Xu named co-valedictorian for the class of 2020


Provided by Isabella Xu

Senior and co-valedictorian Isabella xu posing for a picture.

Divya Sambathkumar, Co-Managing-Editor

After hours of studying and hard work, Senior Isabella Xu has been announced the co-valedictorian of the class of 2020 alongside Grace Pu. Not only has she performed exceedingly in academic classes, but she has also gone above and beyond in her extra-curricular activities.  Determination and perseverance are the reason for her success. 

Coming this fall, Xu will be attending Washington University in St. Louis for its top pre-med program. She will be double majoring in psychology and philosophy and minoring in either economics or French. 

Her decision for pursuing a rigorous pre-med track stems from her passion for medicine. From a young age, Xu had been exposed to the medical field through her father, a pharmaceutical researcher. 

“I find there’s something very inspiring about watching a patient recover or seeing how people have almost this control over things like life or death […] I had a lot of inspiration from a young age. […] I’d go to take-your-kids-to-work days, and then I’d be able to explore different models of the human body or cells,” Xu said.   

In high school, Xu took her own initiative to further this passion of hers. In the summer of 2017, she got a position as a surgical intern at an orthopedic hospital in China where she spent a month observing surgical procedures. The next summer, she got even more experience through a recurring research position at a lab where she learned about DNA testing. 

“At WA, she has obviously tried to maximize her educational opportunities and really make the most of what she could. She’s done a lot of things that I don’t see a lot of other students doing,” Xu’s guidance counselor Wendy Pechacek said. 

Her determination to make the most out of what she has can also be seen in her participation in clubs and after-school activities. For the past four years, Xu has been in the marching band and became the treasurer for the WPS band system. Her junior year, she became Vice President of HOSA, a club for future medical professionals, and this year, Xu became the Vice President of the National Honor Society. 

Throughout her high school years, Xu has had a strong relationship with Pechacek, who recalls that the first real glimpse she got of Xu’s personality was during World Diversity Day in 2017. 

“Isabella came in and was really upset how some of the upper-class boys were behaving during the panel. They were making rude comments and being really disrespectful and she was upset by it. […] She stood up to them and said you need to stop that. [I was] impressed by it. […] Being able to take a stand like that is a hard thing to do,” Pechacek recalls. 

Xu’s ability to stand up to others and her passion for medicine are not the only things that make her stand out. At school, Xu particularly enjoyed AP Psychology and AP Chemistry. Through her classroom experience in AP Psychology, Xu better understands mental illnesses and how people interact, while her time in AP chemistry gave her hands-on experience.

Xu’s strong academic profile is the result of how ambitious she is. Unlike many students, Xu can study for a long duration and enjoy it at the same time, which is why she finds it easy to manage time. She mentions she puts a lot of stress on herself to push herself to her maximum potential.

“I like to study for hours on end, and I really genuinely enjoy it […] I always feel this need to be the best I can be. I’m basically never really satisfied with what I have. I’ll be very happy, but then I’ll be like, ‘well, how can I use this [accomplishment] to better my future or get more opportunities?’” Xu said. 

She also keeps herself motivated by surrounding herself with her academically driven friends. Co-valedictorian Grace Pu especially, is someone Xu mentioned inspires her to continue working hard. Their multiple FaceTiming sessions have made them close friends who don’t let competition come in their way. 

“It was really nice having Grace [by my side] because we knew each other and it was very friendly,” Xu said. 

Their non-competitive spirit, however, didn’t translate to how Xu felt among her peers. During her freshman year, Xu didn’t feel too stressed, but as her time in high school progressed she started noticing how competitive some of her peers were. This increased her stress levels and led to mental health problems.  

She recently wrote an open letter to WA addressing the reasons for her mental health issues and how this competitive nature led to increased stress. Some of her peers kept asking about her academic standing and started talking behind her back, which led to the end of many friendships and a loss of personality as she tried changing herself for the needs of others. 

“When people asked me about my academic standing freshman year, I told them. I didn’t know the etiquette that lay behind it […] I was met with strong retaliation as people perceived me as ‘braggy’ and ‘grades-obsessed.’ […] My sophomore year commenced a strong decline in my mental health.[…] I felt I had an expectation to meet, not inflicted by my family or friends, but by the classmates who talked behind my back. […] I changed more for the needs of others than myself, losing who I was in the process,” Xu said.

Since quarantine started, Xu has been working on her mental health by journaling and staying in touch with friends and teachers who have supported her throughout her high school journey. 

“Since leaving WA, I have been working on a path of mental health recovery and have been the happiest and healthiest I have been in four years.  I wish I could say I had the high school experience many others may have had, but I can’t. Despite this, WA gave me friends who I know I can forever rely on and helped me discover the importance of remaining true to myself,” Xu wrote in her open letter.

Even with these struggles, Xu has managed to keep up her grades and her determination to succeed. In the future, she hopes to be successful in her career and find more supportive people who truly understand her. To underclassmen and incoming freshmen, Xu says that any goal can be reached if you put your mind to it and have enough drive. 

“If you have a goal in mind and you have enough passion around it, you can get it. […] You may not get it immediately, but you will get there and it just takes an immense amount of patience and effort. If you have your mind set to it, you are going to get it,” Xu said.