One likes a good debate, the other, solving complex computer problems.
Both are brilliant students, determined to take on whatever educational challenges that await them this fall at Ivy League universities.
Katerina “Kat” Zhuravel and Adrian Tong are 4.0 honors students with impressive resumes and big plans. They represent the very best of the graduating class of 2016 at Auburn Riverside High School.
Zhuravel, the daughter of Ukraine immigrants, Nadezhda and Petr, will take her act to Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y., where she will study history and political science. She is fluent in Ukrainian and Russian and has studied French for three years.
Tong, the son of Chinese immigrants, Roy and Pairy, is bound for prestigious Princeton University in New Jersey, where he plans to major in computer science and minor in robotics intelligence and systems. He is fluent in Mandarin and Cantonese and has had two years of Spanish.
Confident and eager, they are ready to take the next step.
Both attribute their work ethic and academic excellence to their exemplary parents.
For Zhuravel, it meant watching her mother struggle with English but return to college to earn a degree so she could become a dispatcher for a local company. Her father is a newspaper carrier.
“I’ve seen how hard she’s worked, coming to America and not knowing the language,” Zhuravel said. “It was awesome to see my mom go back out into education and be very bold and very passionate about what she was doing and to support our family. That inspired me to set goals that other people might consider lofty and to keep pushing for them.”
Tong draws inspiration from his father, a businessman, and from his mother, a waitress.
“My parents really taught me the importance of education,” Tong said. “My dad went from being a kid in Hong Kong to coming over here and being able to study at (the University of Washington). I want to take his example and expand it further. I think I have a lot of interesting motivation because I know there’s a lot of competition out there.”
Both seniors have made an impact in and out of the classroom.
Zhuravel, the senior class vice president, was a state debate champion who competed nationally. She lettered in speech and debate and lacrosse. Among her honors was receiving the Masonic Capstone Award, only the second student from her school to do so.
She is involved in Campus Connect, a Bible study and community service club. She’s heavily involved as a youth leader at her church. She has done outreach with ministry teams in Mexico and India.
Zhuravel credits her faith in shaping her skills to become an influential leader.
One day she may study abroad, with speech and debate as her focus, and she entertains thoughts of becoming an international lawyer, or perhaps practice politics.
Her time at Auburn Riverside has been rewarding.
“Everyone is so encouraging and the school spirit is so high scale that it has a great influence on your academic performance,” she said. “There’s amazing people here, (a place) I want to come to, I want to learn and I want to succeed.”
Tong, meanwhile, excelled with the robotics club that placed at state and competed nationally. He explored and shone in high-level math and engineering classes. He earned the National AP (Advanced Placement) Scholar Award for getting all 4’s and above on all of his AP exams.
He was the varsity tennis captain the past two seasons, teaming up with his brother, Colby, a sophomore, to win a pair of league championships and compete at state.
Tong was involved in Key Club and served as president of the National Honor Society.
He worked as an intern in the Auburn School District’s IT department and has earned an internship with Microsoft this summer.
Tong would like to work for a big company one day, assigned to special group projects that tackle global challenges. He hopes one day to become his own entrepreneur.
“It would be really interesting to be able to come in and use my knowledge in robotic systems and technology to solve their problems, like pollution, transportation and water desalination, things like that,” he said.
The possibilities with computer science are endless, he said, and he wants to be on the cutting edge of automation and other technological advances.
Auburn Riverside has prepared him well.
“I found there were a lot of opportunities here and found that if you ask for things, they usually work out,” Tong said. “I’m really thankful for my school experience here.”