As a freshman at Freedom Prep High School, Sierra Warner believed that she would graduate, but the thought of attending college was only a dream. Four years later, she’s traveled internationally, has been accepted to multiple colleges, and is chasing bigger dreams.

“My goals are to graduate college and travel the world,” Sierra said. “Being at Freedom Prep has opened my eyes to how different the world is and how you need different experiences to change things for the better.”

Even though she’s now traveled to Ecuador, and Korea twice, Sierra went through a difficult time in the 10th grade after a personal tragedy led her to not want to travel to Ecuador. However, with support and encouragement from many including college counselor, Shannon Miranda, Sierra went on the life changing trip.

“Ms. Miranda told me, ‘You should really go. It’ll cheer you up and take your mind off of things. It’ll be like a little escape,’” Sierra said. “And she was right. The entire time I was there, I was happy. I realized I don’t just have a family at home, I have a family in school. And they’re willing to support me no matter what I’m going through.”

Sierra returned to Korea again last year after earning a scholarship on a last second nomination for a Korean summer program.

“The only scholar that really came to mind was Sierra,” said Ms. Yu, Sierra’s Korean language teacher. “I told her, you have to write an essay in 24 hours, can you do that? And she told me yes.”

Sierra credits Ms. Yu for her love of Korean culture. Although she had begun learning Korean as a freshman, it wasn’t until Ms. Yu began teaching Sierra that she developed more of an interest in K-dramas, visiting Korea, and fully learning the Korean language.

Having learned Korean for years and visiting the country twice as a scholar, Sierra says she hopes to eventually be fluent in Korean and would be open to returning to Freedom Prep to teach it.

There are several women at Freedom Prep who Sierra believes helped her become who she is today. Such as her literature teacher, Ashley Glover. Sierra credits Ms. Glover as the reason she’s ok embracing herself with her natural hair.  

“I remember one day I came to school and I had my hair curly, and I thought it looked horrible and Ms. Glover said, ‘your hair is so cute, I love it like this,’” Sierra said. “Ever since then I’ve been ok wearing my hair curly and embracing myself in general. That was when I realized it’s ok for me to be myself and express what I have and what makes me, me.”

For Ms. Glover, she said it was heartwarming to hear she is one of Sierra’s role models and is glad to help fight against stereotypes that the way they naturally look is a problem.

“It’s ok to be exactly who you are,” she said. “How you came out, embrace that. To be able to impose that upon the younger generation is extremely powerful.”  

After all of Sierra’s achievements and progression as a scholar, she was still nervous on the day she would find out if she was accepted to George Mason University.

“When I saw that I was accepted, it felt like I finally achieved something great,” she said. “All the worry and fear of being rejected just vanished and it transformed into being proud of myself and being able to say that I actually got accepted here.”

Sierra is currently deciding which college she will attend, but says she will likely study biology and continue learning Korean.

When asked what she’d miss the most, Sierra said it was hard to pick just one thing or person and gave thanks to all those who have helped her on her road to college.

“I’m going to miss everything” she said. “The teachers, the staff, scholars, and especially the community. Our community is so much more different than other places and I’ve never felt more accepted anywhere else than here.”