March-April 2012 | Education

Top Teens 2012

Bethesda Magazine's 2012 Extraordinary Teen Awards.

Photo by Jonathan TimmesCatherine Liu

Senior, Walter Johnson High School

This 18-year-old from Rockville has been tutoring and mentoring younger students since seventh grade, when she began volunteering on Saturdays at the George B. Thomas Sr. Learning Academy, a nonprofit tutoring and mentoring program held in Montgomery County Public Schools.

Cathy Liu developed her own tutoring method—adding art and character education to academics—and founded a tutoring club at WJ her sophomore year, drawing some 35 students to work at Whetstone Elementary in Gaithersburg.

Last summer she organized a free, two-week tutoring program at East Silver Spring Elementary. And last fall, she incorporated her club, The Pillar Project, as a nonprofit.

Other accomplishments: An APEX Scholar and National Merit semifinalist, Cathy is captain of the WJ debate team. She says she joined four years ago to conquer “an enormous speaking problem.” She since has won debate honors, including an award for the best record in the Montgomery County Debate League last year. Last summer she took first place in persuasive oratory while participating in the Ivy Scholars program in Grand Strategy at Yale University. A member of the Montgomery County Regional Student Government Association, she also sings in WJ’s advanced choir.

What others say: Sharon Huang says her daughter began tutoring kids who were often from troubled homes. This, at a time when her own parents were divorcing and her father withdrew from the family. “Because of her own experiences, she feels like these kids need a lot of help,” Huang says. WJ counselor Emily Putney says Cathy has a positive attitude and her personal experiences “made her want to give back to the community.”

What her future holds: Cathy plans to become a lawyer after completing undergraduate work in English or broadcasting.