Last summer, Aaron Pribadi spent three weeks of his vacation at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, studying math.
While it may not have been an ideal summer break for many teens, it wasn’t a surprising choice for a student like Pribadi, who says his dream vacation would be to go “anywhere,” as long as he had the chance to work on “some sort of project or goal” while he’s there.
Pribadi, a senior at Chandler High School, has excelled in all his high school courses, but has won some of his highest accolades in the field of mathematics.
His summer in Nebraska, for example, was the result of his top-notch performance in the American Mathematics Competition, a contest sponsored by the Mathematics Association of America and dedicated to recognizing excellence in math through a series of national tests.
After three tests, he qualified for the United States of America Mathematical Olympiad, which is a six-question, two-day, nine-hour exam. And he was one of roughly 60 students chosen for the Olympiad summer program in Nebraska.
There, he spent three weeks practicing math problems that involved deep analysis. Those three weeks included full days of classes and extensive problem sets in areas of math that are traditionally emphasized more in other countries than in the United States.
This summer, Pribadi plans to find an internship in the science or math arena. Then, in the fall, he will attend Harvey Mudd College in California, which he said he chose because it allows him to take a broad spectrum of courses in math, science and engineering, as well as liberal arts courses. And he doesn’t have to choose a specialization right away, because while he focuses on math, he enjoys other hobbies, too.
While at Chandler High, he’s taken part in activities like the robotics club and debate, and he plays both classical guitar and violin.
He also tutors students through the school’s AVID program, which works with middle-performing students to help them prepare for college.
Pribadi says that if he could tell incoming freshmen one thing, it would be: “While it’s important to work hard, one of the most important things in high school is to figure out what things are important to you, and why you want to do them, and what you want to live your life for.”