Junior Isabela Segarra Unplugged: Planting 250 trees, teaching English to a student in Ecuador and why The Beatles are the best band

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Junior Isabela Segarra poses with her mother, who is one of Segarra’s biggest role models.

Emily Wyrwa, Feature Editor

Junior Isabela Segarra starts her Tuesday and Thursday afternoons by deciding what music video she’s going to start her lessons with. As with many aspects of her life, she often finds the solution to be The Beatles or Billy Joel. 

 

She has found that music transcends language, an important thing when tutoring an Ecuadorian student in English. 

 

“I realized there’s a lot of aspects to learning English, and one of the most difficult things I saw for [my student] was understanding fast paced English, which is normal pace for us, but for her it felt impossible,” Segarra said. “So now every session, I start off with a music video, something not too vulgar, just something like The Beatles or Billy Joel…. I just want her to understand that way if she ever hears a phrase again she knows what it means because a lot of songs usually have phrases that aren’t necessarily proper English, but they are commonly used.”

 

Segarra started tutoring in January 2021 when a friend of hers sent her the application to a program. Her friend had found the opportunity but without Spanish fluency, immediately thought of Segarra. Segarra submitted the application without much thought of what could come of it, but working with her student Amelia has become one of the most rewarding and valuable experiences of her life. 

 

“I think the most inspiring thing is just seeing how dedicated she is compared to [students] in the US,” Segara said. “I don’t want to generalize but [learning a second language is] not taken as seriously [here]. We definitely take it but it’s not, at least I personally did not feel like I was going to become fluent in French by the end of eighth grade. Over there, she was dead set on [becoming fluent]. In school she’s always trying her best; she’s telling me how she’s improved in her English class and how she works her hardest and it just amazes me and it makes me want to be a better tutor because I know she’s willing to learn as much as possible. It’s amazing.” 

 

When she’s not lesson planning, Segarra fills most of her time at work, which she thoroughly enjoys. She works behind the scenes at a mechanic shop. After school, she throws on a classic blue mechanic’s outfit – despite working in the office, it can get dirty – puts on her boots and gets in her car. On the way, she blasts The Beatles with the windows down and feels very adult when she complains over the lack of parking at work. But the second she walks into the shop, she forgets the paralyzing fear that strikes her when she worries that the massive trucks might not see her small frame or her comparatively tiny car. 

 

Most of Segarra’s time at work is spent with her favorite thing: numbers. 

 

“[Working with numbers is] so soothing,” she said. “It just makes sense to me. [English is] a little bit too creative sometimes, and I feel like sometimes it’s a little too subjective, but with numbers, it’s just one and so you’re either right or wrong. And it’s so calming to add everything and make sure everything adds up.  When everything adds up it’s like pure happiness for me because I did everything right.” 

 

In college, Segarra is planning on studying business and mechanical engineering, and perhaps minoring in Mandarin to accomplish her goal of fluency in another language. Until then, though, Segarra is dedicating her time to her and fellow junior Jenna Lee’s club: Go Green Initiative. 

 

From a young age, Segarra’s parents emphasized the importance of caring for the environment. She vividly recalls them educating her grandmother on the value of recycling and making green choices wherever possible when Segarra was particularly young. From the get-go, she’s wanted to ensure the Earth is protected. 

 

“[When I was younger], I felt like ‘I’m powerless; there’s nothing I could do as one person,’” Segara said. “I can try to help all I want, but in the end, unless we all collaborate together there’s not much I can do by myself. But then at the same time I was like, I’m one person; I have a voice; I have to use that voice.” 

 

Segarra and Lee channeled their mutual environmental passion into their SPFHS club Go Green Initiative at the start of their junior years, and their endeavors have been a massive success. They have amassed a substantial membership, organized a successful cleanup and notably collected 250 trees through a program organized by the national Go Green Initiative. 

 

“It was this amazing program where you could purchase trees for $5, and then, you would set a goal,” Segara said. “We used the 2018-2019 school year, I believe, and we asked the office how much paper [SPFHS] used. And then we made a small calculation to determine the amount of trees we should sell to balance the amount of paper, which was 240, and we surpassed that goal and we reached 250. We’re really proud of that.”

 

Before we logged off of FaceTime, I asked Segarra to give me her 30-second life story. It took her all of a split second to say, “Hi, I’m Isabela, and I’m a curious person, and when you look at my resume, it might not make sense, because some things don’t add up, but I like trying new things. I feel like I’m in a great position to learn everything I can, and kind of just discover what I like what I don’t, so if it doesn’t add up, I’m not going to apologize for it because I really care about what I put my time into.”

 

Photo: Photo courtesy of Isabela Segarra

Junior Isabela Segarra poses with her mother, who is one of Segarra’s biggest role models.