Humans of Harker: Venturing into the unknown

Avery Young channels his spontaneous spirit into both academics and athletics

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Ritika Rajamani

“One of the best things about senior year is that you can take much more niche classes, and I would tell [people] to take great advantage of that, because Harker has classes that no other schools offer. It’s benefited me [and] I’m really glad, retrospectively, that I tried a bunch of classes I had no idea about instead of trying to only take things I was familiar with,” Avery Young (12) said.

With one hand holding a bag full of snacks and the other holding a volleyball, Avery Young (12) makes his way onto the sand courts of West Valley College. After spotting his friends on the middle court, he waves and jogs over to meet them. He places down a speaker at the edge of the court, begins shuffling his favorite playlist, and serves the ball over the net. The next hours pass by in a flurry of two-on-two volleyball, eating delicious snacks and lots of laughter.

When Avery began playing volleyball in sixth grade, it was completely on a whim. After one of his friends asked him to join, he did, and coincidentally ended up loving it. One of his favorite parts about the sport is being able to play with his peers.

“I really like the teamwork of [volleyball]. It’s the only team sport I play, so that aspect is really unique for me, and I really enjoy that,” Avery said.

Avery found that the team aspect of volleyball became very beneficial to his playing and his overall improvement in the sport.

“I would say volleyball is also fun [because], I was playing on a great team … so it was nice being able to … rely on [my teammates] and then to be able to learn [from them,]” Avery said. “It definitely set the standards higher [and] I could feel myself improving.”

Similarly to how he started his journey in volleyball, Avery began rock climbing spontaneously, deciding to try it because he already spent so much time outdoors. An aspect of rock climbing that Avery has found extremely rewarding is being able to travel to various destinations.

“[Rock climbing] is a very unique sport, and I would say the best thing about it is the places I’ve gone to do it; some of them are just amazing,” Avery said. “There was one place [I] went rock climbing [where I] actually didn’t use harnesses because it was on an island in the middle of a lake, so [I was] literally climbing over the water.”

Avery attributes his spontaneous attitude towards quotes by renowned poet and playwright Oscar Wilde, specifically Wilde’s quote, “life is much too important to be taken seriously.” He has applied this mentality to several aspects of his life, especially to his athletic journey.

“With volleyball, my friend said, ‘Hey, what if we did volleyball?’ and we completely did it on a whim,” Avery said. “I did the same with backpacking. I’d never been on a backpacking trip in my life. I saw that there was one available in a slot I had free in the summer, and I said, ‘Let’s try it.’”

Not only has Avery been open to trying new sports, but he also has sampled various courses that Harker has to offer. Especially as an upperclassman, he notes the benefits of trying out many different classes.

“One of the best things about senior year is that you can take much more niche classes, and I would tell [people] to take great advantage of that, because Harker has classes that no other schools offer,” Avery said. “It’s benefited me [and] I’m really glad, retrospectively, that I tried a bunch of classes I had no idea about instead of trying to only take things I was familiar with.”

Through trying various new courses, Avery discovered his passion for economics. Along with understanding the logic-based components of economics, he also appreciates how the subject can be applied to several real-life scenarios.

“[Economics] always made sense to me … There’s really interesting applications of it and a very wide variety of topics ,” Avery said. “I would say my favorite class within econ[omics that] I’ve taken was game theory, which is the study of how people make choices, and it was really interesting to be able to model that.”

Friend Anish Kilaru (12) notices and admires how enthusiastic Avery is in regards to academics, especially economics.

“He’s very academically curious, which I think is great. He loves econ[omics] and everything about it, and I always go to him whenever I need help in my classes because I know that he understands [it,]” Anish said. “He’s spent so much of his free time learning and watching videos about topics that he’s interested in, and he’s even held study sessions for me and my friends right before finals.”

Avery’s positive attitude towards learning is also recognized by upper school economics teacher Sam Lepler, who acknowledges its benefits towards Avery in the future.

“His biggest strength by far is curiosity and genuine explorative personality. That’s an irreplaceable trait,” Lepler said. “He is genuinely interested in the material and in the learning, more than in the number, which is how the world really works and how one actually rises up in the world: the genuine curiosity, not the number.”

After discovering this new passion for economics, Avery has gained confidence in his academic abilities and channeled that into helping his peers.

“He’s a lot more comfortable [now] than he was in his own abilities,” friend Rhys Edwards (12) said. “He was pretty tentative when it came to expressing his knowledge, but now [he explains] all of these crazy economic things to his friends … and it’s good to see him break out of his shell, show what he knows and be confident in himself.”

The confidence and independence that Avery gained from his academics has translated back into his athletic career. With backpacking, a sport he picked up recently, he often has to navigate trails without any modern equipment to aid him.

“You’re using paper, topographical maps to plan your route, and then even when you get [to your destination], you have to survey rock conditions and weather to determine if you can even take certain routes,” Avery said. “When I was on some backpacking trips … we would nominate who we thought would do the best job planning the trip, and then we would have people that were in charge of cooking [and] people in charge of purifying the water. It was very self-done.”

During one of his backpacking trips, Avery ventured solo into the wilderness for three days. The peacefulness and stillness of the experience contrasted to the usual hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley, and Avery ultimately found the trip very rewarding.

“It’s very interesting, doing absolutely nothing … Part of the rules for the solo is that you’re not allowed to bring any entertainment … so the idea is that you actually sit and think,” Avery said. “It’s so different than life normally… It’s two completely different worlds, [and] I try to take that home [with me].”