MUKILTEO — Warren Han, 18, is a senior at Kamiak High School. The wrestling team captain was noted for his outstanding leadership. “However, his incredible work ethic is no match for his outstanding character,” counselor Alexis Spies added. Han is someone who always looks to brighten someone’s day.
Question: It’s getting close to the end of the school year. How’s it going?
Answer: It’s a very interesting time, I guess, in my life. It’s a good time to reflect on these last four years and the growth and progress I’ve accomplished, and the looking forward in life. There’s more stuff to do.
Q: How have you grown?
A: I think just developing as a person. I feel like academics and sports isn’t really a measure of success. Because they’re just empirical numbers on a piece of paper in the end. But in terms of growing as a person, and learning the difference between being nice and being kind — that to me has been the biggest thing the last four years. There’s a lot more to life than grades and sports and other stuff.
Q: You were captain of the wrestling team, did well at state. They gave you a team leadership award. What did that mean to you?
A: Oh, everything. I told my coach, if I didn’t even make it to state, I didn’t even care, as long as I made a difference in the lives of the people around me. I was looking back at it. In a couple years, it would be a medal on a wall versus these cultivated relationships I have with some really incredible people. I wanted to make a difference in their life rather than just focus on myself.
Q: How do you make a difference in someone else’s life?
A: You really have to invest … saying, “I care about these people” and not worry about what you’re getting back. … Leading by example, too. … I say work hard, be kind. But it doesn’t really follow through unless you find it in yourself and hold yourself to those values. …
I feel a lot of kids in my generation get really wrapped up in meaningless stuff. I really wanted to show these kids that there are a lot of values like integrity, being kind and working hard — I think a lot of people take that for granted these days.
Q: Do you have anyone you look to, who has inspired or mentored you along the way to take this approach?
A: I mean, like, my parents. My parents are straightforward people and I love them to death. I kind of took it for granted, the knowledge I was getting, from them and my coaches … and Shannon Nelson, she was my sixth-grade teacher. I took it for granted until last year, the knowledge they were giving me, because I wanted to figure it out for myself. “Oh, they already told me this. Shoot. I could have saved so much time.”
Those people, I wouldn’t be here without them. I’d either be living in the weight room with a bunch of textbooks, or in an office type room with a lot of weights.
Q: What have been your favorite classes in high school? Least favorite?
A: I was so awful at French. I was so bad. It was one of those things that I couldn’t really comprehend French. I’d try. I’m slightly tone-deaf I think. It’s not a jab at my French teacher, she was great. I was just so bad.
My favorite class is probably — I want to say STEM classes because that’s what I’ve always been good at. But there are certain things in English, like Shakespeare and poetry — there’s something that reflects a little bit more of us in terms of human nature and how we function. That’s always been a bit appealing. … But, I’d have to say calculus — calculus and biology were actually fascinating. They were fantastic. And our STEM faculty at Kamiak are beyond outstanding. They are some of the most overqualified teachers I’ve ever met.
Q: What do you do outside of school?
A: I cook a lot. I have to feed myself in college. I’ve been cooking since I was 5. It’s just the cleanup that kind of sucks. I play ukulele. I skateboard, I go ride my bike around. Yeah, weight room. I like to do these logic puzzles, like something to keep my mind a little stimulated. Go on hikes. Snowboard. Just a kid.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m planning to study bioengineering at (the University of Washington). I nearly got a full ride for my first year. So it’d be nice to immerse myself in my education rather than worry about sports and everything else. I want to work on treating mental illness because that’s a field of medicine where there aren’t any cures. There’s treatment and medication but no definite cure. Bioengineering is something — I think that’s where I can make a difference in the world.
Q: Where do you hope to be in 10, 20 years?
A: Hopefully I’ll be on a couch and my few kids will be running around the living room and my wife and I will be watching the TV or whatever crazy technology we have in 20 years. … That’s probably the most important thing to me in 20 years — will be my family. But in terms of academic and professional pursuits, I really want to be the head of my own bioengineering company. It sounds fun. I can be a kid and build stuff in a laboratory.
Q: What advice would you give a teen just starting high school?
A: The word “individuality” gets tossed around a lot these days but I don’t think it’s ever applied very well. “Oh, be yourself.” Kids come to high school and say “Who am I?” It’s really bad advice. I would tell them to just learn the difference between things, like being nice and actually being a kind person. … It’s a lot more work than getting good grades, being an athlete, a musician, whatever. It’s a lot of being uncomfortable — not really knowing who you are but sticking to what you believe in.
Q: Anything else people should know about you?
A: There’s nothing overly special about me. I’m not this big hulking Greek specimen of athleticism. I’m kind of a dork. You just have to be comfortable with yourself. I don’t take anything too seriously.
Melissa Slager: firstname.lastname@example.org; 425-339-3432.