Rachel Chung leads middle school through pandemic

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Photo credit: Rachel Chung

Middle School President Rachel Chung leads the newly elected sixth and seventh grade representatives along with the eighth grade representatives through their first virtual meeting of the school year. During the Zoom, the young leaders planned for future middle school gatherings. “I love these meetings so much because all of us work together to do the best for our grade,” Chung said.

By Greta Irvine, Staff Reporter

Leadership comes with many challenges — and Rachel Chung’s biggest challenge is leading three grades of young Archer students through a virtual school year during a global pandemic.

In the final months of the past academic year, eighth grader Chung was elected as middle school president for the 2020-2021 school year. Serving as class representative in both sixth and seventh grade, Chung is moving into her third year as an Archer leader. Even so, as she reflected on her experience getting elected, Chung described her initial feeling as shock. 

“I didn’t really expect to get [elected],” Chung said. “I was invited to this FaceTime call with my friends and they were like, ‘congratulations’ and I still couldn’t speak by then. It took me a good hour to recover.”

Senior and Executive Board member Madis Kennedy who has worked with Chung on Student Council as well as in the Archer theater, was not surprised by Chung’s win. 

“Wherever she goes, there’s people that naturally follow her,” Kennedy said. “It’s just sort of a natural thing for her to be a leader.” 

Susan Smith, orchestra director and eighth grade dean, built on this praise, describing Chung as an “effective, wonderful leader.” Smith has had the chance to work closely with Chung on the student council and witness her leadership firsthand. 

“You know a good leader has strong ideas and vision but, at the same time, is also able to listen to others’ input and adjust and collaborate, and that is something that Rachel really embodies,” Smith said.

She has a tendency to be the person that everybody looks up to.”

— Madis Kennedy

Chung hopes to share these ideas with the entire middle school. So far this year, Chung has only had one chance to address the middle school virtually, which she felt was not sufficient to explain all she wants to accomplish in the 2020-2021 school year. 

“I want to be able to connect my grade together and the middle school which is such a challenge right now,” Chung said. “When sixth and seventh grade have their reps, we can get started on connecting the school.” 

The sixth and seventh graders elected their class representatives at the end of October. Kennedy believes Chung will be the perfect person to create connections over Zoom with the incoming students who are unfamiliar with the Archer community.

“She’s definitely going to be somebody that they can connect to and look up to, to sort of find their place in the community,” Kennedy said. “And I think because she’s such a positive bubbly person she’ll definitely be able to bring up everyone’s attitudes and spirits and sort of help everybody see the positive in this situation.” 

Smith agrees with Kennedy, describing Chung’s ability to create connection in this challenging time as “incredibly effective”.

“We’re all really lucky to have her lead the middle school,” Smith said. “We would always be lucky to have that but in particular in this setting which is a little bit more challenging, I have found her ability to create connection despite the setting we’re in to be really impressive.” 

Along with her success connecting the school, Chung has been able to accomplish many other things with the help of Bryce Collis and Francie Wallack, this year’s eighth grade class representatives, with Chung’s work for the middle school extending back to the summer. 

“Rachel and the class reps emailed me in July [about] all the cool things they could do for the class once school starts,” Smith said. “She asked for a meeting to make sure that the class has a great year and in fact they ended up putting together a really fun and amazing welcome video for the class at the beginning of the year, which was so great that I actually shared it with all the eighth grade parents too.” 

Along with the welcome video, Chung and the eight grade representatives have planned other activities such as grade-wide scavenger hunts and Halloween events. These accomplishments so far accompany Chung’s love for her role. 

“I really love setting an example, and sort of inspiring other people to run for these types of chances,” Chung said. “And I feel like that’s so important because everyone deserves to be treated the same and everyone deserves to have the same chances as other people.”

Collis, who describes Chung as “caring, considerate and thoughtful,” said she is inspired by Chung’s leadership. 

“Even though she’s in choir, she’s in a cappella, she’s in orchestra, she takes her own private piano lessons and violin lessons — it’s crazy that she’s never complaining about how busy she is,” Collis said. “I look up to that.”

The feeling is mutual, Chung said, expressing her admiration for her fellow eighth grade representatives. 

“I would not be able to lead [the middle school] by myself,” she said, “The other class reps, Bryce and Francie, also do so much of the work. They’re both so passionate about what they do and their intentions are so pure.”

I get to bond with new people, other grades and bring people together which brings me joy.

— Rachel Chung

Looking to the future, Kennedy anticipates great things from Chung in this challenging virtual year at Archer.

“She has more confidence now than I do being three or four years older than her,” Kennedy said. “And I’m just so excited to see where she goes in her inner Archer journey because the fact that now she’s already this really powerful force at Archer I’m just so excited to see what she accomplishes.”

Smith also identified Chung’s role in the Archer community. 

“She just has spirit,” she said. “She’s such an Archer girl.”