What would you call a high school senior whose grade point average is 4.45, her favorite subject is chemistry and will attend Harvard University in the fall? A U.S. Presidential Scholar, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed upon a high school senior.

Meet 18-year-old Claire Gu, who has wrapped up her high school career at West Des Moines’ Valley High School.

The daughter of mother Wenxin Liu and father Gang Gu, Claire immersed herself into her school experience.

“I loved being at school throughout high school,” she said. “I was taking challenging classes that were taught by amazing teachers and was able to discover different disciplines that I was interested in. 

“Additionally, the friends I made throughout the four years will definitely be people that I stay in touch with in the future.”

Her love of academics runs in the family: Her older brother Brian just wrapped up his first year in medical school at the University of Iowa.

“My favorite subject in school was chemistry (sorry to my math teacher in advance),” she said. “I loved learning how molecules fit together and made up everyday things in our lives. I also enjoyed the hands-on labs in class that proved the theories we were learning.”

It’s not just academics and a high GPA that makes a Presidential Scholar. Scholars are judged on what they do beyond the classroom. For Claire, that’s no problem. She was heavily involved in Varsity Tennis and played violin in the school’s Chamber Orchestra. She also participated in the Chemistry Club and Science Bowl.

In the community, she enjoyed volunteering for Meals for the Heartland, and participated as a counselor at various camps, including Living history Farms and the Science Center of Iowa camps. She also played her violin at various gigs throughout the metro area.

Valley High School Principal David Maxwell said Claire has been a stand out during her high school days.

“Claire is one of the most driven students I have met at Valley High School,” he said. “Not only is she an exceptional academician but also an accomplished athlete as a state champion tennis player. Next year she will be attending Harvard and I know she will continue being a stalwart student and human being in whatever endeavor she finds herself in.”

Claire is looking forward to being on the Harvard campus in the fall.

“I'm currently planning to major in chemical and physical biology,” she said. “I have always been interested in chemistry's applications in biology and Harvard offers a unique major that focuses on things like organic chemistry and molecular pathways in the human body.”

Congratulations, Claire!

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