20 Questions for Top of the 2020 Class: Micheal Jiang commits to UCI and graduates after four years of taking EPIC classes

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Senior Michael Jiang is one of the 12 valedictorians for the class of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Image used with permission from Michael Jiang. 

Lira Jeong

In lieu of our senior print issue, The Accolade has decided to conduct a Q and A with each of the 12 valedictorians for online posting.

Question #1: What are your plans after high school? 

Answer: I’ll be going to UC Irvine to study biomedical engineering. 

Question #2: Which extracurriculars and clubs have you been a part of? 

A: I’ve been taking EPIC classes for all of my four years, but I’m not really sure if that counts as an extracurricular. I’ve also been participating as a member of SkillsUSA for this year (an engineering/robotics club hosted by the EPIC teacher). 

Question #3: How do you feel as one of the 12 valedictorians?

A: Honestly, I actually feel quite mixed about being a valedictorian. While I do appreciate that at least my graduation will go out with a pop! instead of a whimper or a bang due to the COVID lockdown (graduation ceremony includes only the valedictorians and a few others), I ironically also don’t want to be that recognized. Seeing my name and/or face in public still kinda makes me uncomfortable, and this includes the recognition valedictorians get. 

Question #4: How do you feel about the second semester of our senior year and graduation being canceled?

A: Again, I have mixed feelings about the usual pizz-azz for senior graduation stuff being cancelled. I’m an introvert and don’t enjoy most social events anyway, so I don’t feel too strongly about those events being cancelled. Yet, that also means I don’t get to see from the sidelines everyone’s joy as the school year ends, and the whole four years at this school just ends on such a depressing note, even for me. 

Question #5: What or who motivated you the most during high school and why?

A: There’s plenty of factors that motivated me to continue studying as hard as I can, but I guess the biggest one of all now was just simply pride. Pride. I’ve kept a tradition of always studying and trying my best to work and learn ever since middle school. After earning lines of  A’s  on my transcript year after year, I’ve then defined myself as a student first and foremost. Ever since, it has become a vicious cycle to maintain this streak of academic excellence, with each year bearing more pressure than the last, but to risk this streak now? Well, let’s just say I’m powered completely by the momentum of my own pride and self-esteem. 

Question #6: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: Hopefully, I would be working at a biotechnology company as a biomedical engineer, having recently graduated and moved straight into a job, with all the demand for engineers, and especially biomedical engineers due to COVID. 

Question #7: What was the most challenging in the four years of high school?

A: I think the most challenging part of my four years is absolutely, definitely the college testing. SAT and AP testing during my sophomore, junior, and senior year represent some of the most stressful times of studying I’ve had. 

Question #8: Which class was the most threatening to your valedictorian status?

A: I would say that AP Physics classes (including AP Physics 2 that I’m now taking) were the toughest for me to deal with, and would have most likely been the most threatening to my valedictorian status. It takes a certain mindset to easily take these classes, one that can visualize mental simulations to best comprehend its topics, which I unfortunately do not have right off the bat. 

Question #9: What has been the highlight of high school?

A: I would say the highlight and most memorable thing of my four years here would ironically be a field trip away from here. This year, EPIC students got a chance to tutor NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. To describe what I saw and liked would be an essay in and of itself, so I’m just gonna boil it down to  Nerd likes nerd things, space things, and nerdy space things. 

Question #10: Describe your high school experience in three words

A: Like Junior High. I found nothing too special between them  besides college testing stuff. 

Question #11: Complete the sentence:  I will always remember… 

A: I will always remember that the golgi apparatus is the cell of the mitochondria. My real answer would be the field trip to JPL I just described. 

Question #12: What was your favorite class?

A: ALL FOUR of my engineering classes: Intro to Engineering Design, Fundamentals of Engineering, Principles of Engineering, and Engineering Design and Development. 

Question #13: What will you miss most after you graduate?

A: I think I will miss the fact that the education system up to the high school level doesn’t land you with tens of thousands of debt. No seriously. I looked at my financial aid. Now that I’m comparing between college and high school, and this honestly what I think of first. 

Question #14: Did you have senioritis?

A: Most definitely yes. I’ve noticed I’ve gotten a lot more tired and slacking off and procrastinating a lot more. Well, at least compared to my previous years. 

Question #15: What is your greatest achievement during high school?

A: I would say that my greatest achievement would be somehow making it all the way to 12th grade with straight A’s all while taking increasing amounts of AP classes. 

Question #16: How have you changed since freshman year?

A: I’ve definitely become a lot less introverted and a lot more informal since my freshman year. Compared to myself three years ago, I’m able to at least talk to and cooperate with people. You can also probably read how my  informality  basically translates into a joking attitude occasionally. 

Question #17: Out of all your years in high school, which one was your favorite and why?

A: I can definitely say my most favorite year was my sophomore year. It was a perfect mixture between being feeling new to the school yet still feeling familiar. Between the stress of junior and senior college testing and freshman anxiety, it was also my most productive year when I felt the most energetic and optimistic. 

Question #18: A senior quote 

A: Learning to live is to learn to both succeed and fail. Without one is without life at all.  

Question #19: A word of advice for underclassmen

A: You are entering the final four years before the next stage of your life. Remember and value these years, for afterwards there is no going back. Study, socialize, game, and whatever else: Do what you think you would regret the least. 

Question #20: Would you like to thank anyone?/Final words?

A: I would like to thank my parents. Their support, love and parenting has made me the person who would become one of the high school valedictorians 18 years later.