By LAUREN BENOIT
Number two in our class, Li Ting Feng often goes by nicknames “Iris,”“Irisy” and “Iris-the-Virus.” Her friends describe her as hard-working and unique, which are both true clauses, since she will be attending Harvard University in the fall.
Occupying a spot in the top 10 is not an easy task, but despite adversity Iris has maintained a position in the top 10 since the beginning of her high school career. Just because Iris is held at such a high honor does not mean she did not struggle daily with typical high school troubles. She would describe herself as “a huge procrastinator,”confessing that she struggles with time management skills. But, despite the desire to defer school assignments, Iris will never leave her work half done with half of the effort. She “ensures that [she has her] work done with the quality [that she is] content with ... even if that means an all nighter.”
Challenging herself with 10 Advanced Placement classes, Iris had to make some very tough decisions throughout her high school career to ensure that her grades would not suffer. At the end of her freshman year, she was chosen by her Mixed Chorus teacher, Mr. Cole, to join the Madrigals the following year. She considers this one of her biggest accomplishments of her high school career, due to the fact that it was her first year singing in a public space. However, her sophomore year she decided that in order to be challenged academically, she needed to drop her passion for singing, due to scheduling conflicts, and instead took on two AP classes: United States History and Statistics. Four years later, Iris looks back on her decision, claiming it as her “worst sacrifice ever.” At the time, she was intrigued by the challenge offered by the Advanced Placement program, and decided to embark on the journey.
During her time at MHS, Iris, like every other student, had her share of difficulties, both academically and personally. One of Iris’s major obstacles was the language barrier. She moved to the United States from China when she was only 10 years old, living first in California, then to Massachusetts to finish up middle school. She did not know English very well, so she took English as a Second Language classes; Iris feels that “the language barrier definitely restricted [her] learning abilities.” Though the language barrier was not as much of a problem in high school as it was back then, Iris feels that one of her biggest personal challenges came during her senior year. This was the time that Iris learned that her parents had gone through a divorce. Although her parents had been separated for years, Iris never knew of the finalization of the divorce until months after it happened. She explains that “[her mom] hid the news from [her] so [she] could finish [her] most crucial year of high school without worries.” This event definitely had a huge impact on her performances, academically and athletically. She was not performing her best while running cross country, or in her AP Physics class. But under the pressure of college applications, beginning her last year of high school, and serving as President of the National Honor Society, Iris stood strong and made it through the rough patch.
The highlight of her whole high school career was competing on the cross country, indoor, and outdoor track teams, the three sports where she “had devoted most of [her] time and effort other than school.” The most memorable moment was when she qualified for the state meet with her three best friends. This was Iris’s first time qualifying for the state meet, “I remember we all cried, and ran to [Coach] Londino and hugged him. It was our accomplishment, it was also a result of his dedication.”
As mentioned earlier, Iris will be attending Harvard University in the fall, one of the most prestigious schools in the world. “When I was in China, Harvard was the only school I knew in America. It was my dream.” When deciding which schools to apply to, Iris applied to Harvard, not confident enough in herself to think she would get in, but she did hope for miracles. The day of notifications, Iris continuously checked her email for the letter from Harvard. Iris recalls, “the decision came in the email almost two hours late, so I thought it must be a rejection.” When the decision finally came, Iris could not control her emotions. She remembers that she was crying hysterically while telling her mom, grandmother and friends. Next year, Iris is very excited to attend Harvard, but will dearly miss the diverse and supportive community at MHS.
Iris is a well-rounded student, but the areas where she shines brightest is in her math and science classes. Her goal in the future is to develop underprivileged communities using math and science.To those aspiring for high academic achievement, Iris can give this final piece of advice: “There’s no magic. I firmly believe in 99% of sweat, 1% of luck. Opportunities are for ones who are ready.”