The top 5%: The Class of 2023 ends senior year with a bang!

   With the end of the 2022-2023 school year drawing near, PPCHS seniors find themselves reflecting on their journeys to the finish line. From the challenging switches between in-person and online school to constantly changing curriculum, Charter not only highlights the senior class’s social perseverance, but especially their academic perseverance.

   The top 5% of the class includes students with the highest GPAs out of hundreds of kids. Achieving such rankings requires dedication on top of long-term commitment. Thus, after continuous hard work through four distinct years of highschool, 23 seniors were honored as the top 5% of their graduating class!

   The following students are recognized as the Class of 2023’s top 5%, and have managed to put new meaning to the phrase ‘ending the year off with a bang!’: Nicole Becerra, Matthew Castillo, Sumedh Edavalluri, Luza Fontana-Mansila, Sushant Kannan, Rebecca Lim, Angelina Lobato, Sri Madabhushi, Kailee Maldonado, Ahil Mahendra, Catalina Medina, Macarena Morales, Jorge Munoz, Soluchukwu Okafor, Chidera Okafor, Connor Pierce, Maria Rubio-Bermeo, Javian Sandino, Emma Schenker, Rasika Sriram, Trinity Tang, Hailee Watson, and Daniel Zambrano.

   Many of these seniors had thoughts to share about their accomplishment:


   “I feel really proud! It feels like an acknowledgment that all the hard work that I’ve put in has paid off. I was definitely motivated by things like getting into a good college, but I also think a lot of it was just my competitive and perfectionistic nature. It also helped that I do generally enjoy learning though. It was always a goal of mine, but until I actually got to high school and started checking my rankings I wasn’t sure how attainable it would be. I think I really got caught up in that mindset of always having to do the best and get the perfect grades and take the hardest classes, and I honestly spent the majority of high school either really stressed or burnt out.” – Emma Schenker


   “It feels good and like an amazing accomplishment.” –Trinity Tang


   “It feels very rewarding because even though it’s a number, it’s also a recognition. It takes a lot of perseverance and dedication to keep working hard and to always put your best effort into everything whether it’s the final exam or a simple worksheet assignment. I came into high school with big dreams and with the most amount of determination and motivation I’ve ever had. I would say my biggest challenge was during the pandemic, not being around my friends who kind of offer me motivation too. Academically, I was blessed that I wasn’t negatively affected especially because I know a lot of people struggled with that. Also, I feel like just finding my rhythm between balancing school, extracurriculars, and my social life was tough at first. But I’ve gotten the hang of it but I’ll have to learn again in college!” –Sri Madabhushi


   “It feels very good to be in the top 5% because it’s shown me that all my hard work has paid off, all those classes that I debated taking really were worth it. My family and their sacrifices motivated me in order to show them that I do appreciate all they do for me. The younger me would be so proud that I was able to continue getting straight A’s and was able to focus on school for so many years. The hardest challenge that I encountered was when I started taking SAT’s and comparing myself to others, and it really made me doubt if I’d be able to get into a good college and be successful, but I’m glad [that through] my hard work mixed with my parents’ endless support, I was able to get through this little rough patch” –Macarena Morales 


   “When they gave me the medal on senior night, while it clearly was just an object, I felt that it was all worth it. I felt proud and inspired to keep on going, because this medal is not the end, but the start of even more. Since I was little, I have always been at the top (not to sound too egocentric). Thus, the medal was the culmination of all the work I have done for the past 13 years. Within the top 5%, there’s really no distinction for me, it’s crazy to think that it’s only 20 out of about 400. So, it’s an honor. However, I don’t believe in ranks or grades. I feel that it’s a system that marks people and forces them to stay in their place, unable to advance what is thought to be “higher”.” –Maria Rubio-Bermeo 


   “I was always a somewhat competitive straight A student in middle school because most things came easy, so initially I followed that path. During the initial quarantine, I began to watch those college decision reactions on YouTube, and realized that the people who get into their dream schools are those who have killer SAT scores, a multitude of AP classes with high exam scores, and numerous extracurriculars. That’s kinda what drove me to do well. My emotions are somewhat mixed, because although I got into a good university w/ a good scholarship, I can’t help but think that maybe I could’ve had a little more fun, or lived in a slightly less stressed manner. I think elementary and early middle school me would’ve expected it, but 9th grade me would be very excited. My hardest challenge was probably balancing my [quite small] social life with academics. Initially I was really good at this, but as high-school went on and into junior year, I progressively got worse at it and began to lose friendships over it due to my lack of care/interactions. I’m just happy that my hours upon hours of academic effort and stress have materialized into something tangible.” –Matthew Castillo


