Ethan Chang is a young man of few words. But it's easy to see his pride in his accomplishments as he grins behind a pair of black-framed glasses.
Being a top scholar in the Class of 2012 is something Chang aimed for early in freshman year.
"I thought maybe I'd get top three. I was OK with not necessarily being No. 1," said the Tokay High School valedictorian.
Chang discovered his lead over the other students a few months ago, and knew it would likely become his job to give a final farewell to his classmates.
Sitting in the rows of blue chairs on the Grape Bowl field during graduation practice, Chang couldn't help but imagine the bleachers full of parents and friends. He admits to a minor case of nerves, and that the task has lingered in the back of his mind for days.
"It should go well. I hope people enjoy it," he said.
His high school career has been highlighted by achievements in science, including successful Science Bowl and Science Olympiad competitions. He accompanied his team to the National Science Bowl in Washington, D.C. three years in a row.
Chang's family moved to Lodi from Morgan Hill when he was in the fourth grade. He attended Vinewood Elementary and Elkhorn School. His parents are Yen Ming Chang and Hsiufen Chen. His brother, Allen Chang, graduated from Tokay in 2009.
When Chang isn't studying or prepping for a science competition, he likes to hang out with his friends, play tennis, or watch "Community" on TV. During high school, he worked as a tutor at the Kumon Learning Center in Lodi.
He will spend his summer soaking up the last bit of Lodi, he said.
In the fall, Chang will attend Duke University. He applied to six different schools, but fell in love with Duke after a visit to the campus last summer.
The student with a 4.59 grade-point average hasn't yet decided on a major.
"I'm waiting to take some classes and see what I truly want," he said. "It's still fairly open, but I'm sure it will be biology or something similar."
After the speeches are done and graduation robes are hung up in the closet, Chang thinks he will be missing the people who filled his days at Tokay.
Some are teachers who left a positive impact on him, including Jennifer Cassel, Lisa Stewart, Jeff Tracy, and Sandra Starr.
"I think I was pretty fortunate as far as the teachers I got. I got along well with them," he said.
Others are the friends he has known for years.
"It's four years of the same people," he said. "Especially this past year has been more relaxed, so there was a lot more bonding with friends this year. It's a little sad to part ways."
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews. com.