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Amiya Sharp keeps her eye on the finish line with VSAC’s Talent Search's help

Written by
VSAC Staff

March 4, 2024


Amiya Sharp

As a competitive runner, Amiya Sharp knows how to push herself to the finish line.  

Now a freshman pre-med student at UMass Boston, she’s majoring in biochemistry—a tough major, but one Amiya intentionally chose to make sure shes's prepared for medical school. Amiya hopes to become a pediatric neurosurgeon. “It’s a big goal,” she says with a smile, “but I feel like every step of the way gets me a little closer to that dream.”

Amiya grew up in Isle LaMotte, where she was home-schooled through middle school. In the ninth grade, her parents enrolled her at Bellows Free Academy-Saint Albans. Her running career began at BFA-Saint Albans, where she was a member of the track and cross-country teams. She also played music and sports with St. Albans City School during her middle school years, and continued with the clarinet all through high school. 

Career inspiration through child care and VSAC

Working as a nanny for St. Albans-area families also inspired Amiya to go into pediatric health care. “I love working with kids, and I find the neurosurgery specialty very interesting. Working on the brain seems like such a great way to help children.”

Making the leap from high school to college reminded Amiya of her transition from home-schooling to public high school. Preparation was the key to success, and she credits her success to participating in VSAC’s Talent Search program.

Talent Search, funded by the U.S. Department of Education and administered in Vermont by VSAC, helps students explore career options and enroll in education programs after high school. In 2023, 80% of Talent Search students across Vermont enrolled in postsecondary programs the year following high school graduation.

Katie Gesser, a Talent Search counselor with VSAC, worked with Amiya for four years. “Amiya is an incredibly driven, kind, and intelligent person,” Gesser says. “She always tries her absolute best at any task at hand. She knows how to advocate for herself, ask for help when she needs it, and is always willing to help others. I’m excited to see everything she will accomplish.”

For Amiya, Talent Search was instrumental in helping her apply to college and succeed once she got there.

“Working with Katie through VSAC really prepared me for the things I would encounter in college,” she says. She credits the program with strengthening her organization skills and her ability to prioritize tasks to meet deadlines—something that the college admissions process certainly challenged her with.

“Just meeting all of the deadlines felt overwhelming,” Amiya admits. “And I had to make sure I completed all the extra parts for the applications, the extra essays for honors colleges, and kept my grades up during senior year. Senioritis can sometimes kick in after you hit the ‘submit’ button on your college applications,” she laughs.

Out of state but still homegrown

Amiya’s college list had nearly a dozen schools, including several in Boston. "Coming from a small town in Vermont, I wanted to be in a big city,” she says. With so many applications to file, as well as signing up to take the SAT and ACT exams, she says she was grateful that VSAC covered her fees. “I liked having lots of options, but the costs would have added up, and without VSAC’s help, I wouldn’t have been able to apply to so many places.”

Amiya also credits Talent Search with honing her time management skills, “which are so important as a student athlete,” she says. Amiya is a member of the cross-country and track & field teams at UMass Boston, and specializes in the 800-meter and 1500-meter events. (Her hometown paper, the St. Albans Messenger, recently ran an article on Amiya’s budding college running career.) While she loves to run, she admits that “sometimes it can be a little stressful. For example, we had two meets the weekend before final exams, and we had practice every day the week before.”

A little more than halfway through her first year, Amiya has found her courses challenging, but she also feels well prepared. In particular, Amiya says she’s glad she took AP science courses at BFA, which deepened her interest in chemistry and biology and gave her a leg up on the material in her college classes. “I would definitely advise other kids to do the same,” she says.

She’s also found support and friendship through her Freshman Success Community, a program offered to first-year science and math majors at UMass Boston. The FSCs offer study groups, small-group seminar courses and connections to research and career opportunities.

One of the things she’s most looking forward to is the job opportunities among Boston’s many hospitals. “I’ll be submitting lots of applications for things. Katie has already written some recommendation letters for me,” she says, noting she’s just started a spring-semester job as a patient observer at Mass General.

She also feels very fortunate that she can return to Vermont over school breaks. “I like to see the kids playing in Taylor Park when I go home, and to go on runs up at Hard’Ack,” she says, referring to the wooded trails at St. Albans’ recreation area. “Here in Boston, everything moves at a fast pace. It’s nice to be able to take a step back.”