BY KYLE NELSON AND DARIAN SABLON
Explorers – these are the people often talked about in adventure stories, those individuals who exemplify a sense of courage in light of danger, overcome their personal dilemmas for the greater good and are in many ways the type of person we want to be. It is often very hard to find someone that embodies the qualities of an explorer perfectly, someone who is willing to take risks and push themselves to the limit by taking on different challenges. Fortunately, students do not have to look far to find an explorer already amongst them, walking the same hallways they do day in and day out. That pathfinder is none other than Hannah Riggott.
From the start of her life, Hannah Riggott has always been a person to challenge herself, whether it be academically, physically or socially. The drive for a new adventure was something instilled into her from a very young age when she took part in competitive gymnastics. Starting when she was five, Riggott would often work hard to be the best that she could be, something that would carry over from the field of gymnastics to her school life, even as early as elementary school.
“Gymnastics made me a very hardworking and dedicated person and I think that is the reason why I’m such a big perfectionist,” Riggott said. “It’s why I like meeting other people’s expectations because that’s what I felt it was all about for me.”
Despite her initial passion for gymnastics, her interest would soon start to wane. When she entered eighth grade at Pioneer Middle School, she decided to open up a new chapter in her life and leave gymnastics behind. When she went on to high school, she discovered numerous opportunities, both in extracurriculars and academics. Throughout her high school career so far, she has taken over nine Advanced Placement classes, amongst them some of the hardest that Cooper City High school has to offer. In addition to her academic commitments, she is part of the tennis team, National Honor Society and Student Government Association. Her work ethic and dedication have served as a source of inspiration for many, including her best friend since kindergarten, Jessica Less.
“Hannah is someone who is intelligent, outgoing and compassionate,” junior Jessica Less said. “She puts full effort into everything she does and can accomplish anything she puts her mind to. Hannah keeps impressing me as she has grown more in the last year than anyone else I know.”
With every new chance, however, distinct obstacles have also arisen – often stemming from herself. Although she has grown to be a very active participant in her school, Riggott was an introvert when entering high school, focusing heavily on school and letting it take up most of her time.
“When I was in gymnastics I never had time to go out with friends and to come into high school, the only thing I knew was school as it was my biggest priority,” Riggott said.
As she became more involved, she began to expand her focus away from school and more on the world around her, meeting people that she never would have otherwise and changing her perspective on her life.
“There’s no point in living life if you are just focusing on one thing,” Riggott said. “You have to explore so many different things and that’s what I started doing. I just started becoming friends with more people and I wanted to learn more about them.”
Overcoming her introversion was not easy, leaving a lasting impact on her. In fact, from her own experience with anxiety, she has gone on to research the fears harbored by gifted students. In her AP Research class, Riggott developed a project that compared the fears of non-gifted students and gifted students, hoping to shed some light on the societal expectations placed on gifted students.
“I dealt with a lot of anxiety and I have so many fears that hold me back every day, so this project was really personal for me,” Riggott said. “I hope that it shows that others deal with the same fears and that it will change the way people view others.”
Riggott says that she has seen herself changed immensely since freshman year and is still pushing herself to be the best she can be. Instead of seeing setbacks as failures, Riggott sees these setbacks as a way to better herself through reflection and expression.
“Whenever I have a setback I will usually write about it, which helps me realize that it’s not the end of the world,” Riggott said. “I remind myself that the only way to fix something that went wrong is by making up for it in the future.”
Featured image by Sabrine Brismeur