Extraordinary Teen Awards 2015

Our second annual teen competition honors outstanding high school students in Arlington, Falls Church and McLean.

Photo by Michael Ventura

Adriana Macieira Mitchell

Washington-Lee High School

When Adriana Macieira Mitchell heads to the University of Arizona this fall, she’ll be trading one passion—easy access to Eden Center’s Vietnamese restaurants—for another. The desert “is a great location for putting telescopes up,” says the 17-year-old Washington-Lee grad.

The young astronomer has long reached for the stars, ever since the days when her family frequented the David M. Brown Planetarium in Arlington. “I always thought it was so cool how we were just a speck,” she explains, referring to “Pale Blue Dot,” the 1990 image of a tiny distant Earth snapped by Voyager 1.

Those childhood excursions no doubt triggered several interests that have shaped Macieira Mitchell’s life: flying planes (she is working toward a private pilot’s license); making art (she works in pen-and-ink and 3-D media and dreams of adding a new mural to the existing array at the National Air & Space Museum); and studying space.

She’s already making headway on the latter passion, having been twice chosen to participate in the Virginia Space Coast Scholars Academy and other NASA-sponsored events for students pursuing science and technology careers. Those adventures laid the groundwork for her Senior Experience this year, for which she was invited to work with a propulsion group at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

A member of Washington-Lee’s Color Guard, Macieira Mitchell has played the piano since age 6 and has long been active in Girl Scouts. She’s also a National Achievement Scholarship Finalist, a National Hispanic Recognition Program Scholar, and a recipient of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Medal (a scholarship granted to math and science students). She graduated with a 4.2 GPA.

In high school’s waning days, she and her closest friends made a pact that after their final physics exam, they would order pizza and watch the movie Mean Girls, taking a much-deserved break.

“Adriana is a creative, witty, dedicated and centered person,” writes her mom, Marjorie, “and she has a wonderfully curious mind.”     —Amy Rogers Nazarov