2023 Students of Distinction

Nichole Tian never turned down a chance to serve

Posted on May 12th, 2023 By:

Gig Harbor Now is posting profiles of each of the Students of Distinction being honored by the Greater Gig Harbor Foundation. The students will be honored during a banquet from 6 to 9 p.m. Wednesday, May 17, 2023, at Ocean5, 5268 Point Fosdick Dr.

Student: Nichole Tian

School: Gig Harbor High School and Tacoma Community College

Category: Community Service

Nichole Tian’s list of volunteer work is long and varied: Basket Brigade, Turkey Trot, Harbor Hounds, Race for a Soldier and the Waterfront Farmer Market, for starters. She serves holiday dinners at the Tacoma Rescue Mission and volunteers at the Scarecrow Festival. It’s all part of her service as a four-year member of Gig Harbor’s Rotary Interact Club.

Nichole has also tutored kids at Kopachuck Middle School, volunteers as a judge at debate tournaments and works on the annual canned food Trick-or-Treat drive. She organized a used book drive to keep books out of garbage bins and in communities.

Nichole Tian

All this community service earned her a Distinguished Service Citation and Student of the Month from Rotary.

Interact and connect

Joining the Interact Club was the most important thing she did in high school, she said. “That helped me connect with my community. And I know that my volunteer work is important and that it makes a difference.”

Nichole also serves as president of GHHS’s National Honor Society and has been president of the Speech and Debate Club and the Book Club — all while maintaining her spot on the Dean’s List at Tacoma Community College, where she’ll earn an Associate’s Degree before heading to the University of Washington to study statistics.

Time at Harvard

Of all the things she’s done, her favorite was spending a summer at Harvard University studying Principles of Genetics and Introduction to Epidemiology and Biostatistics. She conducted research using the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey and, with a statistics professor at Duke University, conducted research remotely on disproving claims of election fraud by using the Newcomb-Benford Law of Anomalous Numbers.

At Harvard, she “loved being in a new city and attending classes that are really in my interest. And making new friends.”

While she was there, she also participated in a talent show. “I’ve taught myself to play the piano and I played ABBA’s ‘Winner Takes it All.’ The other kids were classically trained and were playing classical pieces. I played an old pop song, which my friends thought was very cool,” she said.

“While I was performing, I realized that all my hard work and all the challenges of teaching myself paid off – and that going the conventional route isn’t any better than doing it unconventionally.”

Fear of failure

Her biggest challenge in high school was accepting and overcoming her fear of failure. “I thought that if I wasn’t overachieving I’d be a failure – it would be like not being good enough or smart enough,” she said.

Her advice to kids just entering high school on how to be a success? “Join as many club as you can. There are so many choices – you’ll find something that’s a passion. Try to find that passion early and then build your experiences around that — like taking STEM classes or journalism classes or whatever is interesting to you.”

This fall Nichole heads to UW to study computer science, statistics and applied mathematics, working toward a career as a computer programmer or data scientist.

Nichole Tian

Parent: Liming Wang

Activities: President of Speech & Debate Club, Book Club and NHS Chapter; Dean’s List at TCC; Special Distinction Degree from the National Speech and Debate Association; 2nd Place in Public Forum Debate–WA State; 1st Place Raisbeck Aviation in Public Forum Debate; 2nd place at Federal Way invitational in Public Forum Debate; attended nationals for Public Forum Debate; GHHS Speech & Debate Club Rookie of the Year (10th grade) and Most Improved (11th grade); attended Harvard  University summer program; Letter of Commendation on PSAT; College Board AP Scholar

Favorite teacher: Mr. Mutch. “As AP Statistics teacher, Mr. Mutch took care to always balance lectures with independent work time, and he was kind to a fault. Even faced with students who were doing poorly because they refused to pay attention in class, he offered opportunities to get their grades up. He was always available during lunch and after school to answer questions and retake exams, and he always remained patient and level-headed. Though I’ve always had an interest in statistics, the class with Mr. Mutch cemented my love for the subject and it empowered me to continue exploring statistics at Harvard. Teachers hold the power to make or break students’ passions, and I’m thankful I was able to nurture mine in an environment led by Mr. Mutch.”

Best thing about GHHS: “Everywhere I go I find myself looking for numerical patterns in the world around me. At my high school, the best part of my day is when the bell signals a new period on exactly a zero or five. Our class periods are each 55 minutes long, meaning for the classes before lunch, I can count on each passing period bell to ring on the 25th minute, and for class to begin on exactly the 30th minute. Passing periods are five minutes long, lunches are 30, and every slot of time in our school’s schedule is divisible by five. The best part of my school is undeniably our mathematically perfect schedule.”