CHS valedictorian looks ahead to new opportunities

The challenges that Claremont High School valedictorian Eric Tang has faced in his life have led him to discover some of his greatest passions and interests—science and debate.

Eric Tang was announced as the CHS valedictorian at CHS’s Renaissance Rally on June 2.

“I was very surprised because I didn’t expect it, especially because my class was full of very bright students and very passionate, nice students. I was alternating between surprised and happy,” Eric said.

Eric attended Foothill Country Day school from kindergarten through eighth grade, but has attended CHS since ninth grade.

Next year, Eric will be staying close to home as he enters the Class of 2021 at Pomona College. He was attracted to Pomona by its atmosphere, its location and its strong academic programs.

“I’ve been to Pomona a few times and I really liked the environment. And I can visit home so I don’t get homesick,” Eric said. “It also had a lot of rigorous programs, which some people also said are super fun.”

Eric plans to major in molecular biology, to prepare him to attend medical school after he graduates from Pomona. Eric’s passion for science and medicine stems from his grandmother’s struggle with cancer.

“My biology interest sparked when my maternal grandmother got cancer. I really started getting involved in biology then. I used to dislike science classes, but then when it got to fifth grade, I really liked biology and I liked searching up WebMD and searching up a bunch of diseases,” Eric said.

In high school, Eric had a broad range of academic interests, including biology, chemistry, math and history. His favorite course was psychology, taught by Natalie Seig.

“There were a lot of classes I really enjoyed. One of my main ones was psychology,” he said. “That definitely sparked a lot bigger of a love in psychology and neuroscience and biology all over again. [Ms. Sieg] was one of my favorite teachers because she made learning so much fun.”

Ms. Sieg has high praise for Eric, who she says can take what he learns and apply it to real life concepts.

“He was a really great communicator,” she said. “He is very much an inquirer.”

Ms. Sieg also lauded Eric for his ability to help his peers understand topics through his contributions in class.

“He was always willing to ask a question, even ones that other students didn’t want to ask, but were thinking about,” Ms. Sieg added. He had a strong ability to “make [higher-level] concepts available to the subtends around him.”

While at CHS, Eric was most deeply involved with the Speech and Debate Club. He initially joined to help improve his public speaking and work on fighting a stutter.

“I joined speech and debate because I had a stuttering problem. When I was nervous, or even when I wasn’t nervous, I would start stuttering. I wanted to develop more and more self-confidence and also wanted to fix my speech problem,” Eric said.

Eric said joining the Speech and Debate?Club as a freshman was a game-changer.

“After ninth grade, I got [significantly] better. My stuttering was a lot less and I really enjoyed speech and debate because I made some of my first friends,” he added. “It was such a friendly atmosphere. I loved competing at the tournaments as well.”

He ultimately advanced to become a captain of the club in his junior and senior years, often mentoring new club members.

“I was gifted with the opportunities to teach the younger students, and that was probably, like, one of my best experiences,” Eric said. “I could teach other people and make them excited about Speech and Debate.”

Eric was involved in a host of other clubs and organizations, including the Student Voice Committee, which engaged the principal in dialogue about issues at the school and the Rotary Youth Leadership Awards association.

He also led a holiday toy drive for the homeless, sold candy to raise money for the Kiwanis Club and worked at the Claremont Educational Foundation’s SLICE summer program teaching computer science.

Despite the academic challenges ahead, Eric said he isn’t overly worried about the transition from high school to college.

“I feel like Pomona College is probably going to have a lot of the same type of feelings for me because the atmosphere at Claremont High School was very much the same. It was a lot of brilliant people with a lot of passion and a lot of people loved what they did,” Eric said.

However, Eric will miss some aspects of CHS.

“Claremont had a lot of really really cool teachers and a lot of opportunities and activities, especially Speech and Debate. I’ll still definitely miss that, for sure,” he added.

—Marc Rod


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