APA Alum to US: Failure as Opportunity

Ms. Natalie Shammas (APA ’14) addresses the US students

Staff Reports

Ms. Natalie Shammas, an inpirational APA alumna (Class of 2014) and soon-to-be Duke University graduate (’18), spoke to the Parrott US students today, in Ellis Simon Student Activity Center, and the Greenville native had an uncommon message: Failure is to be welcomed.

“Failure is feedback that directs you along to another path,” said Shammas, who was introduced by SGA president Hannah Scott Avery.

Shammas highlighted the fact that her college career did not go exactly as planned.

“I wanted my success in college to be a straight line, one where I ostensibly delcare some kind of major, choose a certain career path, and be done with it. And I quickly learned that this kind of thinking would never lead me to find what I was passionate about,” said Shammas, who has interned for the WNBA Atlanta Dream the past three summers.

Shammas, whose brothers Mike and Ronnie also graduated from APA, addressed the need for student flexibility and curiosity – even in the face of defeat –  when choosing a major or life path.

“I am here to talk to you all about the benefits of failure and uncertainty,” said Shammas, who will intern for Google this summer. “What I am here to tell you about are my rejections, the multiple times I’ve had to be redirected, and the many instances I was left feeling confused and doubtul about my capabilities.”

SGA President Hannah Scott Avery (l.) and APA alum Natalie Shammas | Staff photos

Shammas encouraged students to remain open-minded and welcoming to new ideas.

“Just because you’re good at biology here at Parrott doesn’t mean that you have to be a pre-med (student) in college,” said Shammas, the president this year of Duke’s Business Oriented Women (BOW). “And just because you’re really invested in STEM classes here doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t explore the Humanities later on.”

Shammas, the president of the National Senior Beta Club and a Governor School attendee while at Parrott, left a message to all high schoolers that they should walk their own paths.

“I want to tell you that you should never, ever let anyone’s perception of what you they think you can or cannot do affect you,” said Shammas. “This is your story to write and your path to navigate, so truly make them yours.”

(Below is the poem “If” by Rudyard Kipling, cited by Shammas as an inspirational verse she discovered in Mrs. Leigh Adams’ class in MS.)


If you can keep your head when all about you

Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,

If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,

But make allowance for their doubting too;

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,

Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,

Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,

And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two impostors just the same;

If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken

Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,

Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,

And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings

And never breathe a word about your loss;

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,

Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,

If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,

If all men count with you, but none too much;

If you can fill the unforgiving minute

With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,

Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,

And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling, from “A Choice of Kipling’s Verse” (1943)


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