Reflection on Innovation, from a Senior's perspective

From Hannah Lederman, LFSF Senior

– from Hannah's speech, delivered at the 2019 LFSF Auction Gala


My name is Hannah Lederman and I’m a senior at the Lycée Français de San Francisco [LFSF]. I’m in the Science track of the Baccalauréat with a focus on STEM (science, tech, engineering, math) classes and a concentration in Computer Science.

To me, innovation is everything from building apps to creating lipstick. I was always really creative when I was little, going to the library on the 5th floor of Ashbury’s campus and taking out books on arts and crafts.

Innovation has always fostered creativity, pushed me to the limit, to strive for the most. When I first started at the Lycée, I struggled speaking French since my mom is American and my dad is Colombian. Ever since pre-school, I needed to push harder than the others to reach the same results. Throughout my journey, I’ve faced similar challenges. But it is through those trials that I learn to grow.

Innovation really struck me in High School. This time, the challenge was being a girl in a field dominated by men: technology. Despite living in Silicon Valley, I was never interested in what I thought was a world of sitting in front of a computer typing weird letters and numbers or engineering. A documentary called “Code Girls” about the all-girls app-building competition, Technovation, was shown to all students in the auditorium in 9th grade. With the encouragement of my counselors, I went out on a limb and decided to join Technovation. None of my friends were interested and frankly I was a little bit put off by coding. But once I joined, I never once looked back. My counselor and the other girls in the club lifted me up and showed me the ropes of researching target markets, developing business plans and ultimately I took on some coding. Since my first year, the club has almost tripled in size. What is exciting about this year’s Fund for the Future is that it will not only foster this type of innovation, but also the social-emotional learning aspect for an under-represented member, like me,  in the STEM field.

Last year, StartUp Lycée was the moment I knew entrepreneurship was my niche. My team created a necklace with the goal of detecting date rape drugs. We travelled to Chicago and New York City. There, we attended the Hult Prize Finale and saw college-aged students pitch their ideas. Seeing the potential and how innovation only fosters more growth, encourages me every day to take risks.

Innovation is trying new things and bulldozing through any obstacle. Innovation has no boundaries. People will brainstorm, create, develop ideas no matter what. For me, Lycée had clubs to show me how innovation can be a career. Now we even have a lab so that other students make sure their innovations become reality. The teachers also create innovative math classes by having us write algorithms to solve calculus problems.

I’m attending Columbia University in New York next year where I will join entrepreneurship clubs and even take some computer science classes. I have not declared a major but one thing I’ve learned in my past 14 years at LFSF is innovation has no set up path, it changes and will even surprise you. My proof is that I went from a little girl struggling to learn French to one who can officially add Python to her list of languages.

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