By Sarbjeet Kaur
Sophia Azim smiles at me warmly when the Google Meet finally loads. Through the grainy quality of the face call, I see her swaying slightly in a swivel chair, an arm wrapped around a propped knee and loose strands of dark hair sticking out from her ponytail. She is clad in a gray hoodie, at ease as I pulled out my phone to begin recording our conversation.
She had stood in the Oak Creek Common Council hall a year earlier, presenting her policy of adding student representatives to the school board. Now a member of two years, Azim continues to be involved in school activities and representing her classmates.
“I like to call them my core four; student council, Best Buddies, HOSA, and Band,” she says while ticking them off her fingertips. “I’m vice-president for Student Council and president for Best Buddies, HOSA, and NHS. I was also on the Swim Team for two years but then I quit because I hated it,” she admits with a chuckle, “it was not a fun time.”
Azim is passionate about her work. As we exchange conversation, she shares her interests and it’s easy to see her dedication is fueled by genuine interest. “I really love band and playing music. When I was younger, I played piano but I wasn’t the best. But now I’ve started playing songs I want to learn and I’ve gotten a lot better.”
Besides music, Azim recalls her short list of culinary experiences and her goal to expand her palate–especially desserts–while touring different countries. With balancing a busy schedule and the constant workload from her classes, Azim tells how important spending time with her family and friends is for her, especially with her brother. “I’m pretty tight with my family. We’re very close and we talk about everything. They’re always pushing me to be my best but I’m grateful that they back off sometimes and say, “OK, you do what you gotta do.” They’ve never been the type to constantly check on me or pressure me, which I appreciate.”
Azim’s future requires a strong work ethic, but her love for the subject makes it something she is willing to dedicate her life to. “I want to find better treatments for kids with IDD–which are intellectual and developmental disabilities–and I want to study to become a neuropsychiatrist,” she says as she explains her complicated plans of degrees and the inevitable stress of medical school.
“Last summer, I was part of a Harvard summer program where I got to work with a neuroscience research lab and we studied how infants’ brains changed because of the medication they needed for surgery to treat this esophagus disease,” Azim recalls, an awkward smile on her face when she mentions Harvard. “I don’t want to sound like that. But it was really interesting.”
Her passion for neuroscience isn’t a recent interest, though. “I’ve grown up with most of the special ed kids in our grade. They’re just genuinely such nice and kind people, and it makes me sad other people don’t see that in them? And they just push them in a corner and say, “Oh, we don’t talk to them; it’s so mysterious.” But it’s not! They’re just like everybody else. They’re probably nicer than your friends,” she jokes. “I feel like it’s become a culture to think they’re separate but I really wish that would change.”
A humble but fierce force drives Sophia Azim. Her powerful motivation to contribute to treating mental disabilities and change the stigmatic view on those with special needs, alongside her school successes, make her more than just an All-Around All-Star. Azim envisions a better future and works hard to achieve it, all the while visiting a couple European food tours along the way.