Serra Sowers

IB seniors are moving up to the big leagues after their final months at SHS.

Leyton Dudley, Reporter

The International Baccalaureate program at SHS provides a rigorous level of coursework to academically devoted students. Several students who have dedicated themselves over the last three years were recently accepted into prestigious colleges. Some of these students were accepted through the Questbridge program, a nonprofit organization designed to help young adults who are struggling financially, in order to get accepted into these pristine universities.

Jandrick Castro, University of Chicago:

Castro has always been passionate about making a difference. As president of Senior Class Council and Young Politicians, Castro plans to pursue a major in political science, followed by law school. Eventually, he hopes to open his own law practice.

An eager student, Castro is excited to engage with some of the most fascinating minds in the world within the faculty and student body at the University of Chicago. He looks forward to having late night conversations with his classmates and hopes to score some free guacamole.

He owes his successes to his mother, who always made sure he had food on the table, a roof on his head, and confidence in himself.

“I encourage everyone to push themselves everyday, wake up early, and work hard despite challenges at home. Never be discouraged and never stop grinding,” Castro says.

Precious Ukachukwu, Vanderbilt University:

Growing up in Nigeria, Ukachukwu looked up to her uncle who graduated as valedictorian of his high school class and was granted a scholarship to attend a college in the United States. She has made it her goal to work as hard as him and hopefully become a successful anesthesiologist like he is. Planning to go on the pre-med track as a biomedical major will support her in accomplishing this.

Vanderbilt is located in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, known for being the “music city” of the U.S. Because of her deep passion for music, Ukachukwu is excited to be in this new environment. She’s made the effort to be involved in her community in every way that she can. This is showcased through her playing lacrosse for SHS, holding the position of section leader in the marching band, being the president and founder of the Multicultural Club, and handling her IB coursework.

Ukachukwu suggests, “Be balanced! Don’t compare yourself with other people; do what will make you comfortable while exploring new things, and don’t be afraid of challenging yourself while having some fun. Time goes by fast!”

Ryan Lam, University of Pennsylvania:

Lam, president of SHS’ History Competition Association and Science National Honors Society, was recently accepted to UPenn, also known as the “social ivy.” He wants to study chemical engineering with a direct focus on the environment. Lam applied early decision to UPenn because he felt passionately about its academic climate.  

“[University of Pennsylvania is] really focused on interdisciplinary study and community service,” he said. “Helping out the environment is directly tied to the interrelatedness of community and the surrounding world… so I feel that [UPenn] is a really good fit for me and my future goals.”

Wenjie Gong and Sorin Cho, his fellow IB classmates, are two of Lam’s biggest inspirations, and he said that that their talents all contribute to help accelerate his learning. He also did extra courses on Florida Virtual School and volunteered during his summers, which he believes is another reason that he was accepted into the prestigious university.

“Nobody can tell you what you can and can’t do, not even yourself. I think that to some degree, signing up for more than you can handle (difficulty and number of courses and time investment of extracurriculars) and then just making time in your life to apply yourself to them is a really effective way to getting a lot done,” said Lam.

Wenjie Gong, Harvard University:

Gong has big aspirations for after high school, including attending the number one university in the world and working towards becoming a college professor.

She believes her success is due to “everyone in [her] life having been influential in their support and encouragement.”

Gong wants to attend Harvard because of its capacity to offer both an enriching liberal arts curriculum and a rigorous scientific education. She is hoping to write for the Harvard Crimson and join various student organizations. She is also looking forward to meeting similarly motivated students.

“Focus on expanding a few things that you’re passionate about rather than trying to reach every activity. Make sure that your college essays are unique and reflect your own voice and personality,” Gong advises.

Jair Jean-Gilles, University of Pennsylvania:

Jair Jean-Gilles hasn’t yet chosen his major at the University of Pennsylvania. He is thinking of biochemistry, but is also tossing around the idea of becoming an English major. Jean-Gilles believes he will ultimately end up in medical school, but for now he’s focusing on picking the right path for himself.

He said that he can’t wait to experience snow during the Philadelphia winters and try new food in the city. Jean- Gilles thinks his whole journey will be “both daunting and invigorating.”

“Stop comparing yourself to others. It’s really easy to fall into a dark place where all you see are your personal failures while your friends are succeeding. One you separate yourself  and start doing things that make yourself happy, the rest will follow. You wouldn’t think that it makes a difference, but things like this affect your application process and that’s why I think I got in,”  says Jean-Gilles.

Zavien Ramey- Rodriguez, New York University:

Zavien Ramey-Rodriguez has worked in hard in IB throughout his four years and believes it was his hard work and relaxed mindset that got him accepted into NYU. He intends to major in mechanical/computer engineering and has a dream to be an automaker designing cars or to work within a influential technology company.

He credits a lot of his success in the application process to teachers Leah Gentry and Kelly Meahl, and believes their classes have benefited him greatly throughout high school. The opportunity presented by the Big Apple and what it has to hold intrigues Ramey-Rodriguez and he’s excited for the future.

He advises others to not stress out too much, to focus on the important things while trying your best, and everything will eventually work out.