Senwin Pareja, Salutatorian, SJS Class of 2020

This year’s St. John’s Class of 2020 Salutatorian, Senwin Pareja, made the most of his stay at St. John’s School by joining various extracurricular activities while maintaining an outstanding work ethic that allowed him to thrive at St. John’s rigorous academic program.

Senwin William Pareja, Salutatorian, Class of 2020

What colleges were you accepted into?

University of Southern California
Southwestern University
University of the Incarnate Word
George Washington University
Trinity University
Austin College
University of California Davis

Which college will you choose and why?

I will be attending the University of Southern California. There are many reasons as to why I have decided to choose USC. At first, I had no idea USC existed until I decided I wanted to be a Communications major. When I researched what schools had the best Communications programs, USC was at the top of that list. Looking a bit more closely at the programs that USC had, I discovered they offered a minor program for musical theatre, which I found to be quite rare among schools on the west coast. I, of course, planned to pursue musical theatre in college but none of the other schools I applied to gave me that direct opportunity aside from USC. The idea of living in Los Angeles also excites me. The city is the hub of the entertainment industry in the United States and having a deep appreciation for the arts, I feel like I will not feel out of place there. Los Angeles is also home to a variety of people from several different backgrounds that you would not usually see living on a tiny island like Guam who I am looking forward to meeting and learning from. Finally, the ultimate deciding factor was the financial aid. Since USC was also the school that offered me the most financial aid, choosing it as my school was a done deal.

What is your planned college major? minor?

Major: Communications
Minor: Musical Theatre

Why do you wish to pursue this major or career? How does this align with what you would like to achieve in your life after college?

I wish to pursue this major because I enjoy public speaking and writing. It also is a real-world extension of my interest in the performing arts, having to be in front of and interact with audiences which is definitely something I want to apply in my life after college.

What about college life are you most excited for?

I am most excited to have firsthand experience into my school’s interdisciplinary nature and really appreciate its encouragement to have broad interests. I am also most excited for the change in environment to the big city life and to meet and learn from new people of several different backgrounds aside from my own.

What advice would you give to a high school student starting college applications?

Do as much as you can in the beginning. But don’t aim to finish everything in one sitting. Applications take time. And as a senior, you won’t have a lot of time. But try to spread it all out. You want to get them done but you also don’t want the additional stress of having to do them last minute or crammed into one sitting to ensure the quality of your application.

What advice would you give to a new St. John’s freshman?

Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there! Try something new. Join a club you’re interested in. Take a class that maybe you wouldn’t think of taking but you always were curious about. Don’t spread yourself out too thin though. As a freshman, you may have more time than the years after you, but that runs out really quickly. It won’t be long until you have to learn how to manage your time. Might as well start as early as freshman year.

What will your lasting memories of St. John’s be?

Lasting memories would have to be the memories I made as a member of the Drama Club. I joined the club in my sophomore year but have already seen two productions prior specifically “Robin Hood” and “Boo!”. There were many factors that went into my decision to choose SJS to attend high school. But honestly, the big one was my profound interest in the school’s drama department.  When I finally began sophomore year, I was a nervous wreck. I had experience in drama, yes, but drama at SJS helped me step out of my comfort zone on stage and in my life as a teenage student growing into a young adult. Everything I am at the end of my four years, I owe to Ms. Karen Flores of the drama department. Not to mention the many supportive friends I made there.

Who has been the most influential person in your time at St. John’s School?

The most influential person in my time at St. John’s School is none other than Ms. Chellette San Nicolas. Aside from encouraging me to decide to further challenge myself with the IB Program my junior year, she also influenced me to become more engaged with current events that affect me, both directly and indirectly. She also helped me to realize that I should not be afraid to speak out about what I truly believe in.

What clubs/activities/organizations were you involved with on/off-campus?

On-campus:

Drama Club, (sophomore → senior year: President)
Glee Club (freshman → senior year)
Mock Trial (junior → senior year)
The Knight/Newspaper Club (junior → senior year)
National Honor Society (sophomore → senior year)
Tri-M Music Honor Society (sophomore → senior year)
Environmental Club (senior year)
Academic Challenge Bowl (freshman → junior year)

Off-campus:

Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) Theatre (freshman → senior year)
Junior States of America (JSA) Summer Program at Stanford University (junior year)
Guam Rotary Club Karuizawa Exchange Program (junior year)
St. Cecilia Choir (freshman → senior year)
World Theatre Productions (sophomore year)
Guam Japanese Challenge Bowl (freshman → junior year)
Voice lessons (junior → senior year)
Piano lessons (3rd grade → senior year)

How were you able to balance your extracurricular activities and academic life so well? Any piece of great advice?

I was able to balance my extracurricular activities and academic life through a system of time management that I have maintained since my first day of freshman year. When I discovered that the school offered an opportunity called Night Library, I knew that this would be incredibly useful for me in my time at St. John’s School. Every day after school at 3:30 pm, I would stay in the library doing schoolwork until about 7:30 pm. Of course, I would have to learn to be flexible given that many of my extracurricular activities take place after school. With these added into the picture, I made sure to take any other opportunity I can and use that free time to get schoolwork done. If possible, I take my schoolwork and get them done during some of these extracurricular activities.

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