By Kurt Johnson
Photos by Bryant Livingston
Student-athletes across Utah County are doing their best to prove that there is a strong correlation between athletic competition and academic success. In highlighting some of these high-achieving young men and women, US Synthetic is recognizing some of Utah Valley’s STEM all-stars, athletes at 16 Utah County schools who have their eyes on furthering their educational pursuits in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math).
First up is a look at a pair of Provo High Bulldogs who have used success in the classroom to fuel athletic pursuits, and vice versa.
Abbey Harward, Provo High golf & cheer
It was just a few months ago, in May, at the end of her junior year at Provo High that Abbey Harward played a key role as the Bulldogs claimed the state golf championship. Harward was the No. 2 golfer for Provo at the state tournament, finishing 12th overall in the final individual results.
“It was so cool,” Harward said. “Last year (2013) we were 11th at state and we came in this year, we add Naomi Soifua and she’s incredible. We thought, ‘we can make this happen’ and we did. We worked from the middle of February when there was still snow on the ground all the way up until state and we just tried to keep getting better and we really pulled it off. It was fun.”
Harward, who is also a cheerleader for the Bulldogs, has excelled on the golf course, but that success and the time involved in achieving it has helped her with her time management skills, and that has been a big lift for the senior in the classroom.
“It helps me because it gives me something to do and I have to prioritize my time,” Harward said. “With practices after school and during school, I have to make sure my homework’s done and I’m not doing my homework late at night and then getting up early and failing my classes. Just prioritizing my time because I get busy.
“School isn’t hard for me, really. I have hard classes, but I enjoy learning and homework is important to me, so I get it done.”
Harward would like to attend college across the street from her current Provo High campus at Brigham Young University, but she is keeping her options open. She is enamored with STEM fields, and while she is still deciding on an undergraduate major, she is definitely headed towards the study of medicine.
“I’m really interested in the medical field,” Harward said. “I don’t know a specific profession. I enjoy math, I like science so that’s kind of what I’m interested in. My dad does nurse anesthesia and I think that’s pretty cool, maybe I’ll do that, but I don’t know. I’m really interested in people and the medical field. I’m not quite sure on the undergrad level, but for sure, medical school.”
Staying with hard things is something that Harward has learned in her busy life, and that is a characteristic that has helped her in her athletic pursuits and also in her school work.
“I think dedication is huge because golf can be frustrating and some math assignments and other things can be frustrating too, but just not giving up and wanting to get better and learn more, I think that really plays a huge role,” Harward said.
She has great advice for students who are just starting out on their high school journey as a student-athlete.
“I think really have a good attitude about it and want to be successful,” Harward said. “I think a lot of kids come into high school and think that it’s not a big deal and that it doesn’t matter. My mom always says that you’re earning money by doing well in school because you can get scholarships and your life will be so much better by being determined to do good.”
Donavan Minutes, Provo High football, wrestling and baseball
It’s hard to succeed in the classroom when you are a three-sport athlete. In an era of specialization, just being able to stick with three sports through a full high school career requires a special skill set, but to Provo High’s Donavan Minutes, he has never know any other way.
“It’s something I’ve been doing my entire life, so when people look at it and think that must be really hard, it’s just something I’ve always had to deal with is going to practice after school, come home and do homework and go to bed,” Minutes said. “Or, wake up in the morning to go to practice or wake early to do extra homework or weekends just put in the time and do all of that. It gets hard sometimes, but it’s not super difficult.”
Understanding the world and how it works intrigues Minutes, and the senior has a specific interest in fire science.
“There’s so many different places I can go with that, like if I want to be a firefighter, I’ll have that knowledge in the field and if I want to be a fire investigator, I will know how to do my job better and help other people,” Minutes said.
Minutes is inclined to learn about how to control and prevent the destruction that comes with fire, but his favorite high school classes have taught him to explore how to create things.
“”I really like” my metals class,” Minutes said. “I get to work with metal and build stuff and (it involves) engineering. There’s that one and my AP Physics class last year was really fun because it had to do with how things worked, not just necessarily numbers and math, just like life, how the universe works.”
Success for Minutes has come in large part because of something that he has learned from coaches in all three of his sports, where coaches have had a huge impact on his outlook.
“It helps me find respect for teachers more. I listen to my coaches and I respect them when they tell me, I do it,” Minutes said. “I’ve learned in high school to listen to adults and you take it the same way. If they’re telling you to do something, you do it. If they’re trying to help you with something you’re struggling with, you accept that help and don’t push it off, which is what I feel a lot of kids do.”
Minutes is still looking a lot different options when it comes to selecting a college at which to continue his education. While field of study will play a significant role, as he works with his parents to consider his options, he is also considering financial issues and location.
The three-sport competitor has learned different things from each sport in which he competes, but from all three he says that he has learned that things don’t always stay the same.
“They all relate because of the diversity,” Minutes said. “There’s not one sport where you can always say this is how it’s going to be. It’s always going to change. Football I would sum up as you work hard with your teammates on and off the field. Wrestling, it’s the time you put in is what you get out. If you don’t bust your butt on the mat in practice, you’re not going to be the same. Baseball, that’s a very mental game. You have to think about what I’m going to do in this situation, what I’m going to do when I get down in the count or when the ball comes to me.”
Abbey Harward and Donavan Minutes – Two talented student- athletes who provide further proof that STEM fields are well within reach for everyone, as they compete for the jobs of tomorrow.