Neither Rachel Yiu nor her best friend, Paidon Gravois, expected to be named Hahnville High School’s valedictorian or salutatorian, but they did know they worked hard.
“We never really competed, although vals and sals often compete,” said Yiu, who was named valedictorian. “But we didn’t think it was going to be either of us. We just did what we had to do to make it and to be where we are now – graduation.”
The two knew they were in the top 10 students, but they weren’t vying for honors and certainly didn’t expect to be the top two students in a class of 350 graduates.
“We worked hard and did everything we needed to do, but we honestly didn’t think our GPAs were going to be up there,” Yiu said.
But they were and, when the news came of their recognition, she said it was like “Okay, now we have to write a speech.”
Although Yiu is still working on what she’ll tell the aspiring minds of the HHS Class of 2019, she does know it needs to be about inspiring her classmates on to the next level in their lives. Besides, she’s still processing being the school’s No. 1, which she considers awesome and “pretty weird.”
“It’s a feeling I can’t really describe, but it’s exhilarating to know my hard work paid off – but that’s about it,” she said.
Yiu struggles with the recognition because she feels she doesn’t deserve it, although she worked hard to get it.
“That little girl in the corner coloring was me,” she said of growing up in her parents’ business, the Bamboo Garden restaurant. “As a kid, I just kind of took from the lives I wanted to pursue – and chose what I wanted.”
Yiu’s parents, Danny and Emily Pan, own the restaurant in Boutte.
“As a first generation student, you just realize the situation you’re in and determine if you want to be better than that or below that,” she said. “It’s like I want to be better than where my family is at right now. I decided I can be better here. I just have to be me.”
At HHS, she excelled.
Yiu’s awards include Summa Cum Laude and the Superintendent’s Award, the Dow Scholastic Achievement award, as well as the AP Scholar Award.
For tennis, she’s been named to the LHSAA All Academic Girls Team and her team finished as co-district champions. She was also honored with the Chevron High School Scholar Athlete Award.
Her academic recognitions also include the Spanish II Award and the AP U.S. History Award. She won first place in the school and district in the Young Author’s Poetry competition, and her science fair project swept first place at the school and district.
Yiu is a member of the National Art Honor Society, National Beta Club, InterAct Rotary Club and National Honor Society.
Yiu will head to Louisiana State University (where Gravois also plans to attend) where she will study electrical engineering with a minor in business beginning in fall.
“It’s a challenge not a lot of people want to embrace, but sometimes you have to take a risk and hope for the best,” she said. “I’ve always loved challenges, and I decided I’m gonna go for it. It’s more like ‘I saw it and I’m gonna take it and run with it.’”
“That little girl in the corner coloring was me,” she said of growing up in her parents’ business, the Bamboo Garden restaurant. “As a kid, I just kind of took from the lives I wanted to pursue – and chose what I wanted.”— Rachel Yiu
She understands her chosen profession is a typically male-dominated field, but she decided: “Sometimes, different is good.”
The move was inspired by Barbara Jo Pease, who taught at Louisiana Youth Seminar and spoke about working in Shell Norco’s management. Pease said the job spurred her to go into something like engineering.
“I thought that was interesting, thinking about it,” Yiu said. “It kind of helped me with my mom being a cancer survivor, and I thought I could help people coming out of hospitals, so I kind of had a double dip on both ends. The business minor came up with being in a family that owns a business.
“I would like to see myself conquer it and be able to achieve this.”
Rachel Yiu – Hahnville High School Valedictorian – Class of 2019
- Recognitions includes Summa Cum Laude, Superintendent’s Award and the DOW Award.
Yiu and Salutatorian Paidon Gravois are best friends.
Yiu’s parents, Danny and Emily Pan, own the Bamboo Garden restaurant in Boutte.
She is a first generation high school graduate in the U.S. Her parents moved to the U.S. from China.