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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: Tazia Mohammad commits to Columbia University after balancing academic rigor and various extracurriculars

Chloe Kang
Senior Tazia Mohammad holds up her International Baccalaureate Economics notes while wearing the color of the school she committed to. Mohammad will be attending Columbia University to pursue a double major in economics and political science. (Illustrations by DaHee Kim)

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

Answer: These past few months have been kind of rough for me, so receiving this award feels like I’m finally getting a glimpse at the light at the end of the tunnel.

Question 2: What are your plans after high school?

A: My plan for right now is to pursue a double major in economics and political science at Columbia University this fall. While I haven’t settled on a career path quite yet, I’d love to work in the legal or legislative fields, and I hope that my time in college will open the door for new opportunities in both areas. I am also making plans to study abroad for a semester during my sophomore year of college.

Question 3: What are your career aspirations?

A:  I aspire to work in the legal or legislative fields. I’ve always been kind of a politics nerd,

and after taking International Baccalaureate [IB] economics for the past two years, I’ve discovered a real passion for utilizing data and economic theory to craft effective, life-improving policies.

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

A: My go-to method for time management is creating a schedule and sticking to it. That being said, one lesson I wish I would have learned earlier is that neglecting important things like sleep and emotional well-being can be catastrophic to your productivity. It’s better to let yourself rest when you can than run out of steam later when you need it the most.

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

A: I played the marimba and French horn in drumline and marching band for all four years of high school. I also participated in Symphonic Band from freshman to junior year. I was the Junior State of America [JSA]’s club president and served as the organization’s national director of activism. I dabbled in an array of other clubs and activities, including working in a fellowship with the California Democratic Party and attending the California Girls’ State convention, but band and JSA honestly took up the majority of my time.

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

A: Advanced Placement [AP] Physics 1 was the most threatening to my valedictorian status. I took the class during junior year and had to study for about 5-7 hours per week just to grasp the course content. I don’t think I ever scored above an 80% on the multiple-choice sections we were tested on. Just thinking about it gives me chills.

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

A: In retrospect, it’s a little funny, but my largest setback was my inability to win a single

election campaign. From freshman to senior year, I ran campaigns for six positions in various organizations and lost each time. Some of my campaigns were genuinely outmatched, while others were just fruitless attempts to overcome an already predetermined popularity contest. I bounced back from these failures by just doing what I knew I was good at: I worked in the Southern California JSA’s activism department during sophomore and junior year to organize local and statewide political engagement campaigns, and during the summer of my junior year, I was selected to serve as the organization’s national director of activism. When I lost each campaign, it was admittedly a little devastating, but looking back on it now, I’ve made more of an impact on my own than I ever could have in the positions I ran for.

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

A: One teacher that has been incredibly influential in my academic journey is Mr. [Robert] Bradburn. From his AP Human Geography class freshman year to senior IB Economics, his genuine passion for the social sciences is nothing short of inspirational, and taking his classes played a significant role in my decision to major in economics. I also really appreciate the support and guidance provided by the IB coordinator, Mr. [Brian] Wall; I wouldn’t be where I am today without him. Mr. [David] Fenstermaker’s IB history course was also one of the most engaging classes I have ever taken, and Ms. [Cristian] Bueno’s Algebra 2 Honors and IB Math Analysis classes were the only math courses I have ever felt fully supported in. I would also like to thank Mr. [David] Kim for letting me use his microwave every morning.

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

A: My only advice would be to get really good at writing. That and to definitely start working

on college applications during the summer.

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: The most impactful project I took part in during my time at Sunny Hills was the JSA’s Be the Vote campaign, in which I organized a nationwide voter registration drive.

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

A: My go-to habit is to write a schedule and stick to it.

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

A: Some of my favorite moments include performing at the SCPA [Southern California Percussion Alliance] championships in 2022 with a world-class ensemble, ranting about Theory of Knowledge seminars during IB economics, and cramming with friends for the [AP] Calculus BC exam.

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

A: I am not quite sure. I would like to have a career that allows me to travel frequently while also creating a genuinely positive impact on the world around me.

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

A: I will miss my friends the most.

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

A: No.

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

A: Working hard is easier when you’re healthy and well rested.

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

A: Don’t take things too seriously.

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

A: If I’d received any advice that was that useful, my sleep debt wouldn’t be as steep as it is now.

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Jaimie Chun, Editor-in-Chief
Senior Jaimie Chun returns excited and grateful to lead The Accolade as the editor-in-chief. Since her first year on staff two years ago, The Accolade newsroom has become a home away from home. She looks forward to each issue, story, audio and video reaching the biggest audience possible and bringing the community together. Chun will continue honing her skills as a journalist to ensure that her storytelling is informative and empathetic. Because of her love for print journalism, she hopes that The Accolade's publications will be read by many people and equally appreciated. When Chun isn't in the newsroom, you can find her searching to try new food, exploring new music or reading in the nook of her room.
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