Early in her essay, Rieko cited a Chinese proverb: “Nothing is impossible to a willing mind.” Her outstanding record in high school reflects this belief. As do her accomplishments outside the classroom, including her certification as a professional pianist by an international group associated with the Royal Schools of Music in the United Kingdom. She is frank in discussing the role a skin condition has played in motivating her goal of becoming a dermatologist, as well as much of her personal development. In one of her application essays, she wrote movingly about getting up around sunrise to gather donated foods and diapers for distribution by a food bank, then opening its doors at noon to welcome “the long line of friendly faces,” with the murmurs of ‘gracias’ and ‘thank you’ “that helped me realize that my appearance was overlooked, and my individuality radiated.” One of the reasons that she founded her school’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Team was that “As an individual who has challenged societal barriers, such as the ‘perfect’ body image, I strive to advocate about health and body image issues on the university campus, and onwards as a healthcare professional.” As her “resilience to continue breaking the bamboo ceiling perseveres,” she writes, “I aspire to become a mentor for Asian-American youth,” to “foster their growth into perceptive and impartial individuals.”  

The teacher who made the greatest difference for her, Rieko said, “is Bianca Brandon, who led my AP Biology and Forensic Science course.” Rieko cited her teacher’s “knowledgeable attitude, diverse Socratic discussions” and aid in the college application process as having “inspired me to confidently pursue higher education as a first-generation student as well as become a well-rounded, insightful student and individual.”

Many thanks to Terry Pristin’s pod for sponsoring Rieko through her college journey. 

Pod members: Sharon Benjamin, Susan Beckerman, Jane Karlin, Tamar Lewin and Robert Krulwich, Lynn Povich and Steve Shepard, Susan Shimmerlik and Don Brown, Ginger Thompson and Anthony Cavin, Jennie and Dick DeScherer, Robert and Donna Wolfson.