Rachel Whitman was selected out of more than 250 applicants to travel on the “Ultimate Mentor Adventure,” sponsored by Disney and Marvel. Whitman is dual-enrolled at Kennesaw State University, and is an honor student at Cherokee High School.
“I am uncontrollably excited. … It feels unreal, I keep being afraid I’ll wake up,” Whitman said Friday. “Actually, doing this (contest), I’ve discovered that I am interested in either astrophysics or neuropsychology.”
The contest was aimed at young women who are interested in careers in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics areas, and part of the application process involved interviewing successful women in those fields.
“I contacted six ladies,” Whitman said. “One of the ladies was an astrophysicist at the California Institute of Technology. I also spoke with a neuropsychologist … the ladies were so engaging and helped pique my interest.”
The one-week trip concludes with recognition of the winners at a showing of Marvel’s new film, “Thor: The Dark World,” on opening day at the historic El Capitan Theatre.
Whitman said the waited “a few agonizing weeks” to hear back about her application, and learned Thursday night she had won.
“I was beginning to give up hope because it was 9 o’clock at night and I hadn’t gotten an email or a phone call,” Whitman said. “I was doing my homework … and I looked over … and it was a phone call from the greater L.A. area, and so I freaked out. I was very, uncontrollably excited.”
Whitman said that before the contest, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to do for a career, but was interested in STEM fields. She also said she was looking for a way to see the new Thor movie early, and this contest, with the combination of career exploration and her favorite superhero, was “literally perfect” for her.
“Thor was the first superhero movie I’d ever seen and I loved the mythology, so it instantly became my favorite movie,” Whitman said. “I’ve been super excited about the second one. … I saw this (contest) on my Facebook wall, and I thought, ‘Oh my goodness, this is like the answer from the heavens to my dreams!’”
Whitman said her high school was “the best school in the county,” and her teachers and peers were all very excited for her on Friday when she told them the news.
“My physics teacher was really excited for me,” Whitman said. “My friends all thought it was really cool and informed me that they’re very jealous and that I need to sneak them away (on the trip).”
She’s never seen the West Coast and Whitman said she was excited to go to California for the first time.
“I know that we’re going to be going behind-the-scenes of Dolby Laboratories, we’re going to be interviewing some women in science, participating in some activities,” Whitman said.
Whitman said she plans to continue going to Kennesaw State University for a while, then hopes to transfer to either the Georgia Institute of Technology or the University of Georgia, so she can use the Georgia Hope Scholarship to help pay for college.