Student hones future at Ivy League conference

Peotone High School sophomore Kelsey Presto went to Harvard last summer.

While it was just for a weekend to attend the Congress of Future Science and Technology Leaders, hosted by the Harvard-based National Academy of Future Scientists and Technologists in the Boston area, Presto heard from some of the world’s greatest scientific minds at the elite gathering.

“It’s an experience you can’t match,” principal Craig Fantin said. “An opportunity like that certainly has the potential to motivate her to lean toward that type of career as she goes through high school and, hopefully, maintain those same aspirations when she goes to college.”

Described by her chemistry teacher Nicole Phelps as “an extremely hardworking, dedicated student who has a deep knowledge of science and is always asking questions,” Presto stepped out of chemistry class to answer a few questions — after taking notes, of course.

Why science? What makes it so interesting to you?

I like the forensics. I really want to get into that. Actually, watching TV shows such as “NCIS” and “Law & Order SVU” is what sparked my interest in the field.

What was it like to represent Peotone High School at Harvard?

It was really cool because, coming from such a small town, I got to meet people from all over the place. It was interesting to hear their perspectives. It wasn’t really intimidating, but no one had ever heard of Peotone, Ill.

What was it like to be around so many like-minded peers?

It was nerve-wracking at first, but we were all just interested in the same things so it was cool to meet people my age with similar mindsets.

How did you react when you found out you were nominated by a teacher as a freshman and selected to attend the conference?

It was a big surprise. Even though the topics might not be exactly what I’m going into because it wasn’t just about forensics, I knew it would be a really good opportunity.

What was a favorite part?

One of the speakers told us about spending an entire summer as a kid looking for a new molecule. That’s all he did. While I would never want to do that, he was 13 when he did it so that was pretty cool to hear.

How did listening to and learning from some of the top minds in science impact you now and your aspirations for the future?

I realized I am interested in it for sure, because I was interested in everything they had to say. It assured me that I wanted to do something in science and work to keep my 4.0 GPA.

Your dad traveled with you. What did he think about the conference?

Since he had to sit in the back, whenever I came out he would say, “I even found that interesting.” Well, that’s because it was.

So what’s up this summer? Going to check out Stanford or Yale?

I was thinking I actually might want to look at Stanford or Yale. I don’t know that I’m interested in Harvard, but I guess I’ll have to check out the rivals now.