Tong Zhao, ’18



Photo from Zhao

Tong Zhao, Class of 2018, is currently studying as an undergraduate at MIT.

Tong Zhao, Class of 2018, is a freshman at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Zhao was an involved member in the Clayton community in STEM fields, participating in science and engineering competitions TEAMS and WYSE. He also participated in math club and was a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Honors Mathematics Society. His inclination towards the math and science fields led him to decide on declaring a major in computer science.

However, although he has a strong background in STEM, he also deeply appreciated the humanities perspective that he received while studying at Clayton High School. On the humanities program, Zhao notes that “teachers teach you things you don’t learn from a textbook,” and he especially credits Ms. Teson, his Honors American Literature teacher, as one of the most inspiring figures in his humanities career. Along with Ms. Teson, he also cites physics teachers Mr. Rex Rice and Dr. David Schuster, and math teacher Mr. Kurt Kleinberg, as the most influential teachers he has had the experience to learn from at CHS.

Upon arriving at college, he realized the differences in experiences he had compared to students from all across the country.

“I guess I realized after I got here that all the high schools are very different and the culture of each high school is different,” Zhao said, “Clayton is the cream of the crop of the Midwest, and then you have all these private east coast and west coast high schools. It gives you a unique perspective.”

Zhao has also found the environment in college starkly different compared to his time in high school.

“It’s different. People here are more professionally minded,’ Zhao said. “What am I going to major in? Which professor am I going to do research under? You’re thrust into it and it’s very overwhelming. It’s nice to be in the Clayton bubble.”

Lastly, on advice to current Clayton students as a graduate, he suggests, “Read a lot. One thing I regret is not reading a lot in high school. Don’t slack off in English!”

Although Zhao is a new alumnus, he will always remember the memories he created over his four years at Clayton High School and will use the education he received to continue to pursue his passion in computer science.