Sixth Former John Zhang is Main Line Student of the Week
By Bruce Adams
A senior at The Haverford School, John Zhang is Co-President of both Peer Counseling and the Mindfulness Club at the school. He is an actor, writer and ensemble member of Haverford School Theater Productions, and is a Human Relationships Fellow and a tour guide at the school. Zhang was Student Council Class President his junior year. He was a Philadelphia Committee delegate at the Harvard Association Cultivating Inter-American Democracy and attended the Wharton Summer Business Leadership Academy at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Chairman of the Honor Council at The Haverford School and Senior Prefect of the Signet Society. Zhang is a National Merit Commended Scholar, helped the Haverford School squash team win the Mid-Atlantic Squash Association championship and has won numerous regattas. He is founder, CFO and lead counselor of Wick Summer Adventures, an outdoor day camp for boys ages 4-8.
Main Line Media News: What was your proudest achievement as Student Council Class President during your junior year?
John Zhang: On weekly commutes into Philadelphia for church, I saw clusters of homeless individuals grow at the highway exit; my family, along with other drivers, gave spare change and water to help those in need. However, this community assistance vanished with the arrival of COVID-19. Concerns about the pandemic reduced the number of people willing to approach the homeless community to donate. I wondered, “What can I do to help?” Using my platform as Junior Class President, I put together a well-rounded team and formulated a plan for a lucrative raffle fundraiser. This work culminated in my proudest moment as Student Council President: raising over $1,200 for mask and clothing donations for the homeless community in Philadelphia.
Main Line Media News: Can you tell us a little about the Mindfulness Club, its activities, and your proudest achievement as co-President of the club for the past three years?
John Zhang: Mindfulness Club is an organization that provides an opportunity for members of my school community to take a break from the daily grind and focus on themselves. Through guided meditations, yoga practices, and body scans, participants can set aside time to focus on staying in the present and responding to external cues in a healthier way. My proudest achievement as Co-President of the club is sharing my experiences of practicing mindfulness with my friends, family, and peers, who may also be struggling with stress and expressing their feelings. Through this, my goal was to establish a community where vulnerability is synonymous with strength, providing a path to emotional wellbeing for all.
Main Line Media News: What has been your favorite production with Haverford School Theater Productions and why?
John Zhang: My favorite production is Second String, a depiction of high school football culture. Last year, I took Theater III, a class where students form a production company and perform a play in front of the school. However, due to the on-stage mask requirement, we needed to find, or create a play with the appropriate given circumstances that included a mask. Not surprisingly, there are nearly no plays where wearing a mask fits into the plot. Therefore, we decided to write our own play, called Second String, set within the place we know best: Haverford. The reason I enjoyed this production so much is because I was able to collaborate with my peers on all aspects of the play, from writing the script to the prop design. The entire process was investigative and I enjoyed learning first-hand about what goes into creating an entertaining performance.
Main Line Media News: What was the most interesting thing you learned through participation in Harvard Association Cultivating Inter-American Democracy?
John Zhang: The most interesting thing I learned through HACIA is public policy, or the lack thereof, in Central and South America. During my first conference, I deliberated with other delegates about government corruption in Costa Rica, focusing on the presidency of Teodoro Picado Michalski. Through this, I learned more about public policy, specifically universal health care and social security, an area that I am interested in exploring in college.
Main Line Media News: What sparked your interest in starting Wick Summer Adventures in the summer of 2020? What has been the biggest challenge in running this camp, and how did you meet this challenge?
John Zhang: At the start of the pandemic, I witnessed two problems: while parents juggled remote work with taking care of their families, children were also missing a part of their natural childhood development. I believe this stemmed from a lack of social interaction with their peers, so in turn, I designed a summer camp to address these community issues. Being that all summer programming was closed due to COVID-19, our camp was the only outdoor activity still running. When we reached out to parents to gauge interest, our inboxes became saturated with messages from around the Greater Philadelphia area. Our first session, situated on a nature reserve, was an incredible success. However, going into the summer of 2021, we encountered a major setback: competition. As the COVID restrictions eased, more camps and activities were opening up, providing more options for the parents in the area to choose from. My friend and I needed to revamp our business model, and I thought, “What better way to do so than marketing?” From advertising on Facebook to utilizing search engine optimization for our new website, I enhanced the outreach of my camp and grew our general enrollment by 20 percent. Through this process, I designed a website (wicksummeradventures.com) that garnered a substantial amount of online traffic, allowing us to have another successful year of camp.
Main Line Media News: What is your favorite book and why? Who is your favorite author and why?
John Zhang: My favorite book is Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. As a second-generation Chinese-American, I sympathize with the main characters Ifemelu and Obinze, immigrants from Nigeria who detail their journey of assimilation into American society. Through this story, I learned more about finding my own identity. As a child, one of my favorite pastimes was going to the local library and reading graphic novels. Out of the entire selection, my favorite was Tintin, written by Hergé. He’s my favorite author because of his ability to transport readers into a realm of adventure.