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The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

The Student News Site of Sunny Hills High School

The Accolade

18 Questions for Top of the 2023 Class: Veronica Diaz looks forward to attending Carnegie Mellon University for a degree in computer science after representing SH at the FIRST Robotics Competition

Asaph Li
Senior Veronica Diaz holds up the first and second-place medals she earned from the world championships with the FIRST Robotics Competition team for the past two years. (Illustrations by DaHee Kim)

Question 1: How do you feel as one of the 18 valedictorians?

Answer: It’s cool.

Question 2: What are your plans after high school?

A: I will be attending Carnegie Mellon University, pursuing a degree in computer science. I’m considering adding an additional major in either robotics or physics.

Question 3: What are your career aspirations?

A: I hope to pursue a career in robotics. I am mostly interested in simultaneous localization and mapping and computer vision. I was on the computer a lot as a kid, so that was how I got interested in computer-related stuff in general.

Question 4: How did you handle stress and manage your time effectively?

A: I usually have robotics right after school, so I’m more focused on that, so school doesn’t stress me out that much. I honestly just slot in getting work done whenever I can.

Question 5: What extracurricular activities or leadership roles were you involved in?

A: Varsity tennis, FIRST Robotics Competition team, astrophysics research at Caltech [California Institute of Technology] and a software contracting job with a friend.

Question 6: What was the class that threatened your valedictorian status?

A: English 1 Honors with Mrs. [Jennifer] Kim.

Question 7: What were some of your academic failures or setbacks, and how did you bounce back from them?

A: I really struggled with balancing robotics and school during my second semester of junior year, so I had a lot of missing assignments. I had to learn how to slot work in and prioritize what assignments to do and tests to study for.

Question 8: Were there any teachers or mentors who played a significant role in shaping your academic journey? If so, how?

A: I struggled a lot in Mrs. Kim’s class during first semester, but she definitely pushed me to be a better writer and shaped my writing style a lot. 

Question 9: How did you navigate the college application process, and what advice do you have for other students going through it?

A: I mostly just looked on Reddit for schools to research and looked at the course catalogs for ones that seemed interesting. I would say just focus on writing essays that are unique to you even if it is about seemingly mundane topics. Expect to revise your essays a decent amount. 

Question 10: Whether it be school-affiliated or not, were there any specific projects or assignments that you feel were particularly impactful or rewarding?

A: I joined robotics my freshman year. Unfortunately, it was discontinued at Sunny Hills, but the team ended up operating out of Brea Olinda High School for the last two years and became really successful. It was my dream as a freshman to go to the world championships, and I’m so happy we were able to build a robot that was incredibly competitive with top teams and go to the world championships for the last two years.

Question 11: What was a specific study habit or routine you had that helped you excel?

A: I try not to listen to songs with lyrics when doing work that requires a lot of focus. I also drink a lot of water while doing work. 

Question 12: What is your most memorable experience or highlight from your high school years?

A: Beating Troy, going to CIF finals, going to the world championships with my robotics team and goofing off with my friends.

Question 13: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: Doing something I enjoy. 

Question 14: What will you miss most after you graduate?

A: Hanging out and playing tennis with my friends at school.

Question 15: If you could go back to freshman year and redo high school, would you?

A: I would have spent more time with my friends and been more outgoing earlier on. I feel like I made a lot of friends my last two years of high school and wish I could’ve spent more time with them because I’m really gonna miss them when I go to Pittsburgh.

Question 16: Tell us a life lesson you learned at Sunny Hills.

A: You shouldn’t be scared of failing because it teaches you a lot of important lessons. 

Question 17: As a valedictorian, what last message do you have for the underclassmen?

A: There are many ways to skin a cat, and prestige doesn’t mean much.

Question 18: What was the most useful advice you have received from someone about high school?

A: School only matters to a certain extent, so make sure to invest time in things that you genuinely care about.

This is part of an ongoing series featuring the Class of 2023 valedictorians. More Q&As will come soon.

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Susie Kim, Web Editor-in-Chief
Entering her final year on staff, senior Susie Kim looks forward to continuing The Accolade's online legacy as the web editor-in-chief. Kim plans on focusing on the frequency of online posting and incorporating more multimedia into stories across each section. After concluding her junior year as the news editor, Kim feels confident in reporting timely news both on and off campus. She is excited to work with this year's staff to continue producing The Accolade's print products. Outside of spending time in the journalism room, Kim likes competing with her Science Olympiad teammates and listening to music.
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