0513 sphs valedictorian
What are your college and career aspirations?
I’m planning on going to Harvard University. I don’t really know what I’m planning to do yet. I’m planning on either going into medicine, or completely different with finance. I’ve always wanted to do medicine because the human body has always interested me, and I have an interest in helping people. On the other hand, Harvard’s resources are unparalleled with finance. I feel like I could take my career much further in that way.
What one thing on your college application helps you stand out?
I play the cello, I don’t know if that helps. I do a lot of community service as well.
When you’re 50 and you look back at yourself as a teenager, what characteristic will you remember most?
Determination. Any of the goals I’ve put forward for myself, I’ve accomplished almost all of them.
What can aspiring grads learn from you?
Never sell yourself short. Believe in yourself, don’t listen to people telling you that you can’t do things. Anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
What did you recently learn from someone younger than you?
My brother is much better at time management than I am. As soon as we get home, he starts doing his homework and he’s done at 8:00 or 9:00. I wait until 11:00 or 12:00 to even begin.
What was your favorite Saturday morning cartoon growing up?
Jackie Chan Adventures.
What do you remember most about freshman year?
I remember the seniors that year. I looked up to them as role models. A lot of the seniors showed me the way.
If you were going to be locked in a windowless room for one month but could bring one movie to watch and one book to read, what would they be?
Pulp Fiction, definitely. It’s entertaining time and time again. I’d probably bring the Dao De Jing. I don’t practice Taoism, but I think it’s an interesting book. It would probably help me keep calm in a room without any windows.
What one object can you not live without?
My laptop. Music is a large part of my life, and I spend an inordinate amount of time on Spotify and Pandora searching new music. If I didn’t have that, I’d probably go crazy.
Who was your most inspirational teacher? Why?
My most inspirational teacher was Mr. (Craig) Thompson, the AP U.S. History teacher. He took the history and taught us the background behind it. He made us think about the global aspect of it. He talks about ethics, aesthetics and other things that he wasn’t necessarily required to teach us, but he felt like it would help us as a person.
How do you feel about gym class?
I personally think it’s stupid. I don’t feel like it actually does anything. It’s a state requirement that looks good on paper, but it doesn’t actually produce any results.
What’s the study secret to your success?
Pay attention in class, because if you don’t pay attention in class you have to work harder. To be quite honest, I didn’t actually do a lot of studying outside of class, but I did a lot of paying attention in class.
If you could go back in time, what year would you visit? Why?
As an African American, 1964 and the civil rights movement. My parents and grandparents tell me all these different stories; it would be cool to get that perspective.
If the U.S. revoked your citizenship, where would you start your new life? Why?
Either China or Australia. Australia is really, really similar to the United States, but I feel like it’s more socially progressive. I feel like China is the up-and-coming country. It’s like the United States 100 years ago. They’re going to be a great world power.
What song defines/represents your high school career?
I’ve been listening to this one song by a country-folk band named Mandolin Orange. The song is called “Life on a String” and it’s kind of how I’ve felt. It’s been very stressful, but I can’t really explain it.
How many hearts have you broken? Feel free to lie.
One, if that.
If you were given $1,000,000 and forced to spend it in a day, what would you buy?
I would probably buy shares of stocks. That would be the smart answer, because investing can give you more in the future, unless it’s like Apple.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs. Cats are stupid.
What will walking across that stage mean to you?
Just like any other person, it’s walking into the next stage of my life. It’ll be accomplishing everything I set up for myself at the beginning of high school, a culmination of my parents’ hard work of getting me to this point and being around new opportunities. High school’s kind of a close environment; it’s very clique-ish, and [graduation] will give me the opportunity to meet new people.
What’s been your favorite part of Spain Park?
Some of the faculty are really, really good. Mr. Thompson, Mr. (Burgin) Matthews, Ms. (Sarah) Love, Ms. (Jill) Wallace, Mr. (Richard) Stamper. You can tell that they really want you to get the most out of their classroom and to think about things from a different perspective than you did before.
What were you a part of outside of class?
I play cello in the orchestra. I do scholars’ bowl, and outside of school I do a lot of community service. I work with YouthServe Birmingham. We go out on Saturdays to fix up homes in downtown Birmingham and clean up neighborhoods. We run charity drives in the winter for Christmas. I’m on a couple of leadership things with that. I was chairman of the Youth Action Council; we form the work days.
What was the college application process like?
I went through a really weird period of time. I was going around and visiting colleges. At first I wanted to Duke, then I decided I wanted to go to Northwestern, and then Cornell. I applied to Harvard and I got in early. I was planning on applying to 20 schools, but once I got into Harvard I didn’t really want to go anywhere else. I think mine was a lot less stressful than a lot of people.
Who was your best friend at school?
Kevin Yang and I have kind of a weird friendship. We’re not really close, but we’re really supportive of each other. We spend the entire day together because we have all the same classes. He’s a good guy.