Livingston's Three National Merit Scholars Reflect on Graduation

Lisa Peng, National Merit Scholar, with LHS Principal Mark Stern
Andrew Huang and Annie Song, National Merit Scholars

LIVINGSTON, NJ — Commencement week found Lisa Peng, one of the 457 seniors graduating from Livingston High School on Friday, flipping through her elementary yearbook. Under future career, the MIT-bound senior had written architect and designer.

One of three National Merit Scholars at LHS, Peng is among the seniors who best exemplify the Class of 2017. She joins classmates Andrew Huang and Annie Song in receiving this special recognition of academic promise and distinguished performance.

It is an outstanding achievement for any high school to have multiple winners in the prestigious program. For Livingston, it’s a distinguishing achievement among the many milestones reached by this senior class.

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“Looking back, I am incredibly grateful for the people who have supported me,” Peng said.

On graduation day, the three National Merit Scholars stood with classmates who received academic medallions, among the honored traditions of the LHS commencement exercises. The group included science researchers, business leaders, published writers, state champions, and the school’s top senior scholars—Howie Shen, Valedictorian for the Class of 2017, and Kevin Xiang, Salutatorian—who addressed their classmates.

Peng, a builder of robots and fuel-efficient vehicles, believed she discovered engineering in 10th grade.

“I'm realizing I've been using other words to define engineering my entire life before I knew what engineering was,” she said now, in reflecting on her goals as a fifth grader. “I'm not saying that architects, designers, and engineers are the same, but I was personally referring to the technical, creative and problem-solving aspects of those fields that imperfectly described aspects of what I wanted to do—until I found that engineering unified them all.”

Andrew Huang will carry a long list of accomplishments and life experiences to Harvard College. At LHS, he was a member of the nationally ranked Quiz Bowl team.

Huang completed an internship in NYC with an adoption organization. He was nominated for the New Jersey Scholars Program. He is a three-time USA Biology Olympiad semifinalist, and he led the Science National Honor Society at LHS as president.

Huang plans to dedicate himself to the sciences and medicine, a decision influenced by personal loss. It’s a story he poignantly shared as part of the LANCETalks presentations. His father’s death, he said, has taught him a great deal about patience and responsibility as he has taken on caring for a younger brother at home.

Huang shared with a school counselor that his aspirations are fueled by the “insufficiency of current knowledge about medicine, despite millennia of human discovery and advancement.”

“While we have uncovered the secrets to splitting the atom, we are still unable to conquer the most primitive diseases that have been around since the entire duration of our human existence,” he said.

Annie Song is headed to Princeton University as a chemistry major. Her science-related activities include working as a volunteer in the emergency department at Saint Barnabas Medical Center.

Song traveled to India as part of the Atlas Workshops Global Innovators to learn about healthcare innovations. At the American University Community of Scholars, she took a class on the role of culture of international diplomacy. At LHS, she participated in Model UN and received the President's Education Award.

Song is also an accomplished cellist, performing with the LHS Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra.

“My friends made high school so fun and interesting,” she said. “I'll miss being able to joke around and laugh with them while we walk through the hallways. And whenever school got too stressful, my teachers have been there to support me and listen to my concerns. I'll miss being able to joke around (with friends) and laugh with them while we walk through the hallways.”

Peng will continue her education at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). She attended the MIT Women’s Technology program, is co-project director of the Science National Honor Society at LHS, and is the primary builder, driver and CAD engineer for Exit5 Robotics.

For Livingston’s seniors, the days leading to graduation have been a time for reflection.

“There’s a lot flowing through my mind,” said Peng, her thoughts sparked in part from the old elementary yearbook and her fifth-grade self. “I grew up in a family that enrolled me in a million different activities and left me to remain in the ones I liked. I would argue that it's a lot easier to remain graceful and humble when you're on top, but my family also taught me how to be strong and humble through failure.”

The LHS graduation ceremony will be broadcast by LTV on the local access channels Channel 34 and Fios 26 throughout the week. See the schedule by clicking HERE.

Keep on eye out on TAPinto Livingston for photos and a future article on Friday’s graduation ceremony.

This article was written by Marilyn Joyce Lehrenis, manager of Communications/Community Outreach for Livingston Public Schools.

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