Humans of Harker: Motivation beyond the quiet face

Katie Chang uses her organization skills to help others


Arely Sun

"I think [my organization] is important because I've always had this sense of duty or responsibility. That was a personal thing. My parents never forced it on me. I like it when I can see what I’m going to do or have to do so I can finish things early," Katie Chang (12) said.

Perched on tall chairs in the Nichols Rotunda, Katie Chang (12) and her friends focus intently as they quiz each other on biology terms. She whispers some witty words, and the table erupts into a bout of laughter. After they settle down, Katie bends back over her white flashcards, her veil-like black hair falling across her face and over her maroon t-shirt. Her legging-clad ankles peacefully lie crossed on the chair’s footrest bar.

But you can also see Katie quietly walking from class to class, her feet moving quickly, eyes looking into the distance. From the outside, she appears to be quiet and reserved, but beyond her shyness is a funny, caring and driven young woman.

“I’m a really shy person to begin with, but if I become friends with someone, I sort of open up more to [them], and I can be really loud. But just in class or when I’m first talking to strangers, I don’t easily open up,” she said with a gentle smile.

Her close friend Madison “Maddie” Huynh (12) knows Katie’s loud side well and recalls her lifelong diligence.

“I remember her having her head down, getting things done even while everyone else was playing,” Maddie said. “She’s always making sure she’s making the most of her time.”

As she works, Katie makes sure to have a good time while keeping those around her on task. Her friends admire her ability to balance relaxation with hard work.

“She’s just super fun to be around, but she also keeps you on track with your academics because she’s super focused and really organized,” Maya Shukla (12), another close friend of Katie’s, said. 

Her lifestyle has gently swayed her friends towards being more punctual and focused. Katie prefers staying organized because finishing things on time gives her a sense of satisfaction. 

“I think [my organization] is important because I’ve always had this sense of duty or responsibility,” she said. “That was a personal thing. My parents never forced it on me. I like it when I can see what I’m going to do or have to do so I can finish things early.”

Despite her no-nonsense organization and motivation, Katie prizes moments of laughter with her friends. Her quick wit and humor can always bring a smile to your face.

Michelle Kwan (12), one of Katie’s close friends, can recall several times where Katie utilized her lightning-fast on-her-feet thinking for activities ranging from playing cards in fifth grade to winning a buzzer game in Human Anatomy and Physiology class. 

“She processes things really quickly, and it’s really impressive how she does that,” said Michelle.

Another lesser-known facet of Katie is the value of her opinions to her friends. Whenever they need help deciding on something, her friends trust her to give her honest outlook no matter the topic.

“Katie is really quiet but has a lot of opinions on things, and her opinions matter a lot to people because she’s really important to a lot of us,” Maddie said. “She’s not particularly outspoken, but if you ask her, she’ll let you know directly and clearly what she thinks about something.”

The traits she possesses, including motivation and a quick mind, help Katie in practical aspects such as playing music. Katie started playing the marimba, an instrument consisting of a set of wooden bars, ten years ago when her mother thought it would be a good idea because her mother’s friend played percussion. Playing music throughout the years has allowed Katie to form bonds with those she performed with.

“I think it’s [important] who I play with because even if it’s solo or in an ensemble, there’s this sense of community, [and] you develop a very special relationship with the people you play with,” she said.

A key turning point for Katie’s musical career was her first big marimba competition in seventh grade. Inexperienced and scared, Katie didn’t think she would place or perform well because she had never proven herself in music. Despite her insecurities, Katie came in second, boosting her own confidence and that of others.

“I think it really changed my mindset and other people’s because they saw that I could do it, and I saw that I could do it, so I started believing in myself, and that’s when my career in music really took off,” she said.

Since then, Katie has traveled the world to attend master classes and perform the marimba. She has even played in Carnegie Hall multiple times.

The artistic mindset Katie has developed from music also helps her with drawing, which has taught her to observe life more carefully. Her skills in the arts bolster each other and have given Katie important skills for day-to-day life such as learning techniques and patience.

“For practicing music or doing art, I feel like if you focus your efforts on one area, then it’s a more efficient use of your time as opposed to…playing everything over once instead of focusing on the areas that you’re struggling with,” Katie said.