MERIDEN — Two years ago, as a sophomore at Maloney High School, Havi Nguyen was introduced to computer science and coding.
“I found it really fascinating,” said Nguyen, who is now 18 and will graduate this month ranked first in her class.
Nguyen said she was especially drawn to the problem-solving aspect of coding.
So next fall, she will begin studying computer science at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. Nguyen hopes to one day work for a company that uses technology to help others, including those with disabilities or language barriers.
“There are lots of issues with inequality,” Nguyen said. “I want to work to help make things better.”
That career goal is a continuation of work that began at Maloney.
During her years in high school, Nguyen compiled a cumulative 4.8 grade point average. But she didn’t just focus on academics and studying.
“I wanted to make the most of my time here,” she said. So Nguyen became extensively involved in several clubs, including her school’s LEO Club and the Black Student Alliance.
LEO stands for Leadership Experience Opportunities. The club is focused on carrying out service projects at Maloney and in the Meriden community.
The LEO Club recently held drives for the Meriden Humane Society and organized fundraisers for causes like breast cancer awareness. Nguyen eventually became the group’s president.
Nguyen grew up in Meriden. Her mother is Kimanh Vu and her father is Do Nguyen. She has a brother who is 21.
Nguyen attended Thomas Hooker Elementary School and Thomas Edison Middle School. She recalled when she was in fifth grade that an educator, who wasn’t her teacher, made a prediction.
“She always told me that I would be valedictorian,” Nguyen said. But as a fifth grade student, she was not so sure.
The same educator attended Maloney’s recent Top 10 student dinner. “She handed me a note that I gave her from fifth grade, where I wrote, ‘thank you.’”
In the note Nguyen insisted that she would be valedictorian. She couldn’t believe her former educator had held onto it for all those years.
And that educator wouldn’t be the only person to take note of Nguyen’s academic accomplishments.
“Havi is one of the best students I’ve ever had, easily one of the most accomplished students,” said Daniel Lobner, Nguyen’s Advanced Placement United States History teacher in her sophomore year.
Lobner described his former pupil as deeply insightful and a brilliant writer.
“She was so eloquent and digs deep into history and really shows a strong knowledge of it. She was just an amazing student overall and I really enjoyed having her in class,” he said.
And despite the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic forced schools into full-remote learning during the year that Nguyen took AP US History, she excelled, Lobner said.
“She still flourished. She got the highest possible score on the AP exam. She got a five, which was really impressive,” he said.
But academics wouldn’t be the only thing teachers like Lobner would come to know Nguyen for. She was on the school’s powder puff football team, which Lobner coached.
Nguyen meanwhile attributes the fact that she flourished partly to help she received along the way from teachers like Lobner and from her peers.
She learned not to be afraid to ask for help.
“The teachers are always ready to help you succeed,” Nguyen said. It was the same for her classmates.
“I feel all my classmates are very down to earth people. They’re also not afraid to ask me for help. And I’m not afraid to ask them for help. We’re all in the same class. They had the same struggles as me,” Nguyen said.
Before she goes to college and tackles computer science and coding, Nguyen will address the roughly 300 members of Maloney’s graduating class and their families on June 15 — graduation day.
As of Thursday, Nguyen was putting the finishing touches on that speech.