Jane Zhao

When I first moved to Miami, I was incredibly nervous. Having just returned from a year abroad in Germany only a few months prior, I felt unsettled and apprehensive about yet another transition. However, the School for Advanced Studies (SAS) quickly became my safe haven. Despite my initial fears, I found solace in the fact that all the other juniors were just as new to the campus as I was. The staff and faculty were incredibly friendly and compassionate, exceeding the warmth and support I had experienced at several different schools nationwide and abroad.

SAS stands out for its academic rigor and the freedom it offers students to customize their high school experience. With a vast array of dual enrollment and AP courses, I found myself challenged and engaged in ways that prepared me for the future. The ability to take college-level courses alongside high school classes was invaluable, allowing me to earn college credits and experience a higher level of academic challenge. The school’s partnership with Miami Dade College (MDC) provided diverse subjects, enabling me to explore my interests deeply and broadly. I delved deep into my passion for psychology and neuroscience, taking fascinating courses like the Psychology of Addiction and the Psychology of Genocide, as well as conducting undergraduate research in MDC’s Social Sciences department under Dr. Pomares, Professor Grimes, and Professor Williams.

More importantly, SAS encourages students to pursue their passions through student-led clubs and organizations, allowing for a truly personalized educational journey. The variety of clubs and activities available was astonishing, ranging from academic and career-oriented clubs to creative and recreational ones. This environment fostered a spirit of innovation and leadership among students, empowering us to take the initiative and realize our ideas, with new clubs created every year according to students’ interests and passions.

 As the Student Government Association President and the Friday Activities Club Vice President, I had the privilege of leading and organizing inaugural sporting events with my peers. We introduced school-wide activities like a flag football game, a basketball tournament, and an inter-campus soccer game. These events were more than just sports; they were opportunities to build unforgettable memories and strengthen the bonds within the SAS Kendall family. Coordinating these activities taught me valuable lessons in leadership, teamwork, and event planning, and seeing the joy and excitement they brought to my fellow students was incredibly rewarding.

On top of all this freedom, the support I received from students, faculty, and administration was unparalleled. Our beloved principal, Dr. Monteagudo, not only encouraged but also sponsored my trips to international scientific research conferences, showing a commitment to my growth beyond the classroom. These experiences were transformative, allowing me to present my research on a global stage and connect with other scientists worldwide. Teachers went above and beyond to ensure my academic and personal success, fostering a true sense of family within the school. They were always available for extra help, providing guidance on college applications and offering emotional support during stressful times, shoutout Ms. Tercilla!

One of the most significant aspects of SAS is the sense of community and belonging it fosters. From the moment I stepped onto campus, I felt welcomed and accepted. The camaraderie among students, the dedication of the faculty, and the involvement of the administration all contribute to a nurturing and empowering environment. The culture at SAS is one of mutual respect and encouragement, where everyone’s achievements are celebrated and challenges are faced together.

My time at SAS taught me that this experience is what you make of it. To future cohorts, I urge you to seize every opportunity that comes your way and create new ones if they don’t exist. The support and resources at SAS are there to help you thrive, and I am confident that you will find your own safe haven here, just as I did. Embrace the challenges, cherish the friendships, and take full advantage of SAS’s unique opportunities. Your journey at SAS can be as enriching and transformative as you want it to be – it’s all in your hands.

Jane Zhao

School for Advanced Studies Kendall, Class of 2024

University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, Class of 2026