By Lucy Peng
Promising student, stellar athlete, trustworthy friend, reliable leader, valuable team player: all qualities that describe seniors Donald Wu and Yingjie “Gary” Zhou, who have been awarded the highly envied titles of valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, of the Class of 2015.
Wu will study Computer Science and possibly double-major in Mathematics at UC Berkeley. He hopes to “use these technical skills to make advancements in the field, do research, and hopefully apply some of [his] abilities to those in need.”
Zhou, inspired by his internship experiences in sophomore and junior year at Kaiser Permanente, hopes to find a career in nursing and health management so he plans to complete a nursing and economics dual degree program at the University of Pennsylvania.
High school has its ups and downs, but Wu and Zhou like to reflect on their ups.
“I remember more about the people than the moments. When you have good friends that allow you to have a good time, life really is a whole lot easier,” Wu said. “Being with friends, traveling with with them to races and events, and even being in class with them has made high school bearable.”
Zhou says one of his favorite high school memories was participating in Mock Congress. “I’m in a club called JSA [Junior State of America], which does a lot of debate, so it was interesting to see the whole senior class have a simulation of the real Congress. I got to hear people say things they wouldn’t normally say,” he said.
Aside from their heavy load of AP classes, Wu and Zhou engaged in numerous extracurricular activities.
Wu ran in cross country and track for all four years, totaling eight seasons of racing and serving as captain for his last two years. He is also an active member of AHS’s Science Club, Science Bowl team, and Interact Club, and serves as president of the Cycling Enthusiast’s Club.
Aside from participating in JSA and interning at Kaiser Permanente for two consecutive summers, Zhou also ran cross country for four years and plays rugby.
Wu says he much of who he is today is due to all the teachers that have helped him. While he says he does not have a single favorite teacher (“I loved them all.”), he feels that Mr. Joo was an especially memorable mentor.
“He’s an awesome teacher and person, and sparks passion for the subjects he teaches. He goes out of his way to make sure that kids learn and love what they do, and comes and supports everyone at school events,” Wu said. “He’s done a lot for me [,] but I have no doubt that he has done the same for everyone that has asked.”
One of Zhou’s favorite teachers is English teacher Cynthia Roenisch, who he says helped prepare him in the long run.
“She’s not just a teacher, she’s a life coach. She tests you with all types of moral dilemmas and articles on ongoing social issues,” he said. “I like her class because it’s not the typical ‘I’m gonna prepare you for the AP exam and then leave you alone’. She prepares you for real life instead of simply passing an AP test.”
While both students say their teachers and friends have greatly shaped their personality, they have left equally deep impressions on their teachers and peers.
“[Wu] has great potential to be a strong positive influence on the people around him,” English teacher Rick Teixeira said. “Donald strikes me as a person who has a strong sense of right and wrong, just and unjust. He’s thoughtful, affable, personable, very easy to get along with, and well respected by this peers. There’s a certain maturity in him you would appreciate,” Teixeira added.
“[Wu] is a role model, but he’s not perfect. He’s a role model in the sense that when he makes a mistake he makes up for it. He’s somebody that you can respect,” friend Crissy Minor said. “He’s well rounded, not only smart but athletic and involved in his community. He’s funny, caring, smart, realistic, and determined. Plus his GPA is like the highest.”
“I think one of the things that most impressed me was the way he looks out for others on the cross country team,” computer science and physics teacher Yong Joo said. “He was captain but he wasn’t one of the fastest runners. But he still pushed himself and pushed others. One of his teammates was struggling academically but he personally tried to motivate him and tutor him after school.”
“I think Gary is an insightful reader. He is intelligent, an active participant in class discussions. He’s funny, respectful, and irreverent,” English teacher Cynthia Roenisch said. “I want him to continue challenging his beliefs and participate in ongoing dialogue about what the best society should be.”
“I would like to see him solve the crisis of rising healthcare costs,” Roenisch added.
Wu advises incoming seniors and underclassmen to “do what you love, and never settle for anything less than the best that you can be.”
Zhou urged, “Don’t be afraid to venture out and don’t be afraid of challenges. Don’t let people influence and restrict who you can be. Exceed people’s expectations of you. Break boundaries.”