   “For me, various motivations drive me to do my best. It is the personal drive for excellence, a desire to achieve their goals, a passion for my work,  and the pursuit of recognition and success. I find motivation in different places, such as personal fulfillment, external validation, and personal desire to make a positive impact. I knew I would be in the top 5% when I was younger. I have been in it since freshman year and the main goal was maintaining my spot. Challenges can vary greatly from person to person, and what one person finds difficult, another may not. However, the most difficult challenges that I face include overcoming self-doubt, adapting to changing circumstances, maintaining motivation over the long term, and overcoming obstacles and setbacks along the way. Being in the top 5% evokes feelings of pride, accomplishment, and satisfaction. It signifies that my efforts and abilities have been recognized and that I have achieved a high level of performance relative to others..”-Chidera Okafor


   “I think it was a combination of extrinsic and intrinsic motivation. My teachers and my peers definitely challenged me and pushed me to work. I also just felt a desire to get the highest grades possible in the classes that were important to me, not necessarily because I wanted to graduate Summa Cum Laude. I’m happy that the work paid off! I think [younger me would] probably expect [to be in the top 5%]. The only thing she’d be surprised by is how seriously some people take it. I think Covid was definitely a huge disruption, because online school really tested my discipline. I got really lazy and could feel myself falling into bad study habits and starting to not participate enough in class. In March of my junior year, I also had, essentially, a mental breakdown. It really felt like rock-bottom, but it was a huge learning experience and taught me so many life lessons. I’ve been in this range since freshman year, so I must say I’m not necessarily surprised, but I am excited to get recognition! The people that are in this bracket with me have inspired me with their intelligence and work ethic these past four years, so I’m really proud that our late nights and early mornings paid off. Now our pictures and colleges will be on the walls of the office forever!”- Rebecca Lim 


    “I have always been self-motivated to do the best that I can in all that I care about so I can truly feel satisfied with what I do. My parents have also always supported me and rooted me on and that also caused me to want to put my best foot forward. Now that I am graduating I feel relieved that my hard work and dedication paid off, and I was able to achieve all the goals that I set for myself. I feel happy with all that I have accomplished throughout my high school years. I wanted to keep getting all A’s every quarter to follow the pattern I had been able to maintain in previous years. This comes with having to stay super organized and finding the balance with extracurricular activities and everything else that is part of the high school experience. I am proud of myself and of course happy to have made it into this group of great students. It is nice that the school recognizes our hard work in this way.” –Luz Fontana-Mansila


   “Being top five percent… obviously it is a great achievement and it feels great to be in the top five percent, but I feel like it is very specific to a kind of student and selection of classes. I firmly believe that there are a lot of genius kids but they just thrive in other parts like band, sports, art, etc. I was lucky enough to get a head start… I’ve always loved school and I can honestly say I took all the classes I took because I was genuinely interested in learning the subject, not just because they gave me a credit. I think being in the top five represents how hard work pays off but at the same time how your priorities dictate your end goals. [For] anybody that’s entering high school or just for life, I’d tell them how success and dedication is subjective, meaning there is not just one way to be these things.” –Nicole Becerra


   “Top 5% is definitely not easy, especially with such a competitive class. I would say the best part of it is being on a page in the yearbook with a bunch of future doctors and CEO’s, I say spending the late nights with my AP Physics textbook instead of talking to girls definitely paid off in the end, and it’s gonna be sick when I tell my kids I graduated Summa Cum Laude of my high school class.” –Sumedh Edavalluri


   “So I was fortunate enough to start out in the top 5% of the class since the beginning of high school. But maintaining that level of success was indeed difficult. Having, I would say, one of the most competitive [classes] this year over other years made it extremely time consuming and intensive with the amount of different activities and classes students would indulge in throughout their high school careers. And being able to compete with them and try to reach even higher than them meant I had to do everything they did and more. But I would say the best part about it all is the journey. Through all the competitiveness it actually helps push students, including me, to strive to be better and also more importantly, gain experience that would not only help us get into college but also help us with our future endeavors. And I feel like that is what brings meaning to the title of top 5%.” –Sushant Kannan


   “When the letters were being passed out, I was really shocked to be told that I made it even though I wasn’t technically in the class. Actually getting the recognition is so much different than knowing you’re in the top of the class. It’s a representation of all of the stressful days and sleepless nights, and I’m extremely grateful. There were so many times that I didn’t want to do an essay or proctored test, but I knew I wanted to remain in the top 5%, so I pushed through.” –Soluchukwu Okafor

   “Being in the top 5%, it feels like an honor to be someone that represents the academics at our school. It was quite the achievement, accomplished through really caring about school and having the determination and willpower to always try my best. The greatest part about this achievement was the satisfaction from being recognized as someone who did a lot during high school. It really made all the hard work worth it. However, it wouldn’t have been possible without the continued support of my teachers and the staff throughout my 4 years at Charter.” –Connor Pierce