Prompt: Describe the world you come from, for example your family, clubs, school, community, city, or town. How has that world shaped your dreams and aspirations?

To succeed one must embody three skills: learning, living and loving. Each skill requires careful cultivation. Luckily, I’ve had excellent teachers.

Learning—intellectual curiosity and academic prowess—is an essential skill and hard to master, but early training made me proficient. When we were children, my older sister made up a program for me—Guy Academy. Though it was child’s play, it helped me conquer reading and math early, two things I’ve enjoyed ever since. As long as I can remember my family has, at the expense of other things, traveled and explored locales from Costa Rica to Quebec. At nine, while exploring St. Augustine’s Castillo de San Marcos, en route to Disney World, I observed that my parents “sure do like to teach us things on vacation.” Perhaps because it was originally a game, or because it was exciting and adventurous, learning became something I always saw as fun.

At age six, enrolled in FutureKids computer training center, I found a passion. Although what we did was simple, working with Microsoft Office applications, it seemed like magic. I experimented with programs and quickly became exceptional. My proficiency began with an ability to make 3D letters which no one could replicate, and by the end of first grade I was traveling around school fixing teachers’ technical problems. When computer resource specialists were hired, my principal quipped “we don’t need anybody, we have Donald.” Appropriately, FutureKids used “passports” to track student progress, because, driven by computers but expanding to other fields, I have explored a world of information. Employing “guidebooks” from Wikipedia to novels, I've taught myself many things, among them six programming languages.

One can’t survive on learning alone; there is more to living. Music, in various modes, is a large part of my life. Participation in bands, hand bell ensembles and choirs has taught me a lot about teamwork: playing my part and trusting in others that proper harmony will occur. Drama, also, enriches my life. Acting roles from an enchanted otter to an East German baseball player, I've come see theater as more than entertainment, a way for actor and audience to assume new perspectives and explore complexities of the world in an emotional rather than scientific light. I've also strived to experience some physical arts. I have a Black Belt in Taekwondo, Open Water Scuba Certification and done a lot of hiking and camping, most notably an 87 mile backpacking trip in the mountains of New Mexico with Boy Scouts. Successfully challenging the natural world gives me confidence, but spending time in it keeps me humble.

Both learning and living ultimately need a purpose to define them. This purpose is “loving,” not only in personal relationships but by caring for and helping people in general. I was raised in a very caring environment that stressed “giving back.” Boy Scouts also instilled this ideal and gave me opportunities to practice it through numerous service projects, both those I led and those of others. My upbringing was very open and non-authoritarian and, combined with the diverse perspectives of travel, gave me a pluralistic outlook in which tolerance is essential. I read widely about various philosophies and religions, old and new, and strive to understand and appreciate the common principles on which they stand.

My training to date makes me feel prepared to succeed wherever I end up in life. My goals and aspirations are to keep learning, keep living and keep loving. I sincerely hope that for the next four years, I can accomplish these at MIT.