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Distance Learning student wins national award

Distance Learning senior Sophia F does a LOT. In addition to being a stellar student, Sophia is HTA’s National Honor Society president, the Pacific & Asian Affairs Council club co-president, and the Korean Club founder and president. In recognition of her leadership, Sophia has been chosen to represent Hawai‘i for the Billy Michael Student Leadership Award.

“As soon as I heard about this award, I immediately thought of Sophia,” says HTA Waipahu PAAC advisor, Shiloh Francis, who nominated Sophia for the award. “She embodies all of the characteristics that it recognizes: leadership, teamwork, tolerance, creativity, and perseverance.”

Sophia’s many hats have seen her take on numerous roles within HTA and the wider community. As president of the PAAC club, she helped build a library for students at our ‘Ewa Beach elementary, organized donation drives for Child & Family Service, and collaborated with students across the state in leadership and diplomacy forums. 

Last summer, Sophia joined fellow PAAC club students on a trip to South Korea, where they experienced Korean culture firsthand by visiting significant sites and interacting with Korean people, especially Korean high school students.

It was a fabulous experience for Sophia, who has a deep interest in all things Korean. She singlehandedly launched HTA’s Korean Club, which meets both in-person on our Waipahu campus as well as virtually. Sophia spends hours organizing the club and providing opportunities for her fellow students, which have included Taekwondo demonstrations, virtual cooking classes, presentations on the K-Pop industry, and Field Studies to places like the UH Center for Korean Studies. 

Even as a high schooler, Sophia says she feels a responsibility for the state of the world. 

“Being a part of PAAC, NHS, and Korean Club has allowed me to expand my knowledge about the world and make a difference, starting at the local level and working toward the global stage,” she says. “It feels good to know I am doing my part to support those around me.”

This year she is diving into even more community service through both the National Honor Society and HTA’s Career-Based Learning program. This sees her ushering at Hawai‘i Theatre and also looking after the environment with 808 Cleanups.

Sophia laughs that all her activities don’t leave much time in her day, but says being enrolled in HTA’s Distance Learning program helps her fit everything into her schedule.

“Distance Learning gives me the time and flexibility to juggle it all,” she says. “I try to schedule times to hang out with friends or go to school events so I can socialize, though!”

Sophia will travel to New Orleans in May to accept her award from the National World War II Museum. Then it will be on to college, where she is looking forward to more exploring that will likely continue her interests in global and area studies, foreign languages, dance, and music. 

“I also hope to study abroad as much as possible!” she says. “I LOVE traveling to new places and would love to pick up new languages and engage with many different cultures in college and beyond.”

Visiting the Demilitarized Zone, the border that divides North and South Korea.

seokguram grotto
songgok girls HS taekwondo
making dalgona candy and coffee

Seokguram Grotto, a hermitage in Gyeongiu, South Korea; visiting a taekwondo class at Songgok Girls High School; making dalgona candy and coffee.

sophia and dash w director UH Center for Korean Studies
sophia F podium

Sophia and her fellow PAAC club students joined forces with ‘Ewa Beach students to create a school library; Sophia and HTA’s Andrew Marchetto-Ryan with Tae-Ung Baik, the director of the UH Center for Korean Studies; taking to the podium as the student guest speaker at PAAC’s 2022 gala fundraiser.