Mechanicsburg Area High School senior Madeline Bright summarizes her high school career and plans in a simple sentence.
“I like music and I like helping people,” she said.
Bright, the daughter of John and Christine Bright, earned a spot playing the French horn in the All-Eastern Band during her junior year. She could only apply for the honor after achieving All-State status during her sophomore year and submitting audition recordings. The experience took her to Atlantic City last April for three days of rehearsal — and good food — prior to a concert.
“That, to me, was the absolute coolest thing I got to do,” Bright said.
Music has been part of Bright’s life inside and outside of school as she’s also participated in the Lebanon Perseverance Band, the New Cumberland Town Band and the Harrisburg Youth Symphony Orchestra. Bright shared her love of music by volunteering at an event at the school district at which younger students can try out instruments.
“We teach them enough so that they can make some sort of elephant noise on the instrument,” Bright said.
Ideally, the student connects with one of the instruments and decides to play it. That’s not always what happens.
“That’s OK, too. Maybe that’s just not their skill area. Everyone, I think, has some sort of talent to share,” Bright said.
Bright said someone could sit her down in any classroom, and she would be interested just because she enjoys learning. But learning, for her, is connected to a deeper sense of purpose.
“It’s just finding new information and then being able to use that to help other people. It’s so exciting,” she said.
That’s part of the thinking behind her interest in attending Drexel University to major in computer science and cybersecurity. Forensic computer science isn’t as interesting to Bright as looking at malware and finding ways to stop it.
“I can help protect them. Let’s face it. There’s a lot of people who are at risk simply because they’re naive. They know how to use a computer, but they don’t know the ways in which it grows wrong,” Bright said.
She pointed to the scandal surrounding Facebook in which the social media platform allegedly shared the data of some 87 million users with a data-mining firm, Cambridge Analytica, to sway elections. Users trusted Facebook because it gave them access to the things they wanted.
“They figured it was a small price to pay because it’s free, and, because it’s buried in complex legalese, they didn’t realize how much of their personal information they were giving out. Now, they’re questioning it,” Bright said.
In addition to working in cybersecurity, Bright plans to become a certified transcribist for Unified English Braille Code, which would put her name on a register at the Library of Congress so that people who need transcription services can contact her.
“I would be sent materials and then I would write them out in braille,” she said.
Taking such a path is a natural step for Bright who has been advocate not only for her own needs but also for others with disabilities. Recently, she created a video for the organization Rooted in Rights to raise awareness of the need for websites to be accessible to those with disabilities.
“I speak up a lot about disability activism because I have a disability and it impacts my life,” she said. “It’s an interesting thing to realize that your voice his power. When you speak up for yourself, you’re not only speaking up for one person. You can speak up for multiple people. Changing one person’s misconception one day might lead them to change someone else’s misconception the next day.”