Freshman 15

Meet 15 freshmen and learn about their interests and experiences. 

1. Anirudh Balepur

Freshman Anirudh Balepur recognizes that in middle school he was able to pursue many more of his interests because there was less stress on academics. He participated in Redwood’s musicals as a result of his passion for singing and acting, played the trumpet in concert and marching band, while playing basketball on school and organized teams. But participating in musicals in high school clashes with the marching band and basketball seasons so he ended up choosing the latter, but still continues to learn Indian Classical Music in his free time. “I love high school because it allows me to dedicate more time to explore my passions more seriously,” he said.


2. Fiona Lee
“My favorite part about high school is that it doesn’t actually feel like I'm going to school as an obligation because of academic knowledge. Instead, it feels like a place where everyone is gathered together to learn and, more importantly, spend time together,” said freshman Fiona Lee. She appreciates the freedoms that being a high school student comes with, from her course selections to her friend groups. “I’m hoping this year goes by slower so I get a chance to make friends with more people, now that there are hundreds of new faces I want to meet,” she said.
3. Michelle Lim
For freshman Michelle Lim, high school is actually a little easier than she expected. Her initial nerves surrounded the demanding workload and even though it is manageable now, she knows the year, and her four years of high school, have only just started. Lim is excited for this new beginning and she looks forward to “meeting new people and being in a new school environment.” She uses the rolling block schedule to its full advantage and manages her time well, since she plays competitive soccer at a national level, a time-consuming commitment that requires her to be on top of her work.
4. Isha Garlapati
Isha Garlapati welcomed the transition from middle school to high school, and her first few weeks have been a great experience. One difference that she likes is the abundance of activities and clubs to explore.

She plans on playing basketball, field hockey and joining Bombay in the Bay.

“Basketball is my favorite sport, and it was fun having practice over the summer because I got an early introduction to the campus,” she said. “I’m also grateful for my older sister who showed me my classes, and I’m also more aware of what I should expect in high school because of her.”

5. Ameer Attawar
Ameer Attawar, a budding soccer player and food fanatic, said that so far high school has been really different from middle school.

“There are so many more people here,” he said. “I’m not really sure how everything works yet, but hopefully I’ll join a few clubs and the soccer team.”

Currently, Attawar admits that he liked middle school better, “but that [opinion] will probably change once I get used to tutorials and longer periods. I also really like to eat food and the high school cafeteria food is a lot better than Redwood’s.”

6. Isabelle Lee
Isabelle Lee has been enjoying the freedom and independence of high school.

“Here, the teachers trust you more than they did back in middle school. The block schedule is really different, but I like how we have tutorial to socialize, relax and do homework,” she said.

Lee is excited to participate in school events like Homecoming and perform at events like rallies and football games with the dance team. She also appreciates her older sister Angela, a senior who “has really helped me transition to high school by giving me advice on which classes to take and telling me about the high school environment. I feel like her input gave me a lot more confidence when I came to the SHS campus for the first time.”

7. Liheng Wen
Liheng Wen came to the U.S. from Shenzhen, China, in eighth grade, experiencing both culture shock and language difficulties. “The first time someone came up to me at school, I couldn’t understand him and I felt really embarrassed,” Wen said. “I told myself that I would go home and practice my English.”

A year later, he says he feels like he’s grown more accustomed to the environment here. “I’m glad my family moved here because I have more independence than I did in China,” he said. He is on the JV football team and enjoys playing video games like Overwatch and Battlefield One in his free time.

8. John Kim
Golf and band have been an essential part of John Kim’s life for several years. He hopes he can further these interests in high school. “I like playing golf and have been playing for the past five years,” Kim said. “I practice every other day and intend to try out for the school golf team.” He also plays clarinet in the band. “The music department here is a lot more advanced than in middle school because everyone here is more talented and truly likes music,” he said. “The practices are a lot more difficult, but I also enjoy it way more.”

