Senior, Richard Montgomery High School
For Emily Tian, writing poetry is an opportunity to crystallize abstract ideas in a few stanzas, reflect on life, and create a powerful connection with others.
“People can read my poetry and feel they, too, have something in common with me,” says Emily, whose work has been published in more than a dozen literary magazines and has won national and international awards. When reading poetry, she says it’s essential to respect the poet’s voice. “It doesn’t matter if they are long dead from the 17th century, I don’t judge the author for being who they are in their poetry,” she says.
A senior who’s enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program at Richard Montgomery High School in Rockville, Emily is editor-in-chief of the school newspaper, The Tide, plays on the varsity lacrosse team, and is known among teachers for her natural curiosity.
“It’s refreshing to have kids who don’t just want to know what’s on the test,” says Charles Goetz, Emily’s IB physics teacher. “Emily really works hard and is so well-rounded. … She’s going to go very far in life.”
In addition to her passion for writing poetry, Emily, 17, has been fascinated by the law since elementary school. The North Potomac teen is founder and president of Richard Montgomery’s Student Legal Association, and is an advocate for criminal justice reform. She has completed internships at the state’s attorney’s office and the Office of the Public Defender in Montgomery County. Emily competes on her school’s mock trial team and is a volunteer for the county’s Teen Court, where she recommends consequences for juveniles facing charges ranging from shoplifting to underage drinking.
Through Teen Court and her internships, Emily says she’s gained a new perspective about the legal system and is considering becoming a defense attorney. “You take people who often don’t have much of a voice at all in their circumstances—maybe they’ve committed a crime or made a big mistake,” Emily says. “Being able to stand in for them and communicate their stories and their histories in a way that helps uphold the integrity of the entire judicial system, I think is something that’s really noble and an empowering profession.”
Her ultimate goal? “I’d love to end up as a judge,” she says.