The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

The student news site of The Harker School.

Harker Aquila

Humans of Harker: Purpose towards progress

Olivia Xu pursues life with intention, learning volumes about herself along the way
“There’s a lot of value in every moment and everyone around you. I feel like everyone you meet can teach you a little bit, and that’s something that I’ve really internalized over the years. I think that’s part of why I like being around people and different communities so much, Olivia Xu (’24) said. (Katelyn Zhao)

“What makes what you do truly worth it?” 

So inquires the fundamental question of the Humans of Harker project, an endeavor to tell the stories of each year’s graduating class. 

Whether it be passion, impact or even enjoyment, the Humans of Harker project tells countless stories of such motivations, immortalizing each senior into part of a lasting Harker legacy. Hours of effort poured into every profile, tireless dedication devoted to crafting compelling stories, this and more defines Humans of Harker. And at the heart of it all lies Olivia Xu (’24), one of this year’s editor-in-chiefs for the publication. 

Thus, it is only fitting, the same question for the questioner: “What makes what you do truly worth it?”

“I think one thing that I try to do a lot is to take everything as a learning opportunity,” Olivia said. “Because I think you can learn a little bit from everything and everyone.”

Perhaps it’s a curiosity for life and the lives of others. 

Driven by the pursuit of knowledge, Olivia constantly strives to understand the world around her, be it through individuals’ experiences or her own. Olivia gains glimpses into unique lived journeys through Humans of Harker and tackles math competitions for an intellectual challenge, all emblematic of her open-ended approach to life.

“What makes her so unique as a student, as a person, I think it’s her deadly combination of curiosity, wanting to learn and intelligence,” Dr. Aiyer, who taught Olivia math the past two years, said. “And just all-around humility to top it off.”

Olivia’s interest in math blossomed at an early age, with her finding fascination in the analytical intricacies of the field. Soon after, she began participating in competition math as a continuation of her interest, pushing herself to learn more advanced problem-solving techniques. Throughout it all though, Olivia finds her greatest joy in math comes from the community of peers she has met along the way.

“I think one thing that I appreciate is how it’s basically a language to understand the world,” Olivia said. “In terms of academics, I think it’s really cool how math basically formalizes and quantifies a lot of things.”

Perhaps it’s seeing one’s work blossom to fruition.

Throughout Humans of Harker and her mathematical forays, Olivia seeks to make a difference for those around her. Whether that be through the stories told in the Humans of Harker magazine or in organizing math competitions for middle schoolers, Olivia gives her all to all. Such efforts stem from her own enthusiasm for each endeavor she pursues.

“I hope people develop a genuine excitement about what they’re doing and a curiosity about whatever they’re learning about,” Olivia said. “I think it’s when you get to organically develop your interests and learn how to deal with different situations that it’s the hardest, but it’s also when you learn the most about yourself and about how life works.”

Take a look at the Humans of Harker magazine, a culmination of a class’ worth of stories. See how the Harker Math Invitational, a middle school math contest, draws hundreds of students each year. In these moments, watching her work come to life, Olivia finds the greatest joy.

“A lot of experiences that I’ve had, I’ve really enjoyed them, so naturally I just want to share that same feeling with other people,” Olivia said. “I think excitement, like passion, is something that, at least for me, feels very contagious.”

Perhaps it’s the communities fostered along the way.

From the welcoming atmosphere of journalism to the math enthusiasts she encounters through her various competitions, Olivia has become part of many communities across her high school years. 

“For me, having a community in whatever I do is very valuable because I think I learned the most from other people, whether it’s their experiences or their perspectives on different things,” Olivia said. “It’s very nice to just have people with similar interests who inspire you.”

In each community she’s a part of, Olivia strives to make a difference. Through her ingenuity, she inspires those around her, leaving a lasting impact through each endeavor she takes on. Close friend Emma Gao (‘24) admires this part of Olivia’s personality and her constant quest for better.

“She’s just always striving for improvement in whatever she does or whatever community she’s in and whatever skills or passions she has,” Emma said. “She wants to improve, and she wants to grow herself and the community she’s in, and she’s always having new ideas, which I find very admirable.”

Or perhaps it’s a combination of all three.

“She’s very passionate and she has a lot of love and care for what she does,” Olivia’s sister Celina Xu (11) said. “She’s very strong-minded and self-confident and analytical.  She sees things as they are and she uses it to be more empathetic and improve herself.”

The people. The process. The pursuit of something larger than oneself. For Olivia, all these and more define what makes what she does truly worth it. Reflecting on her high school career, with its communities cultivated, curiosities explored and lives touched along the way, Olivia finds joy in it all. One journey draws to a finish. Another begins in its wake. Amidst it all, Olivia remains steadfast, carrying that sense of purpose and dedication forever forwards.

“There’s a lot of value in every moment and everyone around you,” Olivia said. “I appreciate people who just appreciate the little things. For me, I feel like everyone you meet can teach you a little bit, and that’s something that I’ve really internalized over the years. I think that’s part of why I like being around people and different communities so much. Because in each of these communities, you can learn so many different things from everyone.”

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About the Contributors
Jonathan Xue
Jonathan Xue, Humans of Harker Co-Managing Editor
Jonathan Xue (11) is a co-managing editor for Humans of Harker, and this is his second year on staff. This year, Jonathan hopes to connect more with journalism staff and the Harker community at large. He enjoys Om Noms, Edgar Allan Poe, and the word "taste."
Katelyn Zhao
Katelyn Zhao, Humans of Harker Co-Editor-in-Chief
Katelyn Zhao (12) is the co-editor-in-chief of Humans of Harker, and this is her fourth year on staff. Katelyn aims to honor each of the stories within the Harker community this year, especially those of the graduating Class of 2024. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys biking, drinking coffee or matcha and reading recommended books from her friends.

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