“I would like to thank all the teachers at Walton for being so supportive,” Wang said Tuesday.
Wang and Link were among 21 student and teacher finalists recognized during a ceremony at the Crowne Plaza Ravinia in Atlanta by the Professional Association of Georgia Educators on Monday. Wang will receive a $5,000 scholarship from AT&T Georgia, and Link will get a $2,500 cash award from the Frances Wood Wilson Foundation Inc.
Wang’s parents, Larry Wang and Lily Liu, attended the ceremony with her, and she said they were all surprised when her name was called.
“My dad couldn’t stop smiling, and my mom was going around talking to everyone,” she said. “I didn’t expect it at all. The other 20 regional STAR Students were all amazing. When I heard my name, I thought it was a joke.”
She was one of 10 finalists who scored a perfect score, 2400, on the SAT.
“I got lucky,” she said. “I took it twice. The first time, I studied a lot and went through an entire practice book and didn’t do as well as I’d hoped. The second time I relaxed.”
Wang also announced Monday that she will be attending Harvard University next year.
“I’m so excited for college, but I’m also nervous,” she said.
She hasn’t decided what she will major in at college, but she’s leaning towards scientific research.
“To be able to enter into that field would be an amazing opportunity,” she said.
Wang said students should take the opportunity to enjoy activities in high school and not just focus on studying.
“It’s important to realize that this is a one-time opportunity and four years you’ll never get back,” she said. “You need to see your passion. A lot of people don’t realize it, and they ignore the possibilities. It’s more important to love the process rather than the end result.”
Wang said she made this realization in 10th grade after losing a piano competition.
“I figured out that if I spent my whole life trying to win things, I’d never be happy,” she said.
Wang said she chose Link as her STAR Teacher because of how she helped her understand the purpose of science.
“When I first entered high school, I didn’t understand what made science so amazing,” she said. “I thought it was just memorizing facts from a book. She made me realize that it’s a part of our everyday life.”
Link, who taught Wang in AP and Honors Biology, said Wang’s work ethic helped her earn the state recognition.
“She’s real bright, but very humble,” Link said. “If you ever met her on the street, you’d never realize that she’s absolutely amazing and intellectual. She is gregarious in class, very outgoing, very inquisitive, and that’s one thing about her that stands out.”
Link has been teaching science at Walton for six years, and this is the first time she was ever nominated for STAR Teacher.
Wang was joined by fellow Walton Student Jake Albert and his STAR teacher, Andrew Adams, at the ceremony.
The STAR program was created in 1958 to honor academic excellence. School counselors nominate students, who must have the highest score in one sitting on the three-part SAT and be in the top 10 percent or top 10 students of their class. Students are then asked to select a teacher who has helped guide and inspire them throughout their school career.