By Katie McFadden
Many teens will be getting ready for beach days and parties with friends and family this holiday weekend. For Ava Guglielmo, a 17-year-old from Neponsit, she’ll be traveling the country, putting her brain to the test nationally, becoming the first teen in her school to complete a whirlwind trip to present original research at a national psychological science convention in Washington, D.C., followed by competing in a national speech and debate competition in Louisville, KY, and back by Memorial Day to enjoy a day on the beach.
As a high school student, Guglielmo knows the importance of extracurriculars and has been taking full advantage of them during her time at Sacred Heart Academy in Hempstead. Coming from P.S. 114 and then Scholars’ Academy, the junior had her eyes on Long Island schools, where she spends a lot of time swimming, and she chose Sacred Heart for the community feel of an all-girls Catholic High School.
In between maintaining great grades, Guglielmo has been active on the school’s swim team, which won the state championship this year, the badminton team, co-president of mock trial, a participant in research clubs and has been playing saxophone for the past 10 years, including for the school’s band, so she knows what it means to be consistently busy. This weekend will be no different, but it sure is a big one for Ava.
As a student in AP Research, back in December, Guglielmo’s teacher Dr. Steve Sullivan encouraged her to submit her work for consideration by the Association for Psychological Science (APS) to be invited to their annual convention to share her work. For a convention that features work from undergrad students to those going for their PhDs, it is something high school seniors are often selected to attend as they prepare for college, but only a limited number of juniors are invited to. Guglielmo took a chance submitting her work. “It’s a really cool opportunity as a junior,” she said.
She got in. Guglielmo is one of two juniors going with a group of 10 Sacred Heart students down to Washington, D.C. to present their research, network and learn about different projects from more advanced students from across the country at the national APS convention.
On Thursday, May 25, the group, along with Dr. Sullivan and a chaperone, are taking a train down to Washington, D.C. They’ll enjoy some of the attractions like museums and monuments, but Guglielmo is looking forward to presenting her research on the mental health of working mothers who balance household duties while working. “I’m excited. I’ve never been to anything like this before. I wanted to do this before senior year, that was my goal from the beginning of the year and I’m excited to see what other researchers are doing, especially those working on PhD level. I definitely want to do research in the future. It’s a really cool field,” Guglielmo said.
But it’s only one part of a big weekend adventure. On Friday night, Guglielmo will be hopping on a plane to Louisville, KY to pursue one of her other passions—speech and debate. Over the weekend, Guglielmo will be competing in the 2023 National Catholic Forensic League (NCFL) Grand National Tournament, by putting her debate skills to the test. She will be among roughly a thousand students from across the country competing in different speech and debate categories. As part of the Congress team, Guglielmo will be tasked with debating over certain mock bills, that she, as a pretend Congress member, will have to argue over.
Being invited to both national student programs is something Guglielmo had her eyes set on. “My teacher thinks I’m crazy, but I knew I was going to do this. I had to apply to APS in December and I knew I wouldn’t find out about Nationals for speech and debate until March, and I didn’t not want to do APS and then not qualify for Nationals, so I didn’t want to do nothing instead of potentially doing both,” she said.
Her research teacher, Dr. Sullivan, couldn’t be prouder. “Ava is a very impressive student and a really nice kid. For a high school student to go to APS is one thing, but to do both is incredible. For a student to go to anything national is a big deal,” Dr. Sullivan said.
Guglielmo is the second Sacred Heart Academy student to qualify for both APS and Nationals for speech and debate, but the previous student’s plans were derailed when the programs were cancelled by Covid, so Guglielmo will be the first to attend both programs. She’s honored to set an example for future students. “It’s nice to be paving the way for people who want to do it next year,” she said.
As for paving her own way, Guglielmo will be continuing her extracurriculars and getting ready to apply to college next year. On her top three list is Duke, the University of Virginia and Georgetown. Guglielmo had been considering pursuing pre-med, but after excelling in speech and debate and research, she’s considering pursuing those further. “I realized I really like congressional politics. Even though I do like science and always wanted to be a doctor, I enjoy sitting in congress talking about politics. Through mock trial, I realized I want to do to something with law and research related. I think with that combination, I’ll find something I’m passionate about,” she said.
In the meantime, ahead of senior year, Guglielmo will be hitting the beach for her second year of lifeguarding on Rockaway. NYC Parks already asked her to report to duty, but school comes first, so she plans to be in the chair with whistle in hand in June. As for now, she’s looking forward to the busy weekend. “I’m really excited. I feel like it will be fun to be in Kentucky with so many kids from so many schools and at APS seeing new projects and getting contacts,” she said. And after her whirlwind trip to the Nation’s Capital and Kentucky, Guglielmo will be back in time for Memorial Day. “I plan to go to the beach,” she said.