlines and were just frustrated in general, we were each other’s biggest cheerleaders.”

Proof that leaning on your friends can definitely help anyone persevere! And beyond the serenade of the string section, and their shared school stresses, the girls are known for their vocal endeavors…mainly yodeling! But how on earth do three young ladies become such vocal songstresses?

“I believe we were talking about Julie Andrews and The Sound of Music and we’re mesmerized by the Lonely Goat herder song. How does someone make sounds like that?! So we started to yodel. It’s the most fun when people give us horrified looks,” she jokes.

MinhYaleShirt-resizeMinh credits her friends and family with supporting her during her still-young, yet glowing, academic career. And when it comes to other young people beginning the somewhat overwhelming adventure of applying to college, she has some very sage wisdom to share.

“I spent many hours on my college essays, and even more hours on the scholarship essays. Sometimes I scrapped complete essays and started over,” she admits. “I’m acknowledged for the awards and admissions that I did receive, but there were many rejections as well. My point is I merely applied and gave it my all. I believe in trying wholeheartedly, and highly encourage everyone do the same.”

Great advice for everyone, Minh! And for your triumphs in academia and beyond, we think that for sure you are one Cool Girl!

Alanna Wall

Name: Alanna Wall
Age: 15
Occupation: Polished Girlz Founder/Student

FB_IMG_1434081812634Alanna J. Wall is always looking to lend a hand…to make sure that other hands shine! The young, vivacious founder of Polished Girlz has a mission that’s part nail art, part community service, and all heart.

Even though she is only fifteen, Alanna grew up with a desire to help others. At the age of 8 she wanted to make scarves for every girl who was diagnosed with cancer. Being only a child, she was too young to volunteer even though she wanted desperately to do something for those who were needing a little pick-me-up.

FB_IMG_1434081582503Undeterred by her age, she decided to apply her passion for drawing and nail art to girls who are hospitalized due to illness, or those with special needs. Out of her zest for art and her hope to help, Alanna created Polished Girlz, a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring nail parties to girls who maybe can’t paint their own nails, or could use a little color and company. These nail fiestas don’t simply sparkle, shine, and smile, they also teach the value of frequent hand-washing to reduce infection transmission and the potential for resulting hospital visits.

FB_IMG_1431362634111The Polished Girlz don’t merely offer nails that glimmer for girls who are down, they also provide enriching volunteer opportunities for young people, teaching them the value of interpersonal skills, community service, and teamwork. Alanna has truly reached out, creating a group that gives back to all who come in contact with it.

Outside of her organization, Alanna enjoys spending time with her friends and her little brother, playing the violin, diving, and drawing. Polished Girlz is her main passion, though, and she’s started designing jewelry and nail polish, both of which were included in the 2012 Teen Choice Celebrity gift baskets that were given to all of the presenters and nominees!

FB_IMG_1434081627725Alanna hopes to become a veterinarian, and she studies hard in school so that she can go on to do so. “One of the biggest challenges I am recently facing is trying to manage studying for all our state test[s] while still going out to polish,” she says. As usual, Alanna isn’t about to waver in what she wants, or compromise on her goals. “In the future I want the Polished Girlz to be as big as the Girl Scouts with chapters all around the world,” she adds.

FB_IMG_1431362645111She has a special message for any girls, in or out of the hospital, who maybe are feeling a little low today. “For girls facing any challenges, I would like to tell them that they are strong and brave and that I am honored to be able to make you smile even if it is just a little while,” Alanna says. To add your name to the ever-growing list of volunteers, or to start a Polished Girlz party in your neighborhood, check out their website,

For giving back to others and making the world glow, with shiny fingertips and bright smiles, we think Alanna J. Wall is a very Cool Girl!

Alyx Bloom

Name: Alyx Bloom
Age: 20
Location: Hutchinson Community College in Hutchinson, Kansas.
Occupation: Full Time Student Athlete

butlerShooting hoops in hot socks, such is the life of student athlete Alyx Bloom. This maven on the court has a message for all young athletes out there: keep at it and you’ll succeed!

As a child growing up in the small town of Clay Center, Kansas (“Home of the Tasty Pastry Bakery and the Piotique Parade!”) Alyx dreamed of becoming the next WNBA All-Star.

“If that didn’t work out then I planned on becoming the first female President,” she adds. But measuring only 5’4” in a game that holds height as one of the strongest assets, she was quick to realize that in order to win she’d have to hone her fundamentals, and she devoted herself to improving in ways beyond strength and power. “I’ve learned to out-work, out-run, out-wit, and flat out-play my competition. I strive to be the best I can potentially be,” she says.

prom-resizeBy always working to improve her game, Alyx secured a spot on several squads over the years, but it certainly wasn’t easy.

“I’ve spent countless hours on my own time outside of team practices: in the backyard shooting jump shots, in my basement dribbling, or studying game film of other great players. Self-discipline has really helped me improve my game and reach the next level,” she explains.

Behind her was her family, Kansas State University ball fans. After begging her parents to send her to the school’s summer camp, she finally got her wish, and got to meet many female basketball stars that she idolized, including her mentor, Nicole Ohlde. Not only did her parents’ summer solution stoke her fire, but her grandfather Steve was the one who supported her outdoor game, providing her an outdoor hoop and even lovingly nagging that she shoot 100 shots per day.

seniorsock2Those basketball summers eventually gave way to the life of a student athlete. Today Alyx balances basketball with books and competition with cramming. Three hour practices along with morning study sessions are the regular routine for her, along with the requisite strong pot of morning coffee! Life beyond the swish of the net is what Alyx knows she needs to focus on just as much as her game.

“Playing ball has opened up so many opportunities for me including a free education. I hope to finish my degree and apply to medical school. With a degree in Medicine, I see myself specializing in Sports Medicine. I just can’t stay away from the game, and therefore I also see myself coaching someday,” she says.

seniorbasketball-resizeSo what does future Coach Bloom have to say to young girls who are trying their hand at an athletic endeavor?

“I think too many young athletes are discouraged when they don’t succeed at first. My message to them is to never give up! Keep working hard and the game you love will soon love you back.”

Spoken like a true All-Star! For hitting the books with as much aplomb as she hits the boards, we think Alyx Bloom is one Cool Girl!