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Charter Oak’s brightest academic stars:

Get to know the class of 2017’s valedictorian and salutatorian

Sharon+Lau+and+Andrew+Castillo+will+be+speaking+at+graduation.+Photograph+by+Danielle+De+Luna.
Sharon Lau and Andrew Castillo will be speaking at graduation. Photograph by Danielle De Luna.

Sharon Lau and Andrew Castillo will be speaking at graduation. Photograph by Danielle De Luna.

Sharon Lau and Andrew Castillo will be speaking at graduation. Photograph by Danielle De Luna.

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The end of senior year approaches quickly and begins to bring bittersweet tears to teachers and students alike. Anticipation continues to mount within the class of 2017 as the commencement ceremony awaits on the horizon, along with the answer to an equally anticipated question: who will be representing Charter Oak as valedictorian and salutatorian?

Fortunately, the secret is out! At Senior Awards Night on May 22 COHS proudly awarded  Sharon Lau the position of valedictorian and Andrew Castillo the position of salutatorian. Jillian Smith was recognized for having the top GPA.

However, it is not the award that makes these students stand out, but their unique interests, goals and backgrounds. The obstacles they overcame along the way to success are what truly make these individuals special, beyond their class rank.

Valedictorian Sharon Lau came from Hong Kong when she was in sixth grade with her younger sister,  Denise Lau, sophomore. Knowing a minimal amount of English and little about American culture, Sharon had to overcome the language and cultural barrier. “Even though I have gone through a lot of hardships, challenges and failures, they are what make me unique; I have a past that not everyone can experience. This allows me to look at the world from multiple perspectives and embrace with the cultural diversity in the world,” said Sharon.

During her high school career at Charter Oak, she participated in Marching Band and Concert Band for four years and was the captain of the front ensemble. In addition she served as the president of Unity Club and hosted the annual Unity Fair 2017, an accomplishment she holds dear to her heart. She also served as president of Earth Club, French Club, the vice president of Asian Unity and  secretary for Sharing Our Humanity. Sharon has also volunteered outside of school for the City of Covina since her freshmen year.

Aside from earning Sharon the position of Valedictorian, her hard work had secured her a place at UC Berkeley where she will be majoring in Chemical Engineering with the intent of doing research in manufacturing, food processing and medicine.

When asked whether she felt she deserved the position of valedictorian, Sharon said, “I feel like I have earned such recognition through excelling academically and being  involved both inside and outside of school, but I want to acknowledge the fact that everyone in school, especially in the IB family, has worked hard. We should all be proud of our accomplishment, whether or not we get recognized for our hard work.”

This year’s salutatorian Andrew Castillo has an equally interesting background. Unlike most graduating seniors,  he did not grow up in Covina or attend school in COUSD prior to high school. Moving from Norwalk halfway through freshman year, Andrew had to go through the academic and social challenges of being a transfer student. His class rank also dropped  about 50 or 60 spots, requiring him to take summer school and extra math classes to catch up.

“Finishing up freshman year proved to be difficult. I wouldn’t get home until about 7:00-7:30 p.m. because of tennis and traffic. Game nights were the worst, not getting home until about 8:30-9:00 p.m. Mornings were just as bad, hitting about an hour of traffic every day. In the end though, I think it was all very much worth it,” said Andrew.

Andrew’s career at school and within the community is quite extensive.  He was most involved with Key Club, becoming a home club president and a Division Leadership Team member, helping to oversee 11 constituent clubs and over 1200 members. They worked with a variety of community organizations such as Kiwanis, the Covina Parks and Recreation Department, Parent Place and others for a number of different causes. They also helped to raise over 6000 dollars as a division to help prevent pediatric trauma.   

 

In addition Andrew was involved in other clubs at school such as Unity Board, Interact, and Doctors Without Borders, as well as being an athlete in tennis all four years of high school,. In addition, of course, he is a successful IB diploma candidate and an AP student.

All of Andrew’s hard work has earned him a prestigious acceptance to Harvard University in Cambridge. He will be majoring either in Human Evolutionary Biology or Molecular and Cellular Biology.

“I chose this not only because it aligns with my long term career goals–becoming a physician–but also because the sciences just speak to me on a fundamental level. I am known to be very pragmatic, and literal, something the scientific method is very much attuned to. I love the way it explains the world with hard, empirical evidence,”said Andrew.

Charter Oak has much to be proud of this year as everyone bids farewell to the Class of 2017. The lives these seniors, along with the lives the hundreds of other accomplished, kind and determined students graduating next week have lead will leave a legacy for years to come.

 

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Charter Oak’s brightest academic stars: