Chris Intanam believes that with time and dedication, he can excel at anything he puts his mind to. This 2021 Summit Sierra graduate is motivated by challenges, personal growth and discovering the joy in learning. Through the support he found at the school, Chris has been able to witness his own growth and develop new interests.
Starting Over at Sierra
Transitioning to high school, Chris did not have the highest expectations of himself. His family thought Summit Sierra, a charter public high school in Seattle, was the place for him because it was smaller and newer than his middle school. A smaller school meant that he would be able to get the individual and personalized support he did not have earlier. At his previous school, Chris felt as though he was constantly stuck in a loop of negative behavior which restricted his potential.
Sierra’s environment cultivated a different experience for Chris. “The staff members at Sierra cared for me and wanted the best for me”, reflects Chris. He visualized opportunities to grow into a better version of himself through the constant support of the school’s faculty and community. To his teachers, Chris is intelligent, insightful, creative and most of all – passionate. Today, Chris has confidence in who he is. “I am passionate about finding a way to help others and finding a career that will allow me to express my desire to voice the things that need change.”
Community Support is Key
Carrying over feelings from his middle school, it took Chris some time to adjust during his freshman and sophomore years at Sierra. With time and support, Chris felt comfortable expressing himself and improving his overall behavior. “My mentor, Mr. Crook, watched as I grew and matured in the four years I spent at Sierra. I have come a long way from where I was. We have a strong bond because he was the one who was there for all the good times and bad, helping me progress the most,” he said.
During his junior year, Chris expanded his responsibilities to have a big influence on the Sierra community. After noticing some of his peers were struggling with some science concepts, Chris took initiative to offer his peers tutoring for classes like chemistry. Since Chris was able to quickly grasp the new information, he helped equip his fellow classmates with a foundation to confidently approach science. With COVID, Chris’ senior year was online and demanded more of him, but he still made time to support his peers who were struggling.
Not only did the constant support and accommodations provided by the school help Chris thrive; he also felt seen. Summit Sierra’s diversity is reflected in the lived experiences of students and faculty, and in the cultural heritages, racial identities, and ethnic events celebrated at the school, which allows students and teachers alike to engage in cultures apart from their own.
“Events help bring community together. Beyond discussing differences, events offered a cultural exchange that helped students like me build our identities with new ideas and experiences. This meant a lot to me because it allowed for stronger bonds between students and school faculty as well,” he explained. Chris is grateful for the connection, care, and support he felt at Summit Sierra.
Curious and Change-driven
Planning on studying to become a doctor or surgeon, learning art taught Chris how important it is to spend less time drawing and more time observing. He used it as a head start in learning anatomy! Chris also enjoys exploring philosophy. You will often find him asking “what if” and “why” questions. Daydreaming about sci-fi and fantasy, as well as incorporating philosophical and ethical questions into his encounters became Chris’ hobbies.
In his senior year, at-home and learning virtually, Chris watched as social unrest unfolded across the country. The death of George Floyd, Asian hate crimes, demonstrations against police brutality all weighed heavily on him. For a person who often focused inward, these events opened Chris’ eyes to how others experience challenges, pain, and struggle.
It gave him perspective on the troubles he was going through and the drive to push forward so that he would be able to make change one day. “Although I couldn’t do anything about what has already happened in the past, I told myself to worry about ‘today,’” said Chris. “I told myself that I must be disciplined and learn as much as I could so that when my time comes, I may be ready to push situations in the world to the best possible outcomes.”
This revelation has inspired Chris as he joins the ranks of the 2021 freshman class at the University of Washington. Through his continued education, Chris looks forward to building his skills, including a deeper understanding of others, to successfully pursue his future aspirations while helping those around him. “I will be working hard to further develop myself as a person,” Chris said. “I want to use the opportunity of going to University to learn more about other people and their life motivations. I don’t know where I will end up, but I will use what I have learned to help people.”
Pushing Through Virtual School
The COVID-19 pandemic and at-home quarantine was tough on Chris. It was a struggle to socialize and navigate mental health, but he is still thankful for the experience. “I wouldn’t have it any other way because quarantine allowed me to grow a lot and develop strong ambitions that I have been searching for ever since I entered high school. It made me happy to know what I should strive for and helped motivate me to find my interests.”
Online school was certainly a struggle, especially with finding the motivation to work on assignments. Chris was quickly overwhelmed without a direct goal to work towards. “I knew that I needed to be as prepared as possible for college, so the moment I figured out my general path of interest, I began practicing skills that I believe will be beneficial for me in the future,” Chris shared. He started practicing time management, reading more, and disciplining himself by trying out new things. His motto was to worry about ’today’ first and get current assignments done. He told himself that learning would prepare him to make positive impacts in the future.
There were points in high school where Chris felt like giving up – feeling pressure from parents with high expectations and being in virtual school for almost a year. The Sierra community was encouraging, but Chris recognized that a lot of his motivation came from within and developing his future ambitions. “I knew that I must be patient for my turn to make a contribution to the world,” he expressed. It gave Chris hope and strength to face challenges that initially made him want to quit. Being back in-person this spring significantly helped Chris reconnect with community, eliminate distractions from his environment, and complete high school strong.
Words of Wisdom
Graduating has been bittersweet since most of Chris’ senior year was virtual. He does not feel like he accomplished everything he wanted to in high school, and it is hard to leave behind peers, teachers, and mentors. However, when Chris looks back, he is proud to have grown so much and to have finally found something to work towards. He plans on taking with him all the positive things he learned and acquired during high school. “Some of the most prominent ones include integrity, time management skills and the ability to discipline myself,” he said with pride.
“What if I told you to think of your life as a glass of lemonade?”, Chris asks.
This new Summit Sierra alum explained his take on the lemonade analogy for life and what it means to experience the bad to enhance the good. By making lemonade with sugar, water and lemon juice, life becomes much more fulfilling and “refreshing” than if you were to have only one of the three:
- Lemon juice: symbolizes hardships, struggles, and pain experienced in life
- Water: a medium that is used to dilute the extreme sweetness and sourness, making life more manageable and balanced
- Sugar: the “sweet” things in life that one may enjoy
Chris feels that the challenges have helped him see and appreciate the good. He wants people to remember that everyone has their own ‘lemons,’ and different tolerance levels to the bitterness and sweet, so it’s important to make adjustments to maximize your enjoyment of life. “If a friend needs it, share your sugar and water with them so they can make their own lemonade. Wishing all of my peers good luck on their journey!”