Harbir Dhillon knows a thing or two about balancing activities with academics. The Lodi High School senior was chosen as this year's valedictorian for earning the highest grade point average in the Class of 2010.
In addition to ending his high school career with a 4.545 GPA thanks to a bunch of advanced placement classes, he has participated in sports, volunteered at Lodi Memorial and been part of the city's Storm Drain Detectives group.
What drives him to achieve so much?
"Well, I have always had a deep passion for learning. I'm motivated to learn and explore the worlds as well as gain the knowledge and skills to be successful in life. Success naturally follows passion," Dhillon said.
He also credits his parents, Balbir and Gurmeet, as a driving force behind his achievements. He includes his younger sister, Puneet, and grandmother, Ranjit Kaur, among key family members as well.
When he's not studying for one of several advanced placement classes, Dhillon enjoys reading novels of literary merit for his classes, as well as nonfiction and science books, but he doesn't have a favorite.
When asked what is the one thing he cannot live without, he said "definitely" his computer.
He planned to focus his graduation speech on thanking everyone who helped the Class of 2010 achieve its success. "It's also hopefully going to show my classmates how special they are, and motivate them to achieve in the future," he said last week.
Dhillon plans to attend college and major in pre-medicine before heading to medical school and ultimately becoming a doctor.
"I hope to become a complete, sincere and influential person. I want to serve my community and my country as best as I can," he said. "I also want to be involved in global medical missions to help those around the world who are less fortunate than me."
During high school he was also a member of California Scholarship Federation, Science Olympiad, Speech and Debate, Kaiser Neighbors in Health and leadership camps, and competed in cross country.
For Dhillon, the hardest part about school was learning how to balance his extracurricular activities with his academics. "I love to volunteer, and I had to learn to just be organized and make sure I kept all my commitments in mind," he said.
If he could, he said he would tell incoming freshman that extracurricular activities are important, but also consume a lot of time. Instead, he said, focus on a few clubs or community service projects which you are passionate about and focus on them instead of stretching yourselves too much.
Above all, he thanks his father, a mailman, and mother, who is a nurse, for motivating him.
"And helping me see the true value of education. They encouraged me to pursue extracurricular activities as well," he said.