Humans of Harker: An aura of sunshine

Stephanie Shen radiates an infectious positivity

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Helen Zhu

“One thing I’m always on the lookout for is new creative outlets and I think cooking is a really great way to express myself. I like exploring new recipes or exploring in general. It’s a really calming activity and a really good way to balance out how hectic school life is. I’ve been reading a bunch, and I’ve tried Paint-By-Numbers because I can’t paint. I’ve also picked up guitar, tried longboarding, inline skating and learning Korean,” Stephanie Shen (12) said.

The chatter in a bustling market greets Stephanie Shen (12) as she strolls down an aisle lined with various classic Asian snacks, browsing for new ingredients to experiment with in her newest boba batch. She turns a corner and finds a familiar plant easily mistaken for potatoes: taro roots! Without knowing the raw form of the popular flavor, one may easily glance over the root, not recognizing it because of its far resemblance to the classic light purple many think of. However, Stephanie, well-versed in boba ingredients, immediately walks over to the root. This instance is one out of many fond memories Stephanie has with boba.

Stephanie’s love for boba started long before boba became a trend, proven by a picture of her posing with the drink at the age of 3. After being introduced to taro boba at a cafe, Stephanie decided she wanted to attempt to recreate it herself. Not only does Stephanie love using taro in her drinks, but she also loves experimenting and trying new ingredients. She has made boba of every flavor, from matcha to lotus root to brown sugar.

“You don’t think working on it would take an entire afternoon but the whole process does because it’s rolling out every individual pearl. And then the dough gets dry and then you have to reboil and knead it. You use the tapioca starch and it’s a huge mess. And there’s powder and syrup everywhere, but it’s so much fun. It’s one of my favorite things to do,” Stephanie said.

Her stock depletes quickly since she often makes the drink for her friends and family as well. Close friend Betsy Tian (12), who has known Stephanie since childhood, recalls a visit that occurred during winter break.

“Stephanie is really good at cooking and baking and over winter break she surprised me by bringing me food to my house a couple of times that she had made,” Betsy said. “And that definitely surprised me but at the same time, I feel like that’s something that captures her personality so well. Showing her support and her love for people around her, in these small, but also, really heartfelt actions.”

Stephanie not only enjoys cooking, but also enjoys trying new activities, many of which she has picked up during the pandemic.

“One thing I’m always on the lookout for is new creative outlets and I think cooking is a really great way to express myself,” Stephanie said. “I like exploring new recipes or exploring in general. It’s a really calming activity and a really good way to balance out how hectic school life is. I’ve been reading a bunch, and I’ve tried Paint-By-Numbers because I can’t paint. I’ve also picked up guitar, tried longboarding, inline skating and learning Korean.”

Close friend Jacqueline Au (12) admires Stephanie’s supportive character as well as her dedication to her various hobbies.

“Over the years [I’ve seen that] she’s always there to support other people,” Jacqueline said. “[I admire her for] how passionate she is about everything she does and how she’s also … there for me.”

Along with Stephanie’s supportiveness, her optimistic outlook is also something that Betsy appreciates has remained constant over the years.

“She always has this really positive energy and outlook that she brings, no matter who she’s interacting with. When I’m around her … it makes me also want to approach things optimistically,” Betsy said. “She’s always been someone who feels almost like sunshine to be around because she has this positive energy that’s always [radiating].”

As Betsy mentioned, one trait Stephanie values closely — and is often associated with — is positivity. She reflects on why she always tries to choose optimism.

“It’s a really good way of life to not take things too seriously. [If I receive a bad test score,] I’m like, ‘Well, moving on to the next one, I’ll do better on the next one.’ [I think with this mindset,] you really get to enjoy the process of high school,” Stephanie said.

While Stephanie’s uplifting personality has not changed, she has noticeably grown out of the shy middle school student she once was. Interact club adviser and math teacher Bradley Stoll praises Stephanie for her growth and humbleness.

“She’s definitely grown into her leadership positions … she’s still a little bit uncomfortable with being a leader, but I think she’s grown into it a lot,” Stoll said. “She does not want to project herself as being higher up in a position than someone else; it’s more like everyone’s on the same playing field. [But] from a maturity standpoint she’s grown in confidence.”

A good work ethic is another trait Stephanie values and is something that can be credited to her sister’s influence.

“I have an older sister and in my eyes, she’s a genius. We shared a workroom for up until junior year. She’s so smart it’s annoying. I’ll be working and she’s at a table right next to me and I’ll see her working really hard and I’ll want a break or want to go to the kitchen and she’ll still be working. She’s a role model for me for sure,” Stephanie said.

Although her sister has since left for college, they still remain close and often contact each other through video calling.

“She’s the best person ever. We’re really close. We still call a lot of time every day. She’s really good at everything, which is slightly annoying, but also really good for me because she can help [improve]. She can teach me math, help me find better word choices and she’s [also] there for me to rant to. We’re best friends,” Stephanie said.