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Not a Stick in the (Harvey) Mudd: Salutatorian Chao-Haft Commits to a 5C

Photo by Summer Sargent

Photo by Summer Sargent

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CHS’s local math whiz Max Chao-Haft may be graduating, but he is not going far. Joining the Harvey Mudd class of 2021, Chao-Haft is very enthusiastic about following his passions in STEM and pursuing a physics and math joint major.

Harvey Mudd is renowned for its strong math program. While most colleges separate applied math and theoretical “pure” math as two distinct fields, Mudd is unique in that it integrates both areas into one program, something that attracted Chao-Haft. Passionate about mathematical theory, Chao-Haft is especially excited to take philosophy classes in addition to the classes for his major, as well as other humanities classes at the neighboring Claremont Colleges.

While the exceptional math program at Mudd is compelling, Chao-Haft also enjoys the college’s atmosphere. After attending an overnight stay for admitted students, he met a number of interesting, passionate people in the math department who helped lead him towards his ultimate commitment.

“There are some pretty unique people, who really, really enjoy what they’re doing,” Chao-Haft says. “They work all the time; they love what they’re doing. There are equations all over the walls when you go there.”

While he is nothing short of a math whiz now, Chao-Haft was surprisingly not always a fan of the field. In elementary school, he was placed a year ahead in math, something that actually decreased his interest in the subject. It was not until Ms. Chua’s Precalculus class when the young mathematician began enjoying the subject more. Chao-Haft is very appreciative of his teachers who have helped him during his high school career. From Ms. Landers staying after school to talk to him to Mr. Cooper encouraging him to figure things out for himself and Mr. Pettibone helping him with advanced math and physics topics, Chao-Haft was greatly shaped by his influential teachers.

“[Having to figure things out on your own] is something I think is important,” Chao-Haft says. “It’s about discovering things for yourself.”

After college, Chao-Haft knows he wants to go to graduate school to continue his education. From there, he is not sure what he wants to do professionally but is keeping his options open.

While he is excited to go to college, Chao-Haft does not underestimate the lessons he learned here at Claremont High, especially the non-academic ones. As he’s grown over the past four years, he has learned important life skills such as time management and, more importantly, balance. A lesson he did not fully learn until very recently, Chao-Haft is of the mind that balance is one of the most important aspects of being successful and productive, and he has some words of advice for all of the students still at CHS.

“They always say in high school that you should try to keep a balanced life, and I didn’t really realize that until this year,” Chao-Haft says. “There was a time when I thought that the way to do it was to just do one thing at a time and gain complete mastery of one thing before moving on to the next thing… I think that might actually be counterproductive and will burn you out.”

Balancing work is important in order to maintain stamina and interest, but a good work-life balance is important too, which is why he is excited to take various humanities classes at the other Claremont Colleges. When he is not thinking about intricate math theory, Chao-Haft has other hobbies as well, namely karate. In addition to practicing on his own, Chao-Haft also teaches a children’s class. He believes that being overworked is actually counter-productive to being successful; sometimes, one just has to stop and smell the roses.

“Just remember to have fun,” Chao-Haft advises.

While Claremont High loses one brilliant student, Harvey Mudd gains another. Chao-Haft has left his unforgettable mark on CHS and is now ready to take on the rest of the world.

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Not a Stick in the (Harvey) Mudd: Salutatorian Chao-Haft Commits to a 5C