Noah Guthman
Photo credit: Erick Gibson

The Orator

Tianhao He

Senior, Walter Johnson High School

What sets him apart: The 17-year-old from Rockville is captain of the debate and mock trial teams at Walter Johnson, and has written for The Concord Review, the only academic journal to publish historical research by high school students. His 11,289-word paper on Alexander Hamilton received a “superior” ranking by The National Writing Board, which performs independent assessments of history research.

Born in Beijing, Tianhao moved to the United States at age 6 from Switzerland, where he was living at the time. He credits his parents for his work ethic. “Working hard in school was the only way to get out of the rural regions and out of poverty and to open up opportunities for them,” he says. 

Tianhao struggled with English as a young boy, but an interest in baseball helped. He’d “pore through” books on the subject. One measure of how far he has come: He took first place in extemporaneous speaking last year at the Montgomery County Forensics League championship.

Other accomplishments: National Merit finalist; APEX Scholars Program; selected “Best Overall Student and Leader” in the Ivy Scholars Program at Yale University; second baseman, varsity baseball team.

What others say: “It was clear to me when he was a freshman that he was already writing at a college level,” says Stephen Miller, who taught Tianhao’s AP U.S. Government and Politics class. “I had no doubt after reading his Concord Review essay that he was capable of graduate-level research and writing, and he was still a junior in high school.”

What his future holds: Already accepted into Yale, Tianhao is waiting to hear from other schools. He’ll major in economics, focusing on international economic development.