8,899 miles away from home in Zimbabwe, Senior Christaan Uchena has made a name for herself here at Athens Drive. She will be graduating from the Health Science Career Academy this year and off to pursue her life-long aspiration of being a part of the medical field.
“My experience at Athens has been great. I have been blessed with awesome teachers who have helped me through and through and an amazing friend who has always encouraged me and had my back! They have been very understanding and patient with my struggles,” said Uchena.
Uchena lived a happy life in Zimbabwe, but hardships came along with it. Unsafe weather conditions made it difficult to go to and from school and her family’s water source was a well a distance away from their home. She recalled having to carry a bucket of water on her head when making her way back from the well.
“Out of all the hardships, though, came something good: a new chance to live a good life here with my dearest family and friends,” Uchena said.
In 2010, Uchena made a sickly move from Zimbabwe to America, following behind her mother who had left the country earlier on in pursuit of a better life for her family. Family, Uchena said, was her motivation as she traveled.
“I had a stomach virus that made me throw up every few minutes, but I had my older sister with me,” she said. “I remember being so excited to see my mom after so long. It was very emotional for me to see her again, but I only cried tears of joy when I finally did.”
As she navigated through her new life in America, Uchena became a student at Athens. The Health Science Career Academy was the perfect chance for her to begin her journey into the medical field.
“I have always wanted to do something in the health field and The Health Science Career Academy gave me the opportunity to do so,” she said. “The academy had me take health related classes and complete an internship. It gave me useful knowledge and real-life experiences.”
Over the years, Uchena developed a mentor-mentee relationship with Jennifer Hulsey, Health Science Career Academy Director, and has gained her utmost respect.
“Christaan Uchena works to support and set the standard for excellence in the Health Science Career Academy at Athens Drive Magnet High School for other students in class. Her judgment about the handling of a myriad of issues is always right on, as a senior, and I have explicit trust in her leadership as an Academy student,” Hulsey said. “Christaan has all the professional characteristics and qualities to be successful no matter the challenges set forth to her.”
During her time at Athens Uchena has racked up quite the list of accomplishments. She is a member of many clubs, including Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA), Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and Approved Workmen Are Not Ashamed (AWANA). She has also maintained a place on the A/B honor roll. Uchena has taken part in many certification programs, such as Geospatial ‘Application for Problem Solving’ (GAPS) and ‘Adventures in Biotechnology.’ Last Summer, she completed her mandatory Health Science Career Academy internship of 135 hours with Apex Pharmacy, virtually.
In her free time, Uchena gathers volunteer and work experience, including a part-time job at Harris Teeter and volunteering for “With Love from Jesus,” the NC State fair, Disney Conference and Food for the Hungry programs.
Not only are Uchena’s prerequisites astounding, but her character has also left the people around her inspired.
“At times, Uchena can overwhelm you with her enthusiasm and dedication— value her involvement in class, school, and extracurricular activities—, nonetheless, all the staff, both management and line, recognize and respect her commitment to doing the right thing in the right way. Her strong values and genuine respect for people are all too rare,” Hulsey said.
Adding onto the list of Uchena’s extracurriculars, she competed at the “Poetry Out Loud” (2021) event, at a country level and now holds the place as the Athens Drive winner of the event.
“At first, it was very nerve-racking because I have never put myself out there. I have always been a shy person and liked my comfort zone. But, when the opportunity came for me to do something I love, I took it. Competing was a lot of fun and very difficult at the same time. After it all, though, I got a lot of good feedback on how to improve my reciting from wonderful people,” Uchena said.
Uchena seems to have done all that one can do at Athens. When her last day of high school comes rolling in and her cap is thrown into the air, Uchena will move onto the next chapter of her life knowing she read through every word of the last. She plans to attend Wake Tech Community College to pursue a degree in nursing and make a positive impact on the world.
She leaves Athens with a word of advice:
“No matter what obstacles you face, never give up on pursuing what you love. If you fail, try again and again. If that doesn’t work try a different approach. As my lovely mother would say, ‘Grab the bull by the horns and don’t ever let go.’”