Chea paves the way for TSA

By Nico Francois

If it weren’t for his dad, senior Reiden Chea would have never come to MTHS. Chea made the decision in eighth grade to go to Edmonds-Woodway for the International Baccalaureate program, but it was his father that objected and told him about the variety of exclusive resources and opportunities that the MTHS STEM program had to offer.

“Only after a couple weeks of discussion and debate did my dad finally get it through my thick skull that STEM was the right path for me,” Chea said.

Currently Chea is part of quite a few extracurriculars, including the TEMPO yearbook, the MTHS First Robotics Competition team, ASB and the club that’s most changed Chea’s life for the better, the Technology Student Association, or TSA.

Chea originally joined TSA in middle school because he couldn’t participate in  STEM along with band, so he continued on with his instrument with the intent of learning STEM concepts in his own time.

“TSA was the club that filled the void. Unlike STEM, which had a set curriculum, in TSA, I could pursue whatever I wanted, without any barriers or bounds,” said Chea.

Chea was also pulled into the organization due to his interest in the variety of competitive events, as well as the idea of collaborating in a competition with friends that share the same goal.

One of Chea’s greatest memories from being in TSA was during his sophomore year at the state conference in Yakima. As Chea went to check the semi-finalist leaderboard on the second day of the conference, he gazed upon a delightful yet unexpected surprise. Chea was filled with glee when he saw teams from MTHS on the board for twice as many events as in previous years.

“From the start of the year, it was my dream to see our TSA at the top of the scoreboard, and it took less than a year for that to come true,” Chea said. “I remember the sheer sense of joy, and how proud I felt of our chapter. Despite our lack of funding and resources compared to other schools like Henry M. Jackson and Tesla STEM, we still managed to make it to the top, and that was one of the highlights of my [high school] career.”

Chea has found quite a few role models in high school, but one who has made a lasting impact on him, and taught him the importance of collaboration is STEM teacher James Wilson.

“Mr. Wilson served as another great mentor of mine, preventing me from going down the path of a very hands on, ‘it must be done this way and only this way’ type of manager,” Chea said. “He showed me the true importance of collaboration and considering all ideas on the table, meeting a group consensus rather than making all the decisions myself.”

Another one of Chea’s greatest role models has been MTHS band director Darin Faul.

“Mr. Faul was somebody I could always seek out for advice. Whenever I had a dilemma, conflict or simply wanted to vent out my concerns, Mr. Faul’s office was always open,” Chea said.

Chea has been greatly impacted by the lessons that Faul has taught him throughout the years, empathy being among the most prominent of those lessons.

“He taught me that we should always assume the good in people, because despite what  they do to us or how they convey themselves, we simply don’t know everything that’s going on in their lives, therefore, it’s unfair to assume the worst in them,” Chea said.

Chea has also been heavily impacted by current TSA adviser Mark Burbank. Burbank motivated Chea to turn the MTHS TSA into the best high school chapter in the state in addition to  inspiring him to start Project 10k for TSA.

“Although I never actually had him as a teacher throughout high school, he has always been one of my most important mentors, showing me the importance of ensuring everyone has an equal opportunity and the best chance they can have to accomplish their goals,” Chea said.

Along with a few other sophomores, Chea began Project 10k for TSA, in which every year they raised $10 thousand for the MTHS TSA chapter through a variety of fundraisers. They used the money they earned to purchase materials needed for projects, as well as to give financial aid to students that couldn’t fully afford the often pricey TSA competition fees.

Chea began Project 10k for TSA due to a revelation he had freshman year. Before heading to the TSA state conference that year, Chea realized that not everyone had the same luxury of being able to attend the conference as he did.

“The thirteen of us packed our bags, and we departed on our road to success. However, as we did this, I learned that many others did not have the same privilege of attending the competition as us. Not everyone could afford the hefty $285 competitions fee,”Chea said.

Chea holds that this revelation led him to the most significant lesson he learned throughout high school.

“Sure, TSA taught me the most important leadership skills for my high school career, but I believe my most important discovery from TSA is my newfound goal of helping others attain the same opportunities and privileges the rest of us have, breaking down the wall of financial inequality,” Chea said.

Although many of Chea’s greatest achievements and memories in high school have to do with TSA, one of his most memorable moments in high school involves the MTHS Jazz Ensemble 1 getting accepted into Essentially Ellington in 2017.

Chea will never forget the joyous moment on February 14, when it was announced that the band would be headed to New York City to play in the festival.

“That feeling of the hard work paying off is something I will never forget,” Chea said. “Of course, getting to perform on that stage in Rose Hall was something special that I will never get to do again, but that initial explosion of excitement that one day remains the most memorable.”

After his high school career is complete, Chea will be attending the University of Washington Allen School of Computer Science in the fall. Chea hopes to get his Bachelor of Science in computer science after attending the UW, and then go off to work for a couple of years at a either a startup or mainstream company, such as Microsoft. After a few years in the workforce, Chea plans on going back to school to obtain a master’s degree in business administration.

For those who want to try out STEM, but don’t exactly know what to do or where to start, Chea’s advice is to explore  one of the STEM related clubs in school, such as IATRIX21, TSA, Rocketry or FRC Robotics.

“Although the STEM classes are great, the after school clubs are what makes STEM the most fun and engaging, in my opinion. These clubs allow you to meet new people who share common interests, and allow you to solve real life problems within a STEM topic,” Chea said.

As Chea prepares to move on from high school to the next stage in his life’s journey, he has one last piece of advice to offer those who are just beginning it.

“My largest piece of advice to incoming freshmen is to come out of your shell and keep your mind open to new ideas,” he said. “Listening to advice from those who are one to three years wiser helps you learn from the mistakes of others, ensuring you travel down the right path.”