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Q&A With Sophia Choi (SHP ’21)

From a passion for STEM, to jazz band, to cross country and more, Choi is a stand-out student
SHS: Describe your favorite academic classes at Sacred Heart Preparatory (SHP)? What about them inspired you, and what were the most valuable take-aways?
Sophia Choi (SHP ’21): My favorite class at SHP was AP biology. As a hands-on learner, I enjoyed the many lab experiments, such as testing the amount of protein in different types of milks. In one lab experiment, I was given general parameters to conduct an experiment on enzymes. I led, designed, and ran my own experiment to determine how changing the pH of a solution would alter the function of the enzyme. This experiment encouraged my own creativity and thinking skills. 
I was very inspired by my teacher, Ms. Diane Sweeney, SHP science department head. She was always available to help, and found creative ways to teach us lessons. For example, she had students reenact the functions of certain proteins and cells in the bodyshe also taught us songs to help with memorization. Having a passionate, intelligent teacher definitely sparked my interest in biology.
Another class I really enjoyed was sustainable agriculture. Surprisingly, I was the only student in this class during the semester. I went to the school garden and farm three- to-four times a week to plant, harvest, and compost crops. I also fed and cared for the bunnies, goats, and ducks; I even milked the goats multiple times. Overall, this interactive, hands-on learning helped me realize how connected everything in nature is. The food that humans call “waste” is a nutritious meal for the bunnies. The worms and potato bugs, which make me squeamish, are an important component when composting animal waste to create rich soil. After taking this class, I have a greater appreciation for everything in nature.
Tell us about the extracurriculars or athletics you participated in, what you liked about them, and how they helped you grow.
When I transferred to SHP during my sophomore year from Manhattan, I was unfamiliar with the Bay Area and was nervous to go to a new school. I decided to join the cross country team. The first practice was one week before school started, and my teammates were the first people at SHP I met. They were all very friendly and welcoming. I was able to make friends from different grades, from freshmen to seniors. I also joined the swim team, a sport I had been doing for years. By participating in athletics, I learned a lot about being part of a team and the power of cheering on others.
I also played flute for the SHP jazz band. Even though I had to wake up earlier for morning practices, I loved having the jazz songs stuck in my head throughout the day. By being involved in athletics and the jazz band, I learned a lot about time management, which helped me to fit in all the things I wanted while doing my classwork. 
Describe what you’re most proud of achieving during your time at SHP, and why.
I’m most proud of starting up two clubs that I am passionate about: Real Talk Club and K-Pop Club. Real Talk is a non-profit organization that seeks to foster civil discourse, which I felt was much needed during these polarized times. At the beginning of my senior year, I started a chapter of Real Talk at SHP. Every other week through Zoom, our club learned strategies to improve our communication skills and practiced them through roundtable discussions. Alongside regular meetings, we had many phenomenal guest speakers touching on the importance of civil discourse, such as the former UN ambassador Samantha Power. I hope that Real Talk will continue to expand and create a lasting impact at SHP.  Regarding the K-Pop club, my co-leader and I wanted to bring together members of the SHP community that like K-Pop or wanted to learn more about it. For two years, we’ve built a tight-knit community; I’m grateful to have made many new friends there.
How would you sum up your time at SHS?
I would use two words to describe my time at SHP: second home. I’m grateful to have spent three years on a spacious, beautiful campus where I could see the seasons changing. I met some of the best teachers that fostered my passion for learning. I developed wonderful friendships during lunch, where the cafeteria was a center of memorable entertainment, including band performances and pie-eating contests. I felt a strong sense of community during student life assemblies in Harman [Auditorium] or the special masses we have during the year. Even though I didn’t know every individual at the school, I felt connected to them just by being part of the Sacred Heart community.
What are your plans for the future, and how has SHP prepared you for it?
I am very excited to be attending Johns Hopkins University in the fall, with an intended major of Molecular and Cellular Biology. SHP nurtured my interest in biology, and I was encouraged to dive deeper into the field. During senior year, I conducted my own research through the Senior Honors Independent Study program; I had the flexibility and freedom of directing my study. During the spring semester, I wrote a research paper on immunotherapy for cancer, where some of the latest cancer treatments and technology are pioneered. I had Ms. Sweeney as my mentor, and I also contacted a few experts in the immunotherapy field during my study. At the end, I presented my findings and research to the SHP community. I learned so much from this experience about communicating a complex topic to others and deciphering complex scientific articles. Following this experience, I’m looking forward to continuing this research in college.
Where Scholarship and Values Matter
Founded by the Society of the Sacred Heart, SHS is a Catholic, independent, co-ed day school for students in preschool through grade 12