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Rachel Newell

Bala Cynwyd Middle School, Bala Cynwyd, PA; Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA
B.A. Political Science, University of California-Berkeley
Student, Harvard Law School

What did you gain in TSA?

I did not know I wanted to be a lawyer when I was a TSA member. But looking back on my choice of competitions, it makes sense that I gravitated toward the events that focused on public speaking, researching, and writing. And while my skills in those areas certainly improved through TSA, I think the intangible gains have been the most important. Besides leadership and teamwork skills, the key gain from TSA is being comfortable, even when I may realize that I have no idea to a particular answer. Remaining calm in the face of uncertainty is crucial, and TSA helped me relish these challenges and learn how to confidently step up and begin thinking through and researching possible solutions. I learned that the harm is not in saying “I don’t know,” but in not wanting to find out.

The way TSA encouraged me to learn from fellow members has set me up incredibly well for my career. I do not just treat my initial answers as the right ones, but I am eager to learn from colleagues, clients, and peers to see if my own thinking can be further honed. I am more confident in collaborating, asking for help, and realizing when I need to gain a better understanding. My career involves never knowing what kind of problems you will face day to day, and it has been immensely helpful to have worked through the fear of uncertainty and not knowing, early on. Now I can just relish the adventure of figuring things out.

What advice do you have for current TSA student members?

Don't forget to laugh. Naturally, not when you are trying to run a business meeting or get through a finalist interview. But at some point along the way (actually, a ton of points), things are going to go wrong. But if you take it too seriously, you are going to be so caught up in obsessing over a trophy or winning a leadership title, that you let amazing, smaller moments pass you by. It has been nearly eight years since my last competitive conference, and you can rest assured I have not carted my trophies with me to law school. My officer badges do not sit on my bookshelf next to my notebooks. When I look back on my time in TSA. the things I cherish most are the hiccups, the silly moments, the laughter shared with teammates, advisors, fellow officers, and even my competitors.

You are going to spend far more of your TSA career in the lead up to competition. What I think you will find, once you graduate, is that you are not missing the awards ceremony or the finalist interview. What you will miss keenly are the chapter meetings, spirit dinners, and teamwork sessions. It is totally fine to care about results and accomplishments, but care about them because of the journey you took to get there. The better you become at enjoying the process, the more successful you will be.