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Johnson Lin ‘21 to Attend Princeton University
Christina Yasutomi

Johnson Lin '21. 

Johnson Lin is an exceptionally intelligent young man with a bright future. He is the Class of 2021 Valedictorian, and he will be attending Princeton University in a few weeks. But what makes him remarkable is his humility, which is rooted in his upbringing. 

Unlike most children who have the means to attend private schools, Lin’s family is not privileged; his parents immigrated from China in hopes of a better life. Lin’s father works as a banquet server at the Pagoda Floating Restaurant, and his mother is a stay-at-home caregiver who struggles with health issues. Lin was able to attend HBA because he was the recipient of the Faustina L. Lazo Scholarship, which is provided to students based on financial need. When he arrived at HBA in the fourth grade, he felt like a fish out of water.

“Attending a private school was very different. It was hard for me to find friends and develop a solid friend group because I knew that the other kids were raised differently. It was hard to connect,” recalls Lin.

Lin learned to embrace his differences through a lesson of coupon shopping. His older sister, Jessie ‘18, would take him shopping at Longs Drug Store, and she would use coupons to save money. This showed Lin that he could do his part to help his family with their finances.

“It influenced my position on my financial background. I didn’t have to be disappointed in my parents. I’m proud of them for being able to immigrate to America and being able to raise their children.” 

As he matured, he continued to pursue academics. In seventh grade, he taught himself how to solve a Rubik's Cube (which he brushes off as “no big deal”). In eighth grade, he joined the Science Olympiad team. He also had the opportunity to compete in the state science fair in middle school. 

When it came time for high school, Lin made plans to attend an ivy league school. 

“I always took academics seriously, and I knew that ivy leagues offer good financial aid. So I set my goal beginning freshman year. I started finding clubs that I was passionate about because it’s important for your college application, and also having a good high school experience.” 

One of his passions is writing, so he started a writing club. He invited students who enjoy writing to come and share their thoughts on issues such as social justice. Lin also began developing deeper relationships with some of his peers, which helped carry him through his sophomore year when his mother suffered several setbacks in her health. 

“I leaned on my friend group during that time. They gave me the confidence I needed to push myself forward.” 

He also participated in the Math League and Math Bowl, and served as a volunteer for the National Honor Society and the Interact Club.

When the COVID-19 pandemic broke out in 2020, Lin, along with thousands of other high school juniors, were suddenly faced with a new challenge. The college application process, which had been clearly laid out since the start of his freshman year, was completely disrupted. Almost overnight, everything was moved online. Lin joined the herd of virtual guinea pigs and applied to schools using QuestBridge, an online platform aimed at matching students from low-income backgrounds with some of the best schools in the nation.

“Navigating the whole college experience virtually was very difficult and I had to do it on my own. However this experience made me more resilient to changes. I adapted to my situation and worked even harder.”

At Princeton, Lin plans to major in molecular biology. He eventually hopes to pursue a career in the medical field so he can give back to his community. 

As he reflects upon his time at HBA, Lin says he is thankful for the support he received from the faculty. 

“Mrs. Tara Gruspe, my counselor, has helped me throughout the years. Not just through college applications, but also with life moments. The teachers in general are really amazing. As hard as their classes are, they’ve prepared me well for college, especially when it comes to writing essays.”

Lin encourages high school students to not only focus on their academics, but to also develop friendships. 

“Having a good friend group is also important because it emphasizes collaborative work. Helping each other to study is important, but building meaningful and lasting friendships with others is even more important.”