18 Questions for Top of the 2023 Class: Hyejin Cha juggles academic responsibilities to graduate as a valedictorian


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

Answer: I think it’s nice.

Question 2: What are your plans after high school?

A: University of California, Irvine, for biological science.

Question 3: What are your career aspirations?

A: I’d like to pursue a pre-med path, hopefully becoming a doctor. I guess I was just always interested in that path, and I also like helping people, so it works out. 

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

A: I did not do it effectively. I have a lot of regrets, but at least it worked out in the end. 

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

A: Tutoring children, Rotary Club, animal shelter volunteering, as well as volunteering in nursing homes.

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

A: Advanced Placement Physics.

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

A: Yes. I had one in second semester of junior year and senior year. Both times I was just tired of everything and did not want to try at all because I was burnt out. I was able to bounce back thanks to my dogs because I decided that I can’t just give up on life because I still need to take care of them. So they basically motivated me to work harder and manage time better. 

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

A: Mr. [Andrew] Colomac really opened my eyes to Chemistry; Ms. [Teresa] McCarty convinced me that I could become a good writer if I tried a little harder, so I did. 

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

A: Please don’t procrastinate. 

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: Christmas outreach project at a nursing home; we sang for them, gave them hand-made cards and a small gift bag and it was rewarding to see them so happy. 

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

A: Try studying a little at least for each test or quiz so that even if you fail it, you have the right to say that you’ve tried. I don’t think you can complain without trying. 

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

A: Making new friends and growing to love each of them. 

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

A: In debt as a hospital resident. 

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

A: My friends definitely.

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

A: Lack of social life and structure in life in general. I didn’t really overcome it; it was more like a matter of time. 

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

A: I learned that even if I try, I will still fail, but it’s okay because there’s a next time. If there isn’t a next time, well then, I guess I’m out of luck.

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

A: It’s just a letter grade. Don’t be too stressed over it; it’s not worth your physical and mental health.

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

A: Someone told me that I need to learn to move on from certain things and that regretting is normal, but it should only be a short blip in life.

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