When Amanda d’Almeida went to China last June to work in the Chao Yong orphanage outside Beijing, the experience changed the course of her life and brought her goals into sharp focus.
D’Almeida joined 12 others from the Coupeville area on a non-denominational mission through the Living Hope Foursquare Church. Working with physically and mentally handicapped children in the orphanage, d’Almeida, 17, learned that she wants to be someone whose life means something to the poor and neglected of the world.
“It was humbling, shocking and emotionally difficult,” d’Almeida said. “But it was life-changing for me, and I want to go back.”
D’Almeida, a senior at Coupeville High School, hopes to become a doctor and work with Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), an international medical humanitarian organization that provides medical aid in nearly 70 countries to those most in need.
“I’ve always wanted to serve people with my life,” d’Almeida said. “Going to China and seeing the needs in the orphanage made me see how I could do that by becoming a doctor.”
D’Almeida has had the constant support of her parents, grandparents, mentors and teachers throughout her life, and acknowledges her good fortune and her responsibility to excel. A 4.0 student, she challenges herself by taking Advanced Placement classes, independent study and adding another foreign language to her resume with Running Start Spanish classes through Skagit Valley College. She has already taken three years of German at Coupeville High School.
As a sophomore, d’Almeida participated in the National History Day competition with partner Nathan Lamb and they placed 9th. She has also competed in Science Olympiad for the past three years.
D’Almeida contributes to the Coupeville High School Jazz Band as an alto sax player, and to the Associated Student Body as ASB Treasurer.
“I love all subjects,” d’Almeida said. “Sometimes in a small school like Coupeville, you don’t get challenged, but teachers here have challenged me.”
She cited English teachers Barbara Ballard and Sandy Moore, as well as math teacher Kyle Nelson among those who have held up high standards for her.
The d’Almeida family moved to Coupeville when Amanda was 12. Her dad, Dan, teaches math and science at Coupeville High School, and her mother, Cathy, works for the Town of Coupeville as the sustainable community coordinator. Brother Dawson, 14, is a freshman at Coupeville.
D’Almeida and her parents have been looking at colleges for next year, and have narrowed the search down to schools that offer rigorous academics and strong liberal arts – Whitman in Walla Walla, Haverford in Pennsylvania, Carlton in Minnesota and Scripps in California.
D’Almeida is looking to play soccer in college, and has been recruited by some schools for her natural talent in the sport she’s been playing since 4th grade. She’s been captain of the Coupeville Wolves girls’ team since she was a sophomore, and also plays soccer off-Island for the Northwest Nationals women’s team.
In the community, d’Almeida mentors an 8th grade girl through the Big Brothers, Big Sisters program, and helped with children’s activities on the Whidbey Island Farm Tour through her membership in the National Honor Society.
Last summer, after returning from China, d’Almeida job-shadowed a local pediatrician, Dr. Gabriel Barrio.
“I learned so much about anatomy and physiology from Dr. Barrio, but most of all I learned about interacting with patients,” d’Almeida said.
Knowing what she wants to do with her life keeps her motivated, she said.
“I have all these amazing opportunities and I want to take advantage of them so I can do meaningful work helping others,” she said.