Carrie Sha, Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy

Carrie Sha has come so far since struggling to learn English as a 6-year-old Chinese immigrant.<br><br>"It was just such a different world for me," said Sha, now an Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy senior with a 4.0 grade-point average, a slew of academic achievements and a near-perfect SAT score.<br><br>The 18-year-old from Plainfield used her own childhood challenges to help tutor children of refugees in the Aurora area, as well as help fellow students studying for calculus, biology, chemistry and college entrance exams.<br><br>Sha, who excels in both the sciences and arts, plans to study biological sciences at Harvard University. She hopes to work as a research scientist while continuing to pursue her love of sculpture, photography and painting.<br><br>She's currently studying memory loss in epileptic patients as a student researcher at the University of Chicago Medical Center.<br><br>"I love being able to get results, finding patterns in the data," Sha said, adding that she enjoys meeting patients. "Then I can put a face to the data."<br><br>Her oil painting "Senior Smile" -- a portrait of her grandfather -- was displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year as a winner of the 2012 Congressional Art Competition. She also has designed birthday cards for a local hospice center and donated to her school several works of art, which are displayed on campus.<br><br>"She's very humble," said Kara Molenhouse, her college and academic counselor at IMSA. "You would never know how much she accomplished. She's very much a thinker, very introspective. Just a genuine person."<br><br>-- Angie Leventis Lourgos

( Scott Strazzante, Chicago Tribune / May 2, 2013 )

Carrie Sha has come so far since struggling to learn English as a 6-year-old Chinese immigrant.

"It was just such a different world for me," said Sha, now an Illinois Mathematics and Science Academy senior with a 4.0 grade-point average, a slew of academic achievements and a near-perfect SAT score.

The 18-year-old from Plainfield used her own childhood challenges to help tutor children of refugees in the Aurora area, as well as help fellow students studying for calculus, biology, chemistry and college entrance exams.

Sha, who excels in both the sciences and arts, plans to study biological sciences at Harvard University. She hopes to work as a research scientist while continuing to pursue her love of sculpture, photography and painting.

She's currently studying memory loss in epileptic patients as a student researcher at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

"I love being able to get results, finding patterns in the data," Sha said, adding that she enjoys meeting patients. "Then I can put a face to the data."

Her oil painting "Senior Smile" -- a portrait of her grandfather -- was displayed in the U.S. Capitol for a year as a winner of the 2012 Congressional Art Competition. She also has designed birthday cards for a local hospice center and donated to her school several works of art, which are displayed on campus.

"She's very humble," said Kara Molenhouse, her college and academic counselor at IMSA. "You would never know how much she accomplished. She's very much a thinker, very introspective. Just a genuine person."

-- Angie Leventis Lourgos

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