In Sydney Strawn’s sophomore year, her mom encouraged her to join a club and find something she loved. With that nudge, Sydney chose to become a member of Torrey Model United Nations (TorreyMUN) to develop a greater global perspective and be a part of something bigger than herself. It ended up being another experience at LJCDS that built her confidence.
“I've always perceived myself as being a little shy when I first meet people, and I was super nervous starting a new school in seventh grade, but Country Day was very welcoming,” shares Sydney. Her family, including twin brother Ryder ’20, moved from Chicago.
Over the past six years, Sydney took advantage of multiple opportunities to grow in academics, athletics, the arts, other extracurriculars and socially. Each experience enriched her more than she thought possible.
“Having that community support really made me feel safe and empowered,” she explains. “It gave me the confidence to explore all these other avenues that I don't think I would have pursued otherwise. I never really saw myself as a leader but Country Day was just so supportive, both the teachers and my friends. They posed questions to me like, ‘Why not? Why can't you lead all these clubs? Why can't you be involved? Why can't you give a speech on sexism? Why can't you decide to be a part of design and innovation? What's stopping you? Why are you creating all these preconceived barriers for yourself for no reason?’”
Sydney always saw herself working as a writer or in the humanities but after joining TorreyMUN and taking a class in design and innovation, she discovered a new direction. Through TorreyMUN, she has traveled the world. In design and innovation, Sydney created a product that brought her to the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago. There, she and her fellow entrepreneurs (Sofia Besharati ’20 and Leah Weiser ’20) presented to a panel of experts and have since fielded offers to assist with getting their product to market.
“Design and innovation was something so far outside of the realm of what I thought I could do, but Mr. [Dan] Lenzen (Director of Design and Innovation) has really shown me what it means to be creative,” shares Sydney. “He pushed me to be unique and decide to do whatever it is I want to do. Whether that was in a design capacity or engineering or math or poetry, he challenged me to look at things differently and pursue it. I think a lot of the confidence that he's taught me has translated into other clubs like TorreyMUN.”
Sydney found her voice while advocating on numerous topics on human rights issues in front of hundreds of high school students from around the world as a member of TorreyMUN. She competed locally at UC San Diego and UC Los Angeles, and internationally in Panama and the Netherlands. She met people from Thailand, Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Venezuela, Brazil and more.
“I was shaking I was so nervous speaking in front of all those people, but putting myself in that position really taught me that I could do it, that I'm just as equipped as anyone else,” she shares. “It's really powerful when you can put yourself out there because you're going to make some really powerful contributions, which I think MUN has done.”
“I think on a social, emotional and personal level, I want to show people that there's absolutely no reason that you can't pursue things that you think you're going to be interested in,” shares Sydney. “It took me a long time to gain the confidence to pursue things that I saw other people doing, whether it was speaking publicly, joining clubs or taking on leadership positions. I want to show other people they can do the same thing.”
Sydney will study international relations and design and innovation at the University of Virginia in the fall. She believes they are synonymous and won’t have to choose between the two.
“I feel like design and innovation and entrepreneurship are the process of looking at problems differently and pursuing creative solutions to them,” explains Sydney. “International relations is focusing on tremendous, large scale problems. If I can couple my knowledge from design and innovation with my love of human rights, humanity and a more connected world, then I feel as if I can pursue them both and be better equipped to do a good job in both of those capacities.”