Jenny Gan excelled in Advanced Placement courses and is one of the top graduates at Hudson High School, known for its academic rigor.

Despite her overachieving ways, she’s the first to say, “I never, ever thought in a million years I’d get into Harvard.”

That’s where she’s headed this fall to begin her undergraduate career. Gan is the Beacon Journal’s top-ranked 2018 Star Student among all nominees from high schools in the Akron-Canton region.

This year, Harvard admitted only 4.6 percent of the nearly 43,000 prospective students that applied. That’s its lowest admission rate ever.

Those who know Gan, 17, aren’t surprised by her humility.

“Jenny is humble at her core,” said her AP English teacher, Gina Von Ville. “She never blames or boasts but instead is just interested in making anything she committed to a success.”

At Harvard University, Gan wants to take premed courses, with a goal of becoming a doctor with a cause.

“I want to practice medicine and I also want to spend time in my career with public health policy,” Gan said.

She said she wants to be involved in expanding access to health care to disadvantaged populations.

Gan said her parents played a big role in developing her commitment to education. At Hudson High, where she graduated among the top in her class, she took 14 Advanced Placement classes. She also took two courses at Kent State University this past school year.

“Education and learning were always really encouraged at home. My dad reads all the time,” she said. “We talk over dinner about things that are happening in the world.”

Her parents, she said, also encouraged her to think beyond herself.

“They encouraged us to be people who want to do something with our lives, in terms of making a difference for people,” she said. They want us “to enrich other people’s lives and really just make the world a better place.”

Her travels also helped her to think broadly, she said. She and her sister traveled to China — where their parents were born in Shanghai — every few years while they were growing up.

Her parents moved to the United States from China in the 1990s. Her father graduated from Bowling Green State University and works in technology. Her mother graduated from Cleveland State University and has a job in finance.

Gan’s sister, Connie, has been a big influence. Connie Gan was a 2013 Star Student.

Connie is studying to be a doctor at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Both girls were inspired by relatives in China who were doctors.

“They loved their work,” Jenny Gan said. “They showed me your job can not only enrich your life, but your patients’ lives.”

Other activities

School wasn’t all about academics for Gan.

She was a member of the Hudson girls varsity tennis team for four years. She’s a two-time district qualifier in doubles.

As student government officer, she spearheaded six blood drives and helped coordinate three others.

This past school year, the students collected close to 800 pints. That’s an especially impressive amount, considering that students have to be 16 years old to donate, she said.

As a member of the Hudson Community First Youth Advisory Board, she organized annual carnation sales that raised more than $2,000 each year in 2016 and 2017. The money went to an international charity called WE Charity, formerly known as Free the Children.

As a sophomore, she organized Girls in STEM Day. Local women in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields spoke to girls in middle school, encouraging them to pursue STEM studies and careers.

Student leadership attracted her, she said. “It was about getting people together to reach a common goal.”

She also tutored K-12 students in math and reading at Kumon Learning Center in Hudson for more than two years, beginning in eighth grade.

Research experience

Gan further developed her interest in health care as a paid intern at the Cleveland Clinic’s nine-week Science Internship Program.

At the hospital, she worked with Robert Chatburn, clinical research manager of the Clinic’s Respiratory Institute and helped conduct research involving respiratory therapy.

She even published — with Chatburn — an abstract in Respiratory Care Journal of some of the research. She also presented her research at an American Association of Respiratory Care conference.

She also spent a lot of time shadowing physicians and others at the Clinic.

“For the first time I was able to see in person the way doctors in their day-to-day lives really work, interacting with patients,” Gan said. “That’s what convinced me that medicine is a really good profession. It has such a human impact.”

Katie Byard can be reached at 330-996-3781 or kbyard@thebeaconjournal.com.