Standing in front of six hundred students, I was surprised that my legs weren’t shaking. I adjusted the microphone and announced with great enthusiasm, “Welcome to Louisiana Mu Alpha Theta State Convention 2018!” The last syllable was lost in cheers and applause. It was my last State Convention, and as the president, I was determined to make it the best one to give back to the community. Mu Alpha Theta had been inspiring me to discover mathematics and leadership since freshman year.
My freshman year at Episcopal was also my first year in the United States. As an international student, I felt lost. As I was struggling to find my place in the new environment, Mrs. Moroney invited me to my first Mu Alpha Theta tournament at Ben Franklin High School. That Saturday, I woke up at 6:30 in the morning, ready to take a math test. The tournament, however, turned out to be so much fun. I participated in an individual test, a four-person team test, and an interschool test. I enjoyed debating problems with my peers as well as walking up the stage to receive our ribbons after our team name was announced at the award ceremony. I attended more tournaments at St. Paul’s, Catholic, and Baton Rouge High, and prepared myself for my first State Convention. Math had never been so interesting. I started to challenge myself with the involved problems I used to avoid. I found math.
The State Convention is a three- day math event held in late March or early April every year. Mathletes from across Louisiana gather at Crowne Plaza Executive Center Baton Rouge, playing math games and making new friends. At the convention, there are various math games, and I participated in Ciphering. I was given fifteen problems, and I had to solve each of them within two minutes. If I turned in a correct answer during the first minute, I would gain four points. A second-minute answer, however, would only give me one point. The top four players of the top four schools compete against each other at the Math Bowl. I enjoyed trying to process math quickly and being competitive. On Friday night, after doing math all day, we had fun at the dance, the karaoke, and the board games. At the convention, I worked my brain so hard and met so many interesting people that I felt like three days were too short. I found my place.
By the end of my junior year, Mu Alpha Theta had become part of my identity. I wasn’t the smartest kid in math classes and didn’t always place in tournaments. My sponsors and peers never made me feel bad about myself. The passionate, supportive community inspired me to keep working hard. Trying to get more involved, I told Mrs. Sofranko about my plan to run for State President next year. At the Convention, I gave a sincere speech straight out of my heart. However, I almost couldn’t finish it since I was too nervous speaking in front of everyone. People somehow understood what I was saying and rewarded me the loudest applause I’d ever received. I was elected. On March 22nd, 2018, there I was, speaking confidently at the opening ceremony as the State President. The community had been so supportive that I wasn’t even scared of public speaking anymore. I found a brand new me.
Episcopal Mathletes performed well at the Convention. Next year, as more students get involved, our goal is to win Sweepstakes!
Wendy Wang, as an international student from Jinan, China, has been a member of the Episcopal community since her freshman year. As a senior this year, Wendy serves as the president of Louisiana Mu Alpha Theta and an Episcopal Writing Fellow. She will continue her education at Emory University this fall, possibly majoring in Statistics and minoring in Creative Writing.