David Ma has been named the valedictorian for the Class of 2008 at Olentangy Liberty High School.

David Ma has been named the valedictorian for the Class of 2008 at Olentangy Liberty High School.

Parents: Songping Wan and Jason Ma

GPA: 4.283

Awards and honors: Summa Sum Laude, Presidential Award, Honors Diploma, Class A State Superior rating for violin performance, varsity letters in marching band and In The Know.

College: Northwestern University

Major: Undecided, although I'm looking into possibly studying economics.

What does it mean to you to be at the top of your class academically as you approach graduation?

Objectively, it means that some numbers fell in line, but I don't think it really means I'm academically superior. Our class is so competitive that I think nearly the top 10 percent had over a 4.0, so that certainly indicates that many other deserving students could have been top of class. It also means that I've had friends who have helped me when I needed it and teachers who have come to my aid. I am certainly proud to have a title attached to me, but I owe much of the success to the contributions of others in forwarding my education, and it makes me happier to see them proud.

Did you set goals for yourself in high school? What were they? Did you achieve them?

The biggest goal for me in high school was to challenge myself. Mr. Raiff, our principal, asked me if I set out to be valedictorian when entering high school, and I told him that I simply wanted to take hard classes, do as well as I could in them, and make the most out of high school. I think I've satisfied my goal of learning as much as I can and simultaneously taking advantage of all the opportunities at Liberty. But even more importantly, I wanted high school to be "fun." And I think I've thoroughly enjoyed both the educational and social halves of high school.

Who has had the most influence on your life? Why?

The only people who have been with me from my first walk to the bus stop and now to the final walk across the stage are my parents. They've coached me in soccer, coached me in violin, coached me in calculus, and coached me into being a better person. My mom and dad have been supportive of nearly everything I've ever done and congratulated me on every accomplishment, and I think no greater influence on my happiness, well being, education, and who I am as a person could be asked for.

Is that same person your role model? If not, who is? Why?

When people tell me I look like my parents, I usually just say "of course I do." But I really wish they would say that I'm just like my parents. I'm proud of who my parents are and all the great things they've accomplished. As immigrants, they overcame tremendous adversity to allow me to be in the position I am now. I know that I will tell my kids their story and hope that I will have a story of parallel achievement.

What is the one thing in your life you are most proud of?

After all these years of school and years of playing various instruments, I can't narrow down one specific thing I'm most proud of. I'm happy to have such a tight group of friends, happy to win valedictorian, and happy about so many other things. But I'm most proud just to be happy. I'm glad I'm getting to the end of high school with a smile on my face knowing that I'll keep that smile during my years of college and beyond that.

If you could go back is there anything you would change in the way you prepared for life after high school?

I'm sure there are some little things I could have done to be a better college applicant. I think I've taken a pretty rigorous course load, but I do wish I would have signed up for some post-secondary courses at a local college in something that Liberty doesn't offer. I think spending some more time on college essays may have done me some good, as well. Who knows, though? I'll find out next year how prepared I really am.

What advice do you have for incoming freshmen that would help them make the most of their high school years?

Join some clubs you're interested in, take some harder classes, listen to what your teachers and parents have to say, and don't overlook something because you think it doesn't matter. The best way to do something you need to do is to do it, not to sit around thinking about doing it. Also, senioritis strikes.

So find a cure early before it hits you. But most importantly, relax a bit -- it's only high school -- and have some fun while you're at it. You only go through high school once and you will probably miss it at some point in your life.

cpreston@thisweeknews.com