Running, not swimming, might have been a more appropriate sports activity for Faith Kisker.
“When I think of Faith, I visualize a runner,” said Judy Caves, who is an open-swim master while also serving as a guidance counselor at Seton LaSalle High School in Mt. Lebanon. “I often see her running into school, running to the auditorium to help with a production, running up to the blocks to swim her next race. She is a little dynamo.”
In the pool and school, Kisker exudes energy.
According to her swimming coach Meloni DePietro-Guthoerl, she has dropped time in all her events and helped her relay team to many victories while holding her teammates to her high standards.
“She wants them to succeed as much as her,” DePietro-Guthoerl said.
“She is an extremely hard worker especially in the classroom,” added her AP Biology teacher. “She is always engaged with the subject by asking questions and pulling in relevant and real-world problems.”
During her final semester at Seton LaSalle, Kisker has been able to bring discussions about pertinent issues impacting the globe to the classroom because of her recent travels to China. She recently participated in the Model G20 Beijing Youth Leadership Summit.
The event brought together high school students from more than 40 countries. Students were assigned to represent nations and seek to negotiate agreements with other countries that benefit their own nation as well as furthered diplomatic progress. Students were designated departments such as commerce or education and assigned to be the head of state for the country.
Kisker served as Ministry of Trade for Italy. She proposed a better and safer resettlement program for refugees and negotiated an agreement. It was based on BanQU, a blockchain economic identity technology that enables a platform for creating opportunities for people around the world living in extreme poverty. Kisker’s proposal helped refugees build up economic ID and credit through the use of all avenues, including the internet, and furthered employment and governmental aid.
“It was tough to negotiate and it was an interesting challenge to get countries on board but the economic benefits for the nations was obvious,” Kisker said. “When they realized it was best for their countries, I was able to get six major countries to sign on.
“Even though you are not able to make everybody believers, you realize you can make positive change in the world,” she added. “A big part of the summit is dealing with world problems, seeing world issues on multiple levels and trying to come up with realistic goals. But there are real problems.”
The biggest barrier Kisker encountered was language.
While her smile translates universally, Kisker made a point to learn words she utilizes regularly. She freely greets strangers with a hearty hello. She says “please” a lot and utters “thank you” always.
“Despite my attempts to utilize my feeble Chinese vocabulary, I ended up in situations where I recognized I was simply out of my depth,” Kisker said.
As a result, she often resorted to asking “Nì huì shuō yīngyu ma?”...“Do you speak English” in Chinese.
She also noted saying “hello” is one of the simplest phrases you can learn in any language. It shows someone that their presence matters to you, and it’s even more powerful when you speak it in the native tongue, she said.
Saying “thank you” can express the notion of gratitude beyond barriers and adding “you’re welcome” is adorned with simplicity that acknowledges appreciation, Kisker said.
“What a gift it is to speak English,” she said. “I did have a bit of an issue with the language, but not as big as other students who spoke another language, especially my Spanish friends. Everything in China had English subtitles. But it did expose my own personal blind spots. In the U.S., we only learn one language and are proficient in it.”
While Kisker never mastered the use of eating without a fork, she embraced the Chinese culture, from dining on Peking duck to learning the history of the many dynasties as well as taking in the sights during her eight-day visit.
“The Forbidden City and Summer Place were absolutely beautiful and I loved the food,” Kisker said. “In Western cultures, dining is more individualist, but in China, there is a deference toward food. It’s a collective experience, a sharing and community with food. It’s not rushed like us grabbing a protein bar for lunch. Meals are sacred.
“It was interesting,” Kisker added. “I tried everything and each dish was completely different from the other but definitely delicious. I’m normally a picky eater and don’t branch out much but I went to China with the mindset that I was going to try everything and get the most out of it as possible.”
According to DePietro-Guthoerl, that’s just Faith.
“She makes the most of her opportunities,” she said. “She is a leader and a problem-solver.”
The youth summit, indeed, polished Kisker’s skills, particularly those in negotiation.
“I learned a lot more about global politics and though it is tougher when the other person is not speaking English, I gained better skills in negotiating,” she said. “For sure, it is a key skill that you will employ in all areas of life because you have to learn how to work in a group and as a team no matter what the circumstances.”
Kisker noted the deal she negotiated at the G20 was “complicated” and involved listening to “completely different” opinions.
“It was tough literally and figuratively,” she said. “You have to work and continue to negotiate.”
Kisker is currently negotiating her way through the college selection process.
The Mt. Lebanon resident has narrowed her choices to Boston College, Villanova and Loyola University in Chicago. She plans to go into the medical profession. Because of her desire to serve others, she hopes to work with Doctors Without Borders.
“I know it sounds super cliché, but I want to help people,” said the 17-year-old daughter of Gwen and Clay Kisker. “My dream is to work in a nonprofit. Money does not matter. I see all these people that have all the money in the world and are unhappy because they are in the wrong job. I want to do something that I am passionate about. My focus is on helping people. That is the end goal. I want to help someone get care. There has got to be a better way to help people than saving some one’s life and it bankrupting them.”
Throughout her career at Seton LaSalle, Kisker has not been bankrupt in helping others.
She has traveled on mission trips to places like Niagara to help people who are struggling just to survive since industry has left that region. She has done research at the UPMC Hillman Cancer Center Academy, served on the Seton LaSalle Academic Board, encouraging female students in STEM fields and opportunities, attended Syracuse and Carnegie Mellon University IT challenges and won Semper Fidelis All-American Battles, where she trained at Quantico Base and was chosen by the Marine board for a $7,500 scholarship and an All-American of the Year Award for values in honor, courage, commitment and persistence in the fight.
“Faith is a great kid,” said Caves. “She is involved in so many activities, but unlike many students, she doesn’t get involved just to list it on her résumé. When Faith gets involved in something, she gives it her best effort. With all of her awards and recognition, she stays humble. She doesn’t take herself or the awards too seriously. At the end of the day, she is still, Faith...perky, witty, reliable, Faith.”
“She doesn’t like to fail,” added DePietro-Guthoerl. “When she does, she is able to turn around and learn from the mistakes. I cannot wait to see what big things she will do.”
Because of the G20 experience, Kisker surely will do great things.
“It was an amazing experience,” she said. “I made lifelong friends and learned so much. I would absolutely recommend this program to other students and seeing the Forbidden City should be on anybody’s bucket list.”
For Kisker, the trip to China was a chance to join into a new life. She discovered a new path and novel solutions.
“It was about being open to new cultures and new experiences, finding a worldwide perspective for your future, not focusing on only what directly affects you,” she said.