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Young Achievers: Student seeks higher academic challenges

DiemTien Le excels in her senior AP classes at Phillip O. Berry, HOSA club and at CPCC

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  • Meet DiemTien Le

    Grade: Senior

    School: Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology

    Fun fact: DiemTien visited family in Vietnam for three weeks in 2005. Her favorite memory: eating pho, a noodle soup, with about 30 members of her family each morning.

    Music she listens to while studying: Jazz or R&B. Anything without words, she said.

    Favorite weekday breakfast: Breakfast pizza at school.

    Next instrument she hopes to learn: The bass.

    Balancing school, work and clubs: “Challenges are going to come up – you just have to adapt.”

    Dream job: To be a photographer and live in Italy.

    Favorite quote: “We are what we repeatedly do, therefore excellence is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle



DiemTien Le spends about 20 hours a week buffing feet, massaging hands and polishing nails, and about five days a week crunching Advanced Placement statistics, hitting college-level microeconomics books and herding school-club members to community service work and competitions.

A senior at Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, she is also in more than a dozen clubs.

“I believe that no matter how small or big, there is something that can be learned, and by being in a variety of clubs, there are different environments to experience,” DiemTien said.

Her multitude of activities means she has to balance time in each – not a task that just any student can handle, said Larry Kinard, Communities In Schools site coordinator at Phillip O. Berry.

“It can become very stressful,” he said. “(And) it (can) put a strain on academic performance.”

But through determination, DiemTien pulls it off, he said.

She has spent every weekend for the past two years working in nail salons to help her mother pay bills, she said.

She hopes to attend Davidson College next fall, to study medicine so she can give back to her mom and the community. She is thinking about becoming a forensic medical examiner. But that’s only one of her many career interests.

To reach her goals, DiemTien seeks out academic challenges, including dual-enrolling in college courses. Her high school schedule features AP physics, AP literature, AP statistics and AP chemistry, among others. At Central Piedmont Community College, she is taking principles of microeconomics, business law and principles of management.

At CPCC, where her GPA is 4.0, she plans to earn her Business Operations Certificate by spring.

“If you are afraid to step out of your comfort zone, you are (allowing) your fear to grow,” DiemTien said of the academic rigor. “Self-discipline and integrity is necessary for maturity.”

Scholarship potential

DiemTien recently found out she is a nominee for two scholarships. One is the John Montgomery Belk Scholarship, a national award given to about eight Davidson students entering each class. The scholarship provides $49,723 for tuition, fees, room and board, as well as two study stipends, each worth $3,000, according to the scholarship’s website.

DiemTien is also a part of CIS at Phillip O. Berry and is nominated for the CIS scholarship. CIS of Charlotte-Mecklenburg is a drop-out prevention program for more than 6,500 students each year in 44 high-poverty Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools. The organization aims to surround students with community support and help them achieve academic success. Its scholarship grants students entering a two- or four-year school $1,000 each semester.

DiemTien will find out in March about each scholarship.

Leadership

In school, Kinard said DiemTien is a dynamic leader. He recently presented her with the “On the Ground” award, given to a CIS student at the high school capable of using community resources to excel.

“(DiemTien) came to me last year,” Kinard said. “She realized, ‘Nobody is going to do (schoolwork) for me. I’m really going to start pushing myself to success.’ ”

Karen Summers, Career and Technical Education Occupation teacher at Phillip O. Berry, said she sees DiemTien’s academic motivation in her biotechnology course.

“She doesn’t back away from challenges,” Summers said. “And when there isn’t a challenge, she creates one.”

In biotechnology class, DiemTien successfully tackles Gram staining (a method used to distinguish bacterial species), manipulating bacteria and swabbing petri dishes.

After-school clubs

DiemTien carries her desire to learn more into after-school clubs. She is president of Health Occupations Students of America club, National Technical Honor Society and art club.

In HOSA, she leads a group of about 50 students during weekly meetings, and helps organize and participates in HOSA community events.

“Our goal is to increase awareness of the medical field in our community,” DiemTien said.

Last November, DiemTien placed first in biotechnology at the HOSA State Conference in Greensboro. She went on to compete in the HOSA National Conference in June in Orlando, where she placed fifth in that category. At each of the competitions, DiemTien said, she had to demonstrate laboratory techniques such as streaking plates, using pipettes and Gram staining.

“Medicine is just one of my interests,” she said.

Also on her possible career list photographer, teacher and music instructor.

In what free time she has, DiemTien said she enjoys playing music. At age 5, she taught herself to play piano and guitar. Now she plays saxophone and dabbles in violin. She is even giving free music lessons to kids at school.

Working with kids is one place her activities have dovetailed. At a recent CMS event, DiemTien helped check the eyesight of about 30 children. Some weren’t old enough to read, so she had to use pictures instead of letters, she said.

“Some were shy and some were stubborn,” DiemTien laughed. “But I did learn how to negotiate with kids.”

Penland: 704-358-6043 Twitter @BrittanyPenland
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