First published in the Sept. 23 print issue of the San Marino Tribune.
When Marcus Chua was named the Rotary Club of San Marino’s student of the month for September at its luncheon last week, the high school senior accepted his award with a heartfelt speech — becoming the first such honoree in 1½ years to do so in person, thanks to progress in the fight against COVID-19.
“I’m overjoyed that I could be the first in a new era and to take my place amongst the brilliant students who will join me in standing on this stage in the months to come,” said Chua, who attends San Marino High School.
He did not know at the time that just a few days later he would receive another prestigious award that further embellished his glittering dossier.
On Monday, Chua was one of 15 SMHS seniors who were named semifinalists in the National Merit Scholarship competition, an academic program that recognizes and honors academically talented students of the United States.
Truth be told, the acknowledgment was just the cherry atop his honors from the local Rotary Club.
Chua has logged nearly 800 hours of community service while at SMHS, according to the introduction by the school’s principal, Jason Kurtenbach.
Chua’s first major project was his Boy Scout Eagle Project, a mass landscaping effort at Lacy Park that resulted in over 50 volunteers planting 400 lilyturf plants to restore a seating area in the park. He has also volunteered as a camp counselor and leadership instructor at the Boy Scouts’ National Youth Leadership Training and Rotary’s Teen Leadership Camp.
He has also organized multiple service projects through clubs at SMHS. The former president of the Red Cross Club, he organized food drives in which he enlisted the help of more than 70 volunteers to provide food and other household necessities for a food bank in Pasadena earlier in the coronavirus pandemic.
Chua is also entering his fifth year as a member of the Titanium Robotics team, having joined the squad as an 8th grader and becoming the youngest member in the team’s 18-year history to serve on Titanium’s leadership cabinet. He served as the business president of the team in his junior year and is now the business president emeritus, an advisory position in which he provides leadership and guidance to the cabinet and the rest of the team. He’s taken his passion for robotics outside the team as well, having built remote-control underwater drones out of PVC pipes in the Florida Keys.
Furthermore, he served in the SMHS class of 2022 cabinet in his freshman, sophomore and junior years, and presently is the president of the school’s Key Club. Chua mentioned that his most treasured memories during his time at SMHS were from the homecoming parades during his freshman and sophomore years.
“Each time that I and the rest of the cabinet of the class of 2022 rode down Huntington Drive was a truly breathtaking experience,” said Chua. “As we stood on our float and tossed out candy to the crowds, I was truly inspired at the sight of the whole of San Marino coming together to celebrate and have a good time and unite as a city.”
Chua is also a project coordinator with STEAM: Coders, a Pasadena-based organization focused on providing science, technology, engineering, arts and math instruction to underrepresented groups. He is currently building a program to connect college student-tutors to students in middle school who have been negatively impacted by the learning constraints produced by the pandemic.
“This program is designed to get these students back on track and enable them to meet grade-level requirements so that they can continue to be successful in math,” said Chua.
The son of Kim and Kien Chua and older brother of SMHS sophomore Nicholas Chua hopes to study management science or industrial engineering and operations research at Stanford University or UC Berkeley.
“I am very interested in the intersection of STEM and business and hope to pursue these areas in my career,” he said. “The majority of the credit is due to my parents, for supporting me and guiding me throughout my life and enabling me to become the student that I am today.”
“Marcus never stops,” Kurtenbach added. “This kid is in just about everything he can be, and I am not quite sure where he finds the time to do as much as he does. But he is someone we are very, very proud of at San Marino High School, somebody who is the best of what we have to offer.”