When it came time to select a senior project at Cedar Cliff High School, Tess Van Buskirk had a bit of a challenge in matching the standard set by her brother.

He flipped a house for his project.

“My parents wanted to keep the intensity up,” she said.

One day, she was joking around the dinner table with her parents, John and Laurence Van Buskirk of Lewisberry, and the idea of creating a T-shirt company as her senior project was born. The project included all of the work needed to start the company, Tess Tees LLC, which sells tie-dye T-shirts. She met with lawyers and accountants, talked to bankers, created a business plan and opened a bank account.

Creating the shirts can be time-consuming with all of the steps involved, and it often takes about three or four days to finish one since she does the work around her other responsibilities.

“I have to manage other things as well,” she said.

Other things include soccer, private piano lessons, Student Advisory Council and Senior Senate while serving as senior class president and heading up a committee organizing the school’s Mini-Thon event. All of this was done while taking advanced placement courses, earning a place on the distinguished honor roll and gaining an early decision acceptance to Lehigh University.

Lehigh University wasn’t on Van Buskirk’s list at first. She had her eyes on a larger school. Van Buskirk said she knew she wanted to do something in chemistry and also had an interest in math, which led her to apply to Lehigh with the intent of majoring in chemical engineering. She hopes to pursue a career in developing medicines.

“I’d love to find the cure for cancer,” she said.

That goal isn’t a surprise since Van Buskirk headed the committee that planned the food for the Mini-Thon participants, which involved going to businesses for donations. She had originally heard of Thon through her brother, who attends Penn State, and wanted to get involved in raising money for the cause herself.

When she heads off to Lehigh, Van Buskirk said she would be interested in studying abroad, though she does have more experience in living outside the United States than many high school students. Her mother is French, and had moved to the United States when she was 13. The Van Buskirk family has an apartment in Chamonix, France, and visits there for two weeks in the summer, during the New Year holiday and every other Christmas.

Van Buskirk said she understands and speaks some French.

“It’s interesting to see the cultural differences,” she said.

Yet, with her experience with the French language and culture, Van Buskirk studied Spanish and became a member of the Spanish Honor Society.

“I always say that my biggest high school mistake was not taking French,” she said.

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