St. Joseph salutatorian to take 'passionate curiosity' to UT

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

May 23, 2014 at 12:23 a.m.
Updated May 24, 2014 at 12:24 a.m.

Johanna Hoang, salutatorian for St. Joseph High School,  has a passion for art. Her sketch pad is always nearby.

Johanna Hoang, salutatorian for St. Joseph High School, has a passion for art. Her sketch pad is always nearby.   Frank Tilley for The Victoria Advocate

Johanna Phi-Yen Hoang, 18, exceeded perfection during her four years at St. Joseph High School.

She earned a grade-point average of 101.382, which secured her spot at the University of Texas at Austin.

"This is the first public school I will attend," Johanna said. "I'm looking forward to different kinds of people, different cultures and religions, different courses and opportunities."

As salutatorian of her graduating class, Johanna plans to thank her classmates, mentors and family members for their support at the graduation ceremony Sunday.

Johanna might study biochemistry or biomedical engineering. She wants to work in the medical field but plans to explore her options before she commits to a major.

"I want to find something I'm passionate about, like my dad did when he became a doctor," Johanna said. "It's about lifestyle - I like to be busy, but I like to have time to relax, too."

Johanna's parents, Dr. Joseph Hoang and Josephine Tu, share a strong bond rooted in their morals and work ethic, Johanna said. However, they also offer their children contrasting perspectives.

"My mom tells me to stay healthy and not overexert myself, and my father tells me to do everything while I'm young," Johanna said.

The Hoangs help Johanna and her sister, Jolynn Hoang, set their priorities, she said.

Johanna hopes to find a professor or adviser at the university to help her along the way, and she hopes to study abroad - perhaps in Germany or Australia.

"I will miss the people in general at St. Joe, miss seeing their faces in the hallways, knowing they're OK," Johanna said. "I will miss the routine and the sense of family."

Mathematics teachers Deborah Machicek and David Pozzi were mentors who inspired Johanna in mathematics. They encouraged her to enroll in the robotics program at the University of Houston-Victoria, which she attended Wednesdays after school.

Pozzi ended the school year with helpful information about professions involving mathematics that his students could pursue, Johanna said. In theology, Pozzi composed a letter to his students that conveyed his pride in their accomplishments and his advice for them on their future journeys.

"He was so sweet, and I was so happy to have him as a calculus teacher," she said.

English teacher Ember Dooling took an interest in her students, and she taught her students to take an interest in the world around them.

"She would regularly take the time to talk to me," Johanna said. "The Asian population is not big here, and she helped me to stay true to myself but branch out."

Dooling called Johanna "concentrated awesomeness."

"She has a passionate curiosity, which is more important than anything else," Dooling said. "This is a young lady who could shape the world to its foundation, either in her own little world or globally."

With history teacher Drew Westfahl, Dooling taught students how themes in English enlighten historical events, Johanna said.

"It was modern learning about themes that affect us today," Johanna said. "We still need people to change the world."

Johanna also found inspiration and a sense of family in music and art classes under the direction of Michael Petrisky and Ted Wise, respectively.

"I'm glad all the teachers take the time to teach us and get to know us," Johanna said. "They're all overqualified."

This summer, Johanna hopes to bury herself in a few series of fantasy novels she has not had time to read. She also plans to babysit and take courses at Victoria College.

"There are passionate, interesting people all over the world," Johanna said. "I want to branch out and meet more of them."



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