Humans of Harker: Making a happy difference

Claire Luo carves a path with original thinking


Esha Gohil

“I want to be remembered as a person who made people feel more positive. There’s so much going on in life all the time, but when you step back, the most meaningful parts are when you feel happy when someone is there. So I just want people to feel like I made a little happy difference in their life,” Claire Luo (12) said.

During the more stressful months of high school, students can be seen frantically cramming for a test or catching up on assignments. But no matter the season, one cheerful, smiling student can always be seen strolling around campus: Claire Luo (12), who radiates joy wherever she goes. 

For Claire, she finds herself the happiest in the morning when she spends about 40 minutes walking around in her backyard before school, listening to music and exercising. 

“That’s when I think I’m most at peace,” she said. “What makes that time so happy for me is [that] it happens every single day, and it’s so comforting to know that I’m very present in that moment.”

The rest of Claire’s daily schedule is not so relaxed: from mentoring DECA members to researching away as a Mitra Scholar, Claire pursues her interests with ferocity. She recalls that she joined the upper school as a student new to Harker with no set plan for her four years here, but soon found a place for herself in the business community, where she met some of her first friends.

“Business is so meaningful because it cultivates a type of thinking [that] really enables me to meet other people’s ideas in a logical sense,” she said. “Business also pushed me to be more [of an] out-of-the-box thinker.”

Out-of-the-box thinking was exactly what led Claire to become one of the first students to join the Incubator program her sophomore year, where she went on to create her own app called GetTime, designed to help students with time management and alleviate the stress students face from the rigors of high school.

Tessa Muhle (12), a friend of Claire’s, has noticed Claire’s remarkable calmness under stress. Despite holding an impressive number of leadership positions — president of CareerConnect, magazine editor for Spanish National Honor Society, DECA mentor and an officer of Random Acts of Kindness Club — Claire goes through her day with an energetic and joyful attitude, often taking walks around campus and laughing with friends. 

“I very rarely see her get frazzled or super worried or stressed about anything,” Tessa said. “It’s really incredible given how much she does, but she always manages to keep a calm head and keep going forward.”

Claire’s strong sense of self can be attributed to the value she places on independent thinking. As someone who lives by the motto “be the chess player, not the chess piece,” she makes decisions based on her true interests rather than to follow certain norms. 

“I tend to be a person who is very open to things, but I will not do things that I don’t resonate with,” she said. “I will not do something because it’s there and a lot of people are doing it, I will do it because I truly believe in it.”

This kind of thinking led her to take to Spanish for all four years of high school, including both AP Spanish Language and AP Spanish Literature, and even pursue research on Spanish literature as a Mitra Scholar. 

“She’s found things that she’s super passionate about, and she will follow them to whatever end, even if it’s not necessarily the most popular path or the one that’s the most done,” friend Anika Fuloria (12) said. 

Claire took Spanish starting in first grade, and she became especially interested in the language in high school after she started reading Spanish literature in class. An eager reader, she found the process of reading Spanish and “dissecting the words” especially satisfying.

“Spanish is so alive in the sense that, whenever I do Spanish, [I’m] really getting a glimpse into another world,” Claire said. “That’s very exciting for me, and that’s why I love the language so much. It’s super colorful, it adds color to my life.”

One of the books she read in her AP Spanish Literature class especially caught her eye: the 16th century book Lazarillo de Tormes. After discussing this book in class, she decided that she wanted to explore its literary elements and how it broke free from standards of the time by doing a year-long research project on the book. 

Upper school modern and classical languages department chair Abel Olivas, who taught Claire AP Spanish Language her sophomore year and is now teaching her Honors Advanced Spanish (HAS): Literature and Film of the Spanish-Speaking World and HAS: The Latin American Short Story her senior year, has witnessed her remarkable growth as a scholar. 

“When I see her in class, she seems more grounded, and she’s grown in terms of her confidence [and] her scholarship,” Olivas said. “She’s a leader in a lot of ways, jumps in to answer questions in an uninhibited way at this point, so [she’s] a real strong presence in a community of scholars.”

Claire’s love for learning and language translates smoothly into her love of teaching. Even as a student herself, she sought out opportunities to give back to the community with the knowledge she had gained, spending the summer after her freshman year working for Harker’s English Language Institute and teaching English to international students, which she found to be a very meaningful experience. The following summer, as an intern for a local nonprofit, she taught literature to students from underserved communities, designing her own lesson plans and tweaking the plans to better serve the students’ needs. 

“It made me super happy when I saw my students finishing up the summer and knowing, hopefully, more information,” she said. “That was a very fulfilling moment for me.”

Claire’s kindness as a teacher mirrors her compassion as a friend. Tessa recalls that Claire welcomed her to the upper school when Tessa first came to the upper school as a sophomore.

“I was wandering around matriculation, all lost and confused,” Tessa said. “Claire and her group of friends, they were very friendly to me, and they were like, ‘Oh, you can walk around with us, and we’ll show you the ropes,’ and then we became friends.”

Claire’s clear conviction for positivity shines through the many hats she wears: friend, student, teacher and leader. From smiling at others to lending a listening ear to those who need it, she leaves behind a trail of joy wherever she goes.

“I want to be remembered as a person who made people feel more positive,” Claire said. “There’s so much going on in life all the time, but when you step back, the most meaningful parts are when you feel happy when someone is there. So I want people to feel like I made a little happy difference in their life.”