CHS says goodbye to seniors, honors top students

More than 500 students will grab a piece of the future in the form of a high school diploma during the Claremont High School graduation, set for Thursday, June 14 at 5 p.m. 

It’s not easy to make a splash in the Class of 2012.

Many grads have been involved in honors,  Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate classes, which add extra weight to a student’s grades. GPAs of 4.0 and beyond are relatively commonplace.

Despite the fierce but friendly competition, 2 girls—Serena Liu and Josephine Chen—have risen to the top of their class, taking the honors of valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively.

With a GPA of 4.54, Serena will head to UC Berkeley this coming fall. Josephine, 4.52, has been accepted to Harvey Mudd College.

CHS Assistant Principal June Hilton marveled at how many of the newly-minted alums are moving on to impressive post-secondary plans after high school careers marked by stellar academics and healthy extracurricular participation. In fact, Josephine’s twin sister, Annie, has earned a spot at Carnegie Mellon University in Pennsylvania.

Though she wishes the school could honor more than the top 2 students, Ms. Hilton said Serena and Josephine deserve starring roles in the graduation ceremony.

“I’m very proud of them because I think they truly represent the type of student we have at CHS,” Ms. Hilton said.

Serena and Josephine have spent the last 4 years with nearly neck-and-neck grades and the common goal of conquering a seemingly endless array of AP tests. It would be easy to imagine the teens as keen rivals. In fact, they’re friends.

The bond between the girls, who spent their final days at the high school painting a mural of the campus in the room where the Wolfcast news program is filmed, is based on commonality.

Both teens have a penchant for math and science. Serena plans to study electrical engineering and computer science at Berkeley. Josephine will pursue computational biology at Harvey Mudd.

“I like the quirkiness of all the students there,” Josephine shared.

Josephine and Serena have participated in some quirky activities themselves, including the annual Claremont Robotics Competition held at the Claremont Graduate University. The annual contest, which involves fifth through twelfth grade students from throughout the district, requires participants to construct and program tiny robots that are then tested on a course for speed and agility.

With a slew of AP classes between them, the girls also share the common experience of having life feel like one big cram session.

Since her sophomore year, Josephine, for example, has taken AP tests in the following subjects: world history, chemistry, calculus, statistics, psychology, composition, US history, literature, physics and Spanish.

AP classes are intended to have the structure and rigor of a college-level course. At most colleges, students who pass an AP test can bypass a course in the same subject.

While Josephine’s advanced curriculum may have helped to catch Harvey Mudd’s attention, she notes that HMC does not accept AP credits.

Berkeley may accept some of Serena’s AP credits but, given the high-tech nature of her field of study, most of her curriculum will be far beyond these core subjects.

Academics have kept these students busy, but they have managed to enjoy out-of-the-classroom pursuits. Serena loves playing tennis and the piano; she loves Chopin and also likes to improvise her own chords.

Josephine, who has studied martial arts, is a bit of an adventurer. She will be heading to rural Taiwan this summer to teach English to children.

With their sound education and a passionate interest in many things, Serena and Josephine will undoubtedly find great successes after graduation. They will leave behind an impact on the school and on instructors like English teacher Kevin Glavin, who said that the outgoing seniors have been “incredibly hard workers” and a joy to have in class.  

“So much in AP literature depends on participation from students,” Mr. Glavin said. “You really need to have a discussion. They’ve always added to the discussion with some very insightful comments, whether about the Canturbury Tales, The Scarlet Letter…”

Serena and Josephine have some insights to share with young students hoping to achieve a similar level of academic achievement.

“Do take the hard classes, work hard, study hard,” Serena said. “But also have fun and enjoy the time you have here with your friends.”

Josephine agreed, adding, “It’ll be easier if you don’t procrastinate.”

—Sarah Torribio




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