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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: Lauren Pak graduates as valedictorian, looks to pursue computer science at Princeton University

Chloe Kang
Senior Lauren Pak displays the code she wrote for her self-made Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders [AAPI] Alliance website that emphasizes the Stop AAPI Hate movement, unites online users of the race and promotes the groups’ businesses. Starting to attend Princeton University this fall, Pak said she will miss the California weather the most. (Illustrations by DaHee Kim)

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

Answer: Satisfied; I’m glad I survived and can even stand alongside these 17 amazing geniuses.

Question 2: What are your plans after high school?

A: I’ll be attending Princeton University and majoring in computer science.

Question 3: What are your career aspirations?

A: Software engineer! It’s become one of my hobbies to create websites and mess around with code, so to make a living out of that sounds nice.

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

A: When I’m stressed, I cry it out, rant it out on a Google Doc or call my older sister Irene. I love using my planner (Google Docs or a sticky note) to manage my time.

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

A: YouthfulCode, CSF [California Scholarship Federation], robotics (Team 7157), Kode With Klossy, Good Hands for One, Cod.Ed, Harmony4Homes, tennis and some other STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] clubs and research programs.

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

A: It’s a tie between AP [Advanced Placement] Calculus BC and AP Physics 1. I can probably make a wig out of the amount of hair I lost from those two classes.

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

A:  It was definitely a struggle balancing both rigorous courses and hefty extracurriculars. I didn’t want to let my teammates and clubmates down, but I also didn’t want to let my grades down. I bounced back by not sleeping.

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

A: Ms. [Vanessa] Lara, my former Spanish 3 Honors teacher— she would sit with you for long hours, listen and comfort you during your struggles, give you life lessons, and endlessly remind you that you can do it, just like she did for me. Ms. [Shirley] Tan — she always told me, “I believe in you, Lauren,” when I doubted myself, was so supportive of me and helped me grow in both calculus and confidence.

My older sister, Irene — she’s the best sister, role model and lifelong friend I could’ve asked for, who’s always there for me in my most vulnerable moments.

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

A: The one and only advice I give to future seniors… just go for it! It doesn’t matter how many you apply to or what your specs are. You never know when a special surprise is waiting for you in a decision letter, and you don’t want to lose that chance.

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: Assembling and delivering face shields for local under-resourced nursing homes over the pandemic.

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

A: Not really, unless you count some cool ideas and work I’ve generated, thanks to procrastination.

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

A: Making core memories with my best homies, sprinting home during a “bathroom break” in second period to fetch my physics lab I left in my printer, getting hit on the butt by tennis balls, hyping my best friend and her QuestBridge match and almost burning Mr. [Andrew] Colomac’s room down.

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

A: Living in a small apartment in Washington and working from home as a software engineer with my classic milk tea and a pet corgi.

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

A: California weather.

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

A: Heck no.

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

A: Do your best in the present moment. Your future self will be satisfied and hold no regrets regardless of the results as long as you’ve tried your best. What more can you ask from yourself?

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

A: There may be moments where you think you’re going nowhere, you’re not enough or you’re stuck in this hopeless loop in life and wondering when it’ll all end. As a graduating student who overcame those same thoughts, trust me when I say this: it’ll all be worth it. It’ll all pay off. You’ll be rewarded for all the hard work and time you devote to do the things you love — so push through, and your future self will not regret it

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

A: “Just SparkNotes it.”

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Jaimie Chun
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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