9. Raymond Yan

Endless hours of music and choreography combined with complicated material has defined high school for Raymond Yan. “High school is definitely more strenuous than middle school,” Yan said. “Teachers gave homework on the first day here, while we did not have homework for the first week in middle school. The material I’m learning in my classes is also different and more difficult.” Yan plays trumpet in the band and says it has been an entertaining experience. He has met cool people in band and is learning to incorporate choreography and dance movements to their show. “While practices are fun, they are also more intense and the music is more difficult,” he said.


10. Akshar Sarvesh

Freshman Akshar Sarvesh, who had attended the private school BASIS Independent Silicon Valley for the past three years, decided to transition back to Saratoga, the district where he had gone to elementary school.

I chose to move to SHS because here it won’t be as difficult to stand out,” Sarvesh said. “At BASIS, everybody takes 10 APs, but here eight APs is exceptional.”

Sarvesh especially excels in biology and computer science. He also skipped two years of math and is now taking Precalculus Honors.

In his free time, Sarvesh likes playing with Rubik’s cubes, including 3x3x3’s and 4x4x4’s. His record for the 3x3x3 is 11.501 seconds.

11. Rohan Kumar:

For freshman Rohan Kumar, high school is much more structured and organized than middle school.

In high school, Kumar plans on focusing on biology, machine learning and especially math. He will also be coaching in the Toga Junior Math Club this year to pass on his knowledge and love of math.

In his free time, he also likes to draw. Although Kumar stopped taking art classes in seventh grade, his passion for drawing still continues.

“It first begins with simple scribbles,” Kumar said. Then, I refine it into a more complete piece of art. Although it doesn’t necessarily alleviate stress, I like to draw because it’s fun creating characters and bringing them to life.”


12. Taesu Yim

Some might expect freshman Taesu Yim, son of math teacher PJ Yim to have a somewhat sheltered school life. Although he has a parent on campus with him at all times, it does not affect his school life much.

“Like everyone else, I use my own locker instead of using my dad’s classroom,” Taesu said. “But I do leave some stuff in my dad’s car.”

For Taesu, high school feels little different from middle school. He swims competitively with DACA at the Senior Elite level, the level right below Nationals, and he plans to join the school’s swim team in the spring.



13. Grace Green

Though the transition from Redwood Middle School to Saratoga High can be stressful, Grace Green has found the change enjoyable.

“I like that at Saratoga High, you’re freer to make your own decisions,” Green said.

One downside for her, however, is having to remember separate assignments for different days.

Green’s schedule will be packed with activities this year. She plans to participate in school activities like Homecoming and three sports — water polo in the fall, soccer in the winter and swimming in the spring.


14. Grace Stuart

There were many things that Grace Stuart did not expect about her freshman year. Besides expecting a larger homework load, Stuart was also nervous that social situations would shift.

“I thought maybe staying close to my friends could get harder,” she said. “You always see in the movies how people start drifting apart.” As it turns out, she had nothing to worry about.

Stuart signed up for the two water sports, water polo and swimming, and is known by her water polo teammates as “little Stuart,” since her older sister, junior Madeline Stuart, is also on the team.

Stuart is anticipating the upcoming Homecoming activities, and is especially excited for the dances.

“I’ll probably sign up for the girls’ dance because it’s fun getting to roast the other grades,” Stuart said.



15. Morgan Bruun-Jensen

Morgan Bruun-Jensen was one of the few graduates of Redwood Middle School’s Class of 2017 who originally planned on attending Los Gatos High School, because the Wildcats have a more experienced girls’ water polo team compared to the one at Saratoga High.

However, she eventually realized that she had higher priorities. “My best friend is here, and everyone I know goes here,” Bruun-Jensen said.

Bruun-Jensen has been playing water polo for the past three years and is a member of Stanford’s club team. The team placed 14th in the nation at the Junior Olympics in 2017.

Bruun-Jensen was offered a position on varsity, but she decided to turn down the offer.

“I said no because I wouldn’t be able to play games with varsity since I joined late,” Bruun-Jensen said. “And even if I practiced with varsity, I’d still be playing games with JV.”  

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