With fearlessness and a penchant for trying new things, Roxbury’s Maia Raynor-French seems to have done it all. The articulate and bubbly teen, a sophomore at the Winsor School in Roxbury’s Longwood area, excels in language, science, volunteer work, athletics, music and arts.
Raynor-French, 15, found her way to the Winsor School with the help of Boston’s Steppingstone Foundation, a program that prepares urban students for acceptance into local independent schools. After her 4th grade teacher in public school recommended the program to her mother, Raynor-French applied and was accepted.
For the next 14 months, she spent her weekends and summer vacation taking extra enrichment classes.
The work paid off.
Raynor-French applied and was accepted as a 6th-grader to a host of independent schools in Boston and ultimately chose Winsor because she “felt really comfortable there.”
Raynor-French has been there ever since.
She is the 10th grade now and one of her favorite subjects is Spanish, which she has studied for almost 5 years. But for her the language goes far beyond the walls of the classroom.
Raynor-French became interested in learning Spanish because many of her Roxbury neighbors spoke the language. Her willingness to learn means she can better communicate with her neighbors. “It’s kinda fun to walk around and say, ‘I know what you’re saying!’” she said.
But Roxbury is not the only place where Spanish comes in handy. Last spring, Raynor-French traveled with her school to the Dominican Republic for a community service trip, and found that she was able to speak easily with her host family.
“There were some times when there were language barriers, but then I would talk about baseball, and then it’d be ok,” she said.
Working with Healthy Stoves, a program affiliated with the Peace Corps, Raynor-French helped to build kitchen stoves for families without them. “It was really hard, it was a lot of work, but it was really fun and I learned a lot,” she said.
In addition to Spanish, Raynor-French said she loves science — so much so that she spent her spring break this year working on a project for a science competition. The contest required her to write about new scientific research conducted in New England. Raynor-French chose MIT’s innovative solar energy work. “It’ll help conserve the world — it’s a good thing,” she explained.
Raynor-French said that science “comes easy” to her in part because she has been exposed to it since childhood. Her grandfather had a deep interest in science and helped develop a similar passion in his granddaughter.
Outside school, Raynor-French also shines as a three-sport athlete in field hockey, softball and curling. Like many girls her age, she has been playing field hockey and softball for several years, but unlike most, she picked up curling this year.
“No one understands it so I think it’s cool to explain it, especially with the Winter Olympics,” she said. “I really like sports. It’s not like I’m a jock, I just like being part of a team.”
But Raynor-French also flourishes alone. In her spare time, she enjoys creative writing and art as a form of introspection. While her poems and short stories have been published in her school’s literary magazine, and a piece of her artwork won a citywide award, Raynor-Frence explains, “mostly they’re just for me, to get everything out.”
Right now, Raynor-French’s dream is to attend college and become a family psychologist. Family is an important influence for Raynor-French — she said they are her motivation in life — so she wants to make sure others have the same support system.
“Everything that happens to you is based on your family,” the teen explained, “so it’s interesting to help people with their family problems so they can help themselves.”
When asked what advice she would give to other students, she said simply, “Don’t be afraid to branch out.”