Those who know senior Fynnleigh Barber would most likely describe her as an introvert. She has a small group of friends, she’s extremely quiet around new people, and she participates just enough in class discussions to get credit.
But when Fynnleigh gets on stage, her shyness melts away.
“I was 2 when I started to dance, so I don’t really remember why, but I really liked it and kept doing it,” Barber said. “People in school weren’t always the nicest to me, and people at dance were. It became a place where I didn’t have to worry. The people there loved me and accepted me.”
Fynnleigh is an accomplished dancer. She is currently a Dance Production captain, and she has earned various awards throughout her high school dance career including “Best Technique” and “Best Storyteller.”
Fynnleigh is a classically trained ballet dancer, but she has learned new types of dance through her studio team and the FUHS dance program. Her friend and Dance Production teammate Miranda Van said that Fynnleigh is a hardworking and versatile dancer.
“Fynnleigh may say she’s not good at a particular type of dance, but that’s only because she’s humble,” Van said. “She will always work at it until she becomes great. She’s a hard worker and she always makes people feel good about themselves, in and out of dance.”
Through dance, Fynnleigh has explored creativity and storytelling. In the most recent dance concert, Reverie, Fynnleigh found a creative way to display Alice in Wonderland through costume design.
“I didn’t want to make it look overly cheesy and I didn’t want to hold their hands through it, so I just told them to use the basic colors of their character,” Barber said. “I was the March Hare, so I had these super dope corduroy pants, a red sweater with a collar under it, and then I had my hair half up in pigtails like ears.”
The finished product was a dance that looked and felt like Alice in Wonderland, but didn’t overwhelm the audience or the dancers with complicated costumes.
“When you saw them dance, you could see their characters come out,” Fynnleigh said. “It was perfect.”
Fynnleigh’s creativity, in dance and beyond, has helped her express herself. Fynnleigh makes bracelets out of embroidery thread and crochets animals for people she cares about.
“I’m not really the greatest with words, so [making bracelets] was a way to show how much I appreciate people without actually saying it.”
Fynnleigh takes time to make the bracelets fit the personality of their wearer. She asks them their favorite Disney character or the colors of the college they committed to, and she chooses specific designs that she finds fit the person.
“Fynnleigh made me one of those awesome bracelets and I still have it,” Miranda Van said. “During quarantine she actually mailed me—like actual physical mail to my address—that bracelet and I wore it until it was worn out.”
Fynnleigh is very caring. She cares about the world and the people in it. This is particularly evident in her future goals. She plans to study Biochemistry at the University of California, San Diego and become an environmental researcher.
“I want to help better the environment,” Barber said. “I started off wanting to be an environmental engineer. But then I started doing more research, and environmental engineering wasn’t exactly what I was thinking.”
It wasn’t until this year that Fynnleigh discovered exactly what she wanted to major in.
“I was in AP Bio, and we were doing our biochem unit. I loved it,” she said. “Then, I did more research into that and found out biochemistry is used a lot in environmental research.”
Fynnleigh’s intelligence and passion is obvious in the way she talks about biochemistry.
“A big thing biochemistry is being used for right now is reverse osmosis. That helps filter out water to make it healthier and more accessible,” Barber said. “For example, Flint, Michigan has had basically undrinkable water for years. So, they’re doing a lot of work with reverse osmosis to get that water back to potable standard.”
Throughout her academic career, Fynnleigh has faced her fair share of challenges.
“I’m dyslexic. But I’m fine talking about my dyslexia because it’s a common thing,” Fynnleigh said. “Basically I’ve had a super hard time with reading comprehension since kindergarten. Words get jumbled. Like I can see them, but I don’t see what they mean.”
Despite this ongoing challenge, Fynnleigh has found ways to overcome it. She is ranked No. 13 in her class with a GPA well over 4.0.“I remember having to do all these tests and go to special classes to help with that reading comprehension,” Fynnleigh said. “Usually I have to read things multiple times or I have to talk out loud to comprehend. So it’s just a thing and I’ve learned to manage it.”
Fynnleigh’s parents have also helped her to overcome challenges and stay motivated.
“I think my parents took the time when I was having trouble to sit me down and help me through it because sometimes the way teachers explained it didn’t make sense,” Fynnleigh said. “When I was struggling, we’d find a way that would work for me.”
Fynnleigh’s parents also encourage her to pursue dance by supporting her financially, driving her to competitions, and lifting her up when she feels down.
“They encourage me in dance because they know it’s something I’m passionate about,” Barber said. “That constant support saying, ‘we don’t just want you to get good grades, we want you to be happy and we know that dance makes you so so happy, so we’re gonna promote and invest in that.’”