Sophie Li: Resident Valedictorian


Sophie Li pictured at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens.

Hannah Choy, Editor

Sophie Li (‘23) is the resident valedictorian of the resident class of 2023, following her sister, Olivia Li, who was the 2022 magnet valedictorian. However, the achievement was unexpected.

“Honestly, I wasn’t thinking about [being valedictorian] that much, because my sister was valedictorian last year and I didn’t want pressure or expectations for me to also do the same thing because I just didn’t know,” said Li.

While Li took a variety of difficult classes, a few were standouts during her time at Chamblee.

“AP Environmental [Science] this year was a good combination of really enjoying the personality of the teacher and also the content because, for a lot of other classes, it was either/or. Ms. Gross did a really good job of orienting her class, caring about the students, and making things engaging, but also, the topics in APES are so practical and applicable to the real world. It was a nice surprise [as it was] something I wasn’t expecting to actually really enjoy,” said Li.

Even with more difficult classes, Li maintained a positive mindset and the determination to succeed.

“Honestly, [AP] Calculus and Physics were probably my two hardest classes in my career at Chamblee, but I wouldn’t say I wouldn’t do it again because it was actually a really good experience for me. I loved Ms. Clark and Ms. Cabrices both, but the topics itself are so hard and I had to put in a lot of effort and practice. That part was really intense, but it was one of those classes that was really validating for me when I did understand, because I felt like I actually earned it,” said Li.

Li’s perseverance did not go unnoticed by her AP Physics I teacher, Ms. Marie Cabrices.

“In class, Sophie was quiet but paid attention to everything. If there was something she didn’t understand, she was going to come to ask me [to] make sure she had a deep understanding of everything that we talked about in Physics. She really went above and beyond what most other students did– she was the hardest working Physics student I think I had last year,” said Cabrices.

In fact, this character trait of Li’s was observed even before she stepped foot inside Cabrices’s classroom.

“One of my favorite moments with Sophie [was when] she did this bulletin board [in the fourth-floor hallway] at the beginning of the school year. She showed up, I think, two or three days during pre-planning [when] none of the students were here, just teachers. And she [came] to do this bulletin board that says “Level Up” with the Mario Brothers, and it just showed me that she puts that same work ethic into everything. I haven’t seen her play golf, but my guess is she puts that same energy and effort into golf, that bulletin board, class, and schoolwork. She is really intelligent and hardworking, and that’s a great combination. She’s gonna go places for sure,” said Cabrices.

This year, Li accomplished not only academic achievements but also a nomination to the Homecoming Court.

“Being on the Homecoming Court was the epitome of the high school experience for me. I was shocked and really happy that the entire Court got to engage with all the activities, [not just] whoever was elected. I’ve always had a lot of school spirit and tried to be super involved with SGA and homecoming stuff, like dressing up and getting people excited, but I feel [that] actually being on the Court and kind of being a symbol of that school spirit was a new experience. Getting to walk in the football game [was something] I’ll definitely remember many years from now,” said Li.

It’s easy to see Li’s school spirit and optimism reflected in everything she does, even when dealing with obstacles and unexpected events.

“Looking back [on] every year, I’m just grateful for the experience I had. There wasn’t anything that I was really regretful of, and [even] with COVID, I took it as it came and made the most out of it– I don’t look back on those years and have any negative thoughts. I feel [that] the connections I’ve made and the relationships I’ve built every year were meant to be. Taking everything as it came and trying to make the most out of every experience and situation I was put in was what made high school so memorable,” said Li.

Li offers some advice on achieving a positive high school experience.

“Everyone always says [high school] goes by super fast, and it does. Know that even though things can seem hard at times, in the broad scheme of things, appreciate the little things that you have. [Whether it’s] the small conversations you have with your friends during class or getting involved with extracurriculars, that’s what made me appreciate my time here. I don’t [think] any of my time was a waste because I let myself be fully involved in what mattered to me or what I felt [that] I could have a lot of fun [with] or do really well in,” said Li.

As the end of the school year draws to a close, seniors are committing to colleges and finalizing plans post-high school graduation. After going through the college admissions process herself, Li has encouragement for rising seniors.

“Don’t let other people’s journeys affect your own. Sometimes it’s really hard, especially with how competitive school has gotten and how much pressure and expectations are built for you, whether it’s from your family or even your peers. It’s really easy to get caught up in comparing yourself to others, especially during the college app. process. When you see people submitting applications early or getting into [top] schools, try not to compare yourself to other people because you’re on your own journey. There’s something that’s meant for you, and I’m a strong believer that whatever is meant to happen for you will happen. Just give yourself that leniency to go through your own process at your own pace, and know that you’re doing well wherever you are,” said Li.

Li plans to take a gap year to study abroad in Taiwan on a full government-funded scholarship and is still finalizing her choice for college. She is planning to major in Biology.

“I’m pretty sure I’ll be going to Georgia Tech, but I am still debating between the University of Washington and UCLA,” said Li. “Tech is my highest option, and as of now, I will be studying abroad in Taiwan.”