Catherine Martsolf graduated from Delaware Valley Friends School in 2013. While part of our school community, Catherine demonstrated strengths as a scholar, athlete and leader. She continues to give back to DVFS as an alumni mentor and recently spoke with Glenn Heck’s engineering class about career opportunities in that field. Catherine is currently studying Environmental Engineering with a focus on water quality and storm water management at Temple University where she was recently elected President of the Temple University chapter of Society of Women Engineers.
When did you come to DVFS, and from where?
I attended DVFS from 7th – 12th grade after graduating from Lansdowne Friends School. Having Quaker values present at school, such as community, stewardship, equality, etc., was helpful in my transition. I remember choosing DV because it was a school that valued character and life-long learning, as well as scholarship, in and beyond the classroom. Now, while studying Environmental Engineering, I find I discovered my interest in caring about the environment and stewardship from my earlier years and opportunities at DV.
Can you tell us a little bit about your learning difference and struggles in school?
At DV, I wanted to continue nurturing the natural student in me and have supportive teachers. I had been exposed to feeling left behind in classroom discussions and projects before enrolling and those experiences made me feel inadequate as a learner.
What changed for you at DVFS?
When I came to DVFS, everything just got easier. I did not feel anxious anymore about attending school and I was excited to learn. I found more confidence, and I felt I had the freedom to challenge myself - that is something I just did not have prior to DV. And I don’t believe I would have that if I had gone elsewhere. DV also invested in me and my peers to attend conferences like the Quaker Youth Leadership Conference and Hugh O’ Brien Youth Leadership Conference. Attending a school that cared about my growth in and outside of the classroom and athletic field had a significant impact on my life.
Do you have any special memories from your time at DVFS?
I ran cross country, played basketball, and tennis year-round along with running half-marathons and juggling leadership roles and classwork. Specific memories always stay with you after you graduate from a place like DV, especially with all the great teachers I was surrounded by. One memory in particular stands out to me and impacted me the most: The Girls Varsity Basketball spring trip to Jordan and the community service we did while there. This experience inspired me to pursue a degree in water quality and resource management. Other memories include the ABLE trip hiking the Adirondack Mountains, celebrating Teacher Appreciation Day, visiting PA School for Deaf for an ASL class trip. I enjoyed late nights and long days at Tri-County League tournaments in tennis, basketball, and cross country (as well as witnessing lacrosse championships). I appreciated how DV celebrated sports and that there was no trying out for the team; each athlete’s gifts and effort were accepted and valued.
What are you doing now? If in school, where and what are you studying? What do you plan to do upon graduation?
I am pursuing a BS in Environmental Engineering with a focus on water quality and storm water management at Temple University. I was co-coordinator for Temple’s Eye-to-Eye chapter, as I had also been at DV, and I am on the Executive Board for Temple Society of Women Engineers (SWE). I am also serving on National SWE Strategic Planning Committee, where we are discussing ways to encourage and increase male advocates for women in the engineering field. After graduating, I plan to get LEED GA accredited, earn a Masters in Environmental Science and get my Professional Engineer (P.E.) license. The field I am in and the rigorous coursework calls for a great level of determination and my work ethic was nurtured at DV. I want to practice environmental remediation and storm water management, especially in developing countries, upon graduating.
What do you think the long-term value of a DVFS education has been for you?
The lasting value of a DV education was having supportive teachers who inspired me, and made me realize my worth in all realms. I had teachers who knew and cared about me, as they do for all their students. Attending DV helped me understand the way I learn best and practice taking initiative in my classes to advocate for my learning style. Everything I know about learning and leading has originated from DV. DV emphasized in me how great it is to serve those around you -- to give back.
Anything else you would like to share about your DVFS experience?
I love DVFS. Our society is slowly de-stigmatizing the label of LD. Different learners make and create great feats in engineering, art, and science (and so much more). And if different thinkers are discouraged from learning, the world loses an entire population of great minds. Without DV, I don’t know if I would be the student I am today. Thank you!