Mercer Island students deserve a fist bump | John Hamer

With young people like these, our future is in good hands.

I did pretty well in high school. Got good grades, played sports, was in student government, wrote for my school newspaper, and luckily won a full scholarship to an Ivy League college.

But I met some high school kids the other day who made me look like an underachiever.

The Mercer Island Rotary Club gives “Student of the Month” awards to MIHS students who excel in various ways. The school’s teachers and administrators nominate the individuals. My fellow Rotarian Jen McLellan, who heads the College and Careers Readiness program at MIHS, oversees the awards.

At our most recent Rotary Club lunch at the Community and Events Center, four outstanding students received the awards. Schools Superintendent Fred Rundle, also a Rotarian, introduced them and recounted their achievements. I was blown away.

These four young people have accomplished so much that I wondered how they possibly managed to do it all. Here are brief bios of the four honorees:

• Sol Park – As the current Associated Student Body president, he is also Coding Club president and Math Club vice president. He created a first-ever school math competition last year and worked with students to create websites and video games for a national competition. He is the drum major and was band student advisory secretary. He speaks Korean and is taking Chinese as a third language. He also headed two school assemblies to help connect and unite the student body.

• Alexandra Hyman – She is co-president at PETRI, a nonprofit providing scholarships to underprivileged girls in Kenya. She is active in Morgans Message, addressing mental health among student athletes. She is a member of BBYO, fostering a sense of community among Jewish teenagers. She has done volunteer work at Friendship Circle, helping the elderly, immigrants and kids with special needs. She has been a soccer team captain and soccer coach. She is proficient in Spanish and spent a semester abroad during 10th grade.

• Elena Lill – She is one of the drum majors in the MIHS Band. She has a 4.0 grade average and was a national merit finalist. She has taken nearly all of the Advanced Placement classes offered. She organized the first science fair at the middle school. She co-chaired Pies Against Cancer to raise money for Seattle Children’s Hospital. She has an internship at a Seattle Children’s Research Institute laboratory and has published scientific research articles. She is also captain of the mock trial and science clubs.

• Justin Li – He has a 4.0 grade point average and won a national creative writing award from the American Association of French Teachers for a story that he wrote in French. He is an active Boy Scout and is working for his Eagle Scout badge as patrol leader and scribe of BSA Troop 254. He planned the troop’s 2023 centennial celebration and has excelled as a wilderness survival and welding instructor at Camp Parsons. He has been a tutor at Waters Enrichment Academy and a youth advisor for the Museum of History and Industry. He has worked on the Mercer Island Sister City Association and the Danny Woo Community Garden. He has taken 10 AP courses and got the highest grade on every test. He is fluent in multiple languages and earned the Seal of Biliteracy in Mandarin Chinese and French.

As these kids left the Rotary meeting to return to classes, our club gave them a well-deserved standing ovation. I fist-bumped them all on their way out. With young people like these, our future is in good hands.

John Hamer is a retired editorial writer and columnist for The Seattle Times and co-founder of the Washington News Council. He has lived on Mercer Island for 25 years and has four grandchildren.