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Where Are You Now: Molly Uchtman

By Ella Ilg, Staff Writer

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During her freshman year at Niles West, it seemed like life would not get better, however, everything finally came together for alumni Molly Uchtman at the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE). She has a relatively rare and special success story, thanks to the help she received in high school from her teachers and guidance counselors.

Ever since she was little, science has always intrigued Uchtman. She even created many complex projects for school science fairs. Over time, she decided a traditional scientist career was not for her, but she still wanted to stick with the STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program. During her freshmen year, Uchtman decided to take an entry level engineering course, and from there on out her future career started to become more clear.

“The next closest thing that did not involve research was engineering, so I started taking engineering classes and found that I really enjoyed it,” Uchtman said. “I took a wide variety of engineering courses to figure out what area I wanted to go into, and I eventually found my way to software engineering my senior year.”

However, her freshmen year at West put a snag in everything, when the stress and over stimulation turned her straight A’s into mostly C’s and D’s.

“It was a big change going to high school and that was stressful, but I was the one magnifying the little things. I was dealing with some serious anxiety and depression, and that is really what messed me up,” Uchtman said. “Trying to be in large classes and navigate the halls when I felt like every person was a potential murderer was the main reason.”

The change from the relatively small Lincoln Junior High to the huge Niles West could be intimidating for anyone, but with a history of anxiety and panic attacks, her freshmen year was a self-proclaimed nightmare.

“I could tell she was having a really rough time. We talked sometimes in the chill out area of the counselor’s office. It was nice to have someone to talk to about this stuff, even though it sucked she was there, and it was really great to be able to see her improve, graduate and go off to college.” Niles West alumni and friend, Hannah Williams said.  

Nevertheless, by junior and senior year, Molly managed to get back up to her A, B average of her middle school years with the help of her mom and the district.

“Who helped me? The simple answer is my mom. She got in contact with the school to find out what she should do to help me and never let me slide or make excuses. She helped set up supports in student services and later special ed.

Watching her change so drastically over the years can seem almost unbelievable, or impossible. Raising grades for some people can seem like a losing battle, as if you get bad grades in your first few years there is no going back. Molly is physical proof of the opposite.

One of the people who helped her out personally at the school was her case manager Caitlin Casey.

“Molly took the tools and strategies provided to her and ran with them. Making huge improvements to her daily routines which allowed her to reach goals higher than I think even she imagined. Although this was a long process and we hit bumps and snags along the way, Molly grew to become one of the strongest and most self-aware students I have ever worked with,” Casey said.

There was a lot of hard work involved, and it wasn’t an instant turn around, but Molly was determined to get over her hills.

“I actually used the resources that the school set up. I would ask for help, through my mom or social workers when I was afraid to go to the teachers. The other thing that really helped was realizing that my teachers wanted me to pass the class. I had to work my butt off, but as long as they knew that I was working my butt off and asking for help, they refused to let me fail,” Uchtman said.

In freshmen year, she took a Women in Engineering course, where the college she attends now, MSOE, was recruiting.

“I decided then that I wanted to attend MSOE. A few years passed and I started looking at colleges seriously. I didn’t want to be more than 3 hours away, so I applied, and they accepted me and since it was a good school, I decided that I didn’t feel the need to apply to any others, and so to MSOE I went.”

The Milwaukee School also provided her with a lot of assistance to help her adjust with her history of depression and arthritis. All of her classes are in the same building, and there are no classes after 2:00 p.m. when she starts to hit her lows. With the help she received from both schools, Uchtman is truly a success story West should be proud of. 

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