Forging a new path

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Junior Gina Yang stands with a model skeleton, affectionately known as Sherman, in the Biology TA area. Yang has both taken AP Biology with teacher Renee Fallon and assisted her as a TA.

Junior Gina Yang stands with a model skeleton, affectionately known as Sherman, in the Biology Teacher Assistant area. Yang has taken AP Biology and STEM with teacher Renee Fallon in sophomore and freshman year respectively, and assisted her as a TA this year.

It’s not every day that one hears that a peer is dropping out of high school. Even though it’s a rare sight in Cupertino, the dropout phenomenon is more commonplace around the nation and takes place for a variety of reasons. Sometimes. it is because of a financial crunch. Sometimes it is because of a family relocation. Sometimes, even, expulsion from the school is the main driving force. But for junior Gina Yang, it’s none of these things. She is choosing to forgo her last year of high school in favor of exploring new opportunities at the University of Southern California next year, under its Resident Honors Program.

“I’ve kind of felt over the past three years that [this]hasn’t been for me,” Yang said. “The thing is that in high school, they make you take a lot of classes – especially if you know what you’re gonna do in your life already – they seem kind of useless to you . . . if you know what you want to do in life, being in such a restrictive curriculum isn’t really the thing for you.”

The process of applying for college, which only differed from the normal senior route by having an extra application and essay that asked her about why she was leaving high school early, was a somewhat spontaneous one for Yang. She only chose to make that decision after realizing that the high school dynamic was not fit for her.

“My parents were just like ‘whatever’ to be completely honest. They didn’t force me to apply,” Yang said. “I just heard about the program quite early in high school and I considered it, but then, after deciding that high school really wasn’t for me, then I decided to apply.”

For many of Yang’s friends, her decision to be a part of USC came as a bit of a shock. Both them and Yang had expected to finish their senior year together and to be able to relax as a group. With those expectations upended, Yang had decided to post to Facebook about her acceptance after telling her parents and teachers, as she did not want them to wonder where she had gone during the next school year.

Yang still vividly remembers how she felt when the acceptance letter finally arrived, on a Wednesday. She felt great awe and happiness.

“I stayed at school until 4:30 because I did not want to sit in front of the mailbox and just wait for one and half hours after getting home from school . . . my room overlooks the street where you can see the mailbox so I stood up there and waited until the mailman came.” Yang said. “I was steeling myself because [I told myself] ‘I know I am not going to get this, so stop thinking about it’ . . . And then I put the key in and say the package. I saw the USC insignia on the box and I was like ‘oh God’ . . . I was like, ‘Mom I got news from USC’ and she was like, ‘what did you get rejected?’ and I was like, ‘Oh, okay.’ They gave me a package and it’s like this beautiful red folder and they have Welcome to the Trojan family and then it had the acceptance inside.”

As for the ever-popular question of the formula to getting in, Yang does not really think there is one. Throughout her high school career, she focused on a three year research project on bees and the effects of colony collapse disorder and attended Science Olympiad from eighth grade until now. This helped lead her to the path of a planned double major involving Biology and Computer Science at USC, in order to establish more interdisciplinary possibilities. But an important fact that Yang has noticed is that the Resident Honors program emphasizes one characteristic: maturity.

“Even in the program they said we were selected by emotional maturity,” Yang said. “[In] college you’re an adult, basically. There are adults there, people who are 18 there, and if you’re a 16 year old like I am right now you have to have the maturity to mix in with those 18 year olds.”

Overall, Yang is most appreciative of the help she’s received from others along the way, especially from her mother.

“My mom is my rock,” Yang said. “I’ve had great teachers who supported me, I’ve had great friends who supported me, who helped me. I won’t name any in particular. But my mom, my friends, my teachers [definitely were there].”

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Bill Cheng is a junior and a part of the entertainment section. This is his second year on staff.