Humans of Harker: Alexandra Michael stays true to herself


Rose Guan

“I try not to invest too much time and thought into how people think of me.”

by Sara Yen, Reporter

With her back straight and her hands clasped together on top of her crossed legs, Alexandra Michael (12) sat comfortably with poise, dressed in blue jeans and a long warm jacket. Wisps of dark ginger hair framed her face, contrasting the deep blue-grey of her eyes and concealing the glint of her gold earrings.

With confidence and assurance, Alexandra effortlessly spouted her beliefs in regard to decision making.

“I actually have a very specific philosophy in how I make decisions and think of things. While the decision should be made with logic, emotional ideas and morals and values and so forth also need to guide the decision,” Alexandra said. “Because I think a lot of people think that there’s a sort of dichotomy between logic and emotion, and if you have logic you can’t have emotion and vice versa, but actually, that’s completely wrong in my opinion.”

Although Alexandra has always had the same views, she only started to really articulate her own philosophy toward the beginning of high school.

“In high school, I started paying attention to politics and various social issues that really hadn’t been a factor in my life before that, and I think that that encouraged me to develop my own personal ways of thinking about things that is very different from a lot of what my classmates and my peers think.”

Her childhood friend, Aadi Ghildiyal (12), described Alexandra’s absolute honesty to herself.

“She always expresses herself truthfully,” Aadi said. “She never says anything that would be out of character or [anything] that doesn’t line up with her ideals, so she always speaks her mind.”

Despite her steadfast mindset, Alexandra was unsure of the career path she wanted to take in the future. Yet, she found her answer in a Harker summer class before freshman year.

As Alexandra recalled the memory of her first programming class, joy brightened all her features, lighting up her eyes and raising a smile.

“I was definitely not planning on walking into that class and falling in love in the subject, which was what happened,” she said. “Basically as soon as I got my hands on programming on a computer, I basically couldn’t stop coding and I realized that that was really what I wanted to do, and way beyond just doing it in my freetime. That beginning programming class with Mrs. King caused me to realize I really liked programming and wanted to pursue it more than I wanted to pursue anything else it terms of a career.”

Dana Lieberman, Alexandra’s mother and a math teacher, was surprised her daughter “evolved to liking STEM” since before she was mostly involved in drawing.

“I had her take a summer programming class so that she’d have more semester time for art classes, and she loved programming class,” Lieberman said. “So then it was like, ‘So when do I take comp sci, when can I take art, when can I take comp sci, when can I take art?’”

To further her understanding of the fundamental concepts of computer science, Alexandra decided to become a teaching assistant for the Harker summer programming course. She has helped teach the class for the past two years and hopes to do a third year next summer.

“I’ve always taken the view of academics that the basics are the most important part of any subject. I felt that if I became a programming TA, I could gain a better understanding of the basics from the opposite side of the aisle, the person who’s teaching it,” she said. “And also in the process, [I would] be able to help other people have the same experience with programming that I did, because I thought that that was a very valuable experience for me, and I knew that it could be for other people as well.”

Susan King, a computer science teacher and Alexandra’s supervisor for being a summer teaching assistant, closed her eyes while carefully contemplating how to translate Alexandra’s wide personality into the right words, pausing every few seconds to think.

“Alexandra is remarkably astute to her surroundings. She is detail-oriented and yet sees the big picture simultaneously. She’s driven to do things that are high quality and last but not least at all, she’s just a wonderful human being and is very caring,” King said. “She’s her own person. She definitely has the influence of Harker academically, but through it all, I always felt like Alexandra was true to herself, and that allowed her to explore aspects of herself and not try to fit in any mold.”

Alexandra desires to be her own person without the views of others restraining her.

“I try not to invest too much time and thought into how people think of me simply because the way I want to live my life will have different effects on how different people think of me,” Alexandra said. “I think I would rather just live my life with the morals and values and ideas that I want to support in my life and be the person I want to be and just not really care about how people think of me and how people remember me. I think that as long as people are remembering something that is true about me, I don’t really care either way.”