HomeStudentsViola-wielding, science-loving senior exemplifies diligence and dedication

Viola-wielding, science-loving senior exemplifies diligence and dedication


Though frequently found playing her viola and arranging sheet music, leading the Chemistry Club through a demonstration or working on coding for various self-run website domains, senior Kelly Wong can also be found frequently at Monterey Crepe Company, the senior’s first choice for a meeting place on an overcast Monday after school.

Before anything else, the senior is grounded in her surroundings. Preferring to take the bus to downtown Monterey when it rains, the calming atmosphere of the evening feels synonymous with Wong.

Despite her various academic endeavors, Wong finds time to be up-to-date on world news in Hong Kong—her home for seven years—and paints a portrait of her life in between bites of crepe with a slight haste, expressing no desire to emphasize one of her various hobbies over another.

Admitting to a constant shift in her primary interest—focusing this year on molecular biology in her AP Biology course, despite being geared closer towards computer science in her junior year—the aspiring scientist expresses no desire to limit herself.

Senior Kelly Wong basks in the afternoon sunlight. Photo by NINA PATEL

“My ideal future is one where I’m not limited to one of my interests,” Wong asserts. “I envision myself as conducting research on genetic information by day, but as a viola player by night.”

Unsurprisingly, Kelly Wong isn’t nearly done talking by the time her plate is empty. While bussing her table without prompting, the senior paints a portrait of her love for the viola. Her interest in the instrument, which she concedes to often being maligned by the rest of the orchestra, stemmed originally from its instrumental nature in orchestral harmonies, an interest which she soon applied upon arriving at CHS from an international school in Hong Kong in her sophomore year.

Though the average CHS student finds the grades-focused atmosphere to be a stressful environment, Wong asserts her observation that compared to schools in Hong Kong, a much more relaxed milieu is apparent at Carmel.

“I see a lot of optimism for the future in my peers,” explains the aspiring STEM major with a look of slight concern. “There’s a trend in popular culture right now to make pessimistic jokes, but American kids are born with a notion of the American Dream…. There’s a far more broad notion of what ‘success’ looks like.”

Balancing both AP Biology and AP Literature and Composition courses, science teacher Tom Dooner and English teacher Barbara Steinberg reflect that Wong’s ever-present desire to learn has enabled her to take a high number of advanced courses.

“Kelly’s voice comes through in every single paper that she writes,” remarks Steinberg, reading from the letter of recommendation she wrote the college-bound senior for her college applications. “She’s funny, she’s smart, she’s insightful…and that’s something that always translates into text.”

“She’s one of the best people I know,” agrees Jason Maas-Baldwin, teacher of Wong’s all-time-favorite course at CHS, AP Chemistry.

Maas-Baldwin likewise serves as the advisor to the Chemistry Club, which Wong founded this year in order to provide younger students interested in science with an outlet to view demonstrations of chemical reactions. Even on days when the club isn’t in session, the young scientist is found frequently in Maas-Baldwin’s room with her friends entrenched in scientific discussion.

AP Chemistry served as the senior’s introduction to advanced placement science courses. The open enrollment program enforced at CHS enables any student, regardless of prerequisites or GPA, to enroll in AP courses. This differs greatly from the program enforced at her school in Hong Kong, where she spent her freshman year.

“Once I could enroll in any course I wanted, I felt a lot more free,” explains Wong, reading various excerpts from her University of California applications while seeking feedback from Dooner. The biology teacher is quick to praise her, a conversation that resembles one between two teachers rather than a student and an instructor.

Dooner, whose face lights up upon mention of the name Kelly Wong, echoes prior sentiments with an avalanche of praise.

“Kelly Wong is everything that any teacher could ever want in a student,” Dooner begins. “She has a passion for understanding the world she lives in. She is connected to the world and to everything around her…. Kelly Wong is the bomb.”

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