Humans of Harker: Represent

Lilly Anderson reaches out

Metal rings out against concrete through the quad as the lunch table makes way for Lilly Anderson (12), raising her arms up above her head in preparation for a handstand. Though she’s focused on politics now, Lilly has kept the lessons she’s learned as a gymnast.

“[Gymnastics] was easy for me until I started getting to those levels where the foundation should have been built, and it just got harder and harder,” Lilly said. “That taught me [that], in politics, every single person has a different story. Every single person doesn’t live the same life. It’s important to have the foundations to understand politics before you have an opinion.”

A competitive gymnast for eight years, Lilly was forced to stop competing after a concussion in middle school PE class took six months to heal. A fast-paced sport, gymnastics couldn’t wait for Lilly to heal and catch up.

“I didn’t really talk to many people, and I would leave school at two o’clock every day. I wasn’t really a part of anything,” Lilly said. ”I trained 40 hours a week. [Gymnastics] was my whole entire life.”

Stopping gymnastics left Lilly searching for something that would fill the void that gymnastics had left. She first started with track, appreciating the hurdles for the little piece of gymnastics it allowed her to keep. Soon, Lilly began to enjoy the freedom.

“I liked not having to be so committed to something because I was so committed for so long, and it took up everything,” she said.

A new passion soon arose, not from the athletic world, but from within the classroom. Although Lilly was interested in historical events in US History, she never felt compelled to look more into each topic, but the political workings of the United States caught her attention.

“I started learning more about politics and the branches of government… That fueled my interest for political science,” Lilly said. “I ended up taking government this year, and I love it. And now I want to major in political science, and maybe be a senator or something, because I learned so much.”

To others, Lilly appears outgoing and confident. As a collaborative person, Lilly is always willing to play the devil’s advocate or form her own opinions out loud. Upper school history and social science teacher, Lilly’s AP Government teacher Carol Green describes Lilly’s shift when she’s passionate about the topics they discuss in class.

“Her face lights up, and her voice gets significantly louder. She throws her whole body into expressing just excitement and enthusiasm and passion,” Green said. “I’m not going to say totally unafraid of [sharing], because I can still tell she’s apprehensive just like everyone is, but she’s willing […] to talk it through out loud and take those risks that she could say something that might contradict herself.”

Lilly’s first impressions on others always include some form of confident and outspoken. Certainly, a handstand is not the first idea that everyone has for environmental portraits. Every detail that she carries herself with, from her turquoise hair to neon yellow nails, fits together and speaks loudly to who she is.

“She’s really intimidating at first, [but] she’s a really good friend. I think people are just scared. She’s super, super headstrong, which is good. I’m really soft spoken. It’s like we’re opposites, but we bring out the best of each other,” close friend Mahi Gurram (12) said.

Regardless of first impressions, those who are close to Lilly all know her as a “really good friend.” Upper school learning, innovation and design director Diane Main taught Lilly in her senior year in Digital World, but knew of Lilly long before she stepped into Main’s classroom.

“My first impression of Lilly was that she’s loud and that she’s confident,” Main said. “I heard her before I knew who she was. And I was like, I need to find out who this is in this hallway. We would end up laughing and joking and just kidding around about a lot of stuff, which worked out well because then by the time she was in my class, I felt like we already knew each other.”

As she continues to rise up, Lilly also does not hesitate to lift others up along the way.

“I feel like Lilly is driving a roller coaster, but stopping to pick people up on the way so that everyone can get along on the adventure. Lilly is so enthusiastic and positive, but a little bit overwhelming sometimes, with energy. But in a good way,” Green said.

Lilly’s background shapes her goal to make an impact in the political world. Born in Addis Ababa to an impoverished mother, Lilly was adopted by American missionaries at seven.

“I’ll go into an expensive restaurant with my mom, or I’ll go into like Chanel or something. And she’s buying something, or she’s getting me something. And, and the security guards would like, look at me funny, like, ‘Why is she here?’”, Lilly said. “And then I have to go and hug my white mom to make them feel comfortable.”

Raised in a diverse family, Lilly immediately can spot discrimination when she experiences it. Her identity is an amalgam of cultures, resulting in others treating her to an outsider in all the separate communities she could be sorted into.

“My opinions and ideas are not taken to their validity because of being a part of a white family, which I didn’t choose,” Lilly said.

Lilly’s background allows her to always consider multiple perspectives, and her confidence marks her as a promising future politician.

“She has a real heart for the underdog,” Main said.

As a politician, Lilly doesn’t seek to control, but to find understanding and improve communication between government and citizen. It’s easy to see where she’s coming from, taking into account her personality and identity.

“I think running for president or something like that takes away from helping people and it’s more like, ‘I want to be the boss,’” Lilly said. “I want to have a more personalized attachment to the people that I want to represent. Rather than being a representative in the house or something, I want to have that connection with people. I like socializing. I like being interactive with people and understanding their concerns.”