As she begins her senior year at Hamilton High School and starts the arduous task of sorting through colleges and scholarship applications, Chandler resident Karina Yang is eyeing a career in science while racking up awards for her art and dancing style.
The 17-year-old daughter of Raoying Zhang and Amoy Yang recently won third place and a $3,500 scholarship in the Veterans of Foreign Wars Auxiliary national poster contest — the highest placement achieved by any Arizonan since the competition began 40 years ago.
Last year, Karina won first place in the Western Governors Association’s annual celebrate the West contest, besting entries from artists in 19 states and winning a display of her painting, titled “The Old and the Young,” for six months in the Capitol Museum.
And in 2017, she took the prize for “Dest of Medium – Drawing” in the congressional art competition for District 5.
And that’s just for starters.
With a string of awards for her paintings and drawings over several years, Karina also won two major awards last year in the Taoli World Dance Competition.
That contest aims to “discover and cultivate the talents of overseas Chinese descendants who use dance as an outlet to connect them back to their roots.”
Karina took the Spirit Award, given to the best portrayal of expressional or technical skills, as well as that competition’s highest individual honor, the Elite Platinum Award.
Both awards were for a Mongolian ethnic dance solo titled “Clouds” while a third award saluted a Chinese classical dance routine she titled “A Country Girl.”
While art and dance occupy a lot of her time, neither activity gets in the way of Karina’s academics — or giving back to the community.
A straight-A student who has taken a number of AP courses, she had a perfect score in all four ACT test subjects — a feat accomplished by only about 2 percent of all students who take this standardized college-entrance exam.
Last year, when she took the ACT test, only 3,741 high school students out of about 1.9 million who took the test achieved a perfect score.
Karina also is a teacher’s assistant for math at the Contemporary Chinese School of Arizona and for dance at the Eastern Art Academy.
She’s a peer tutor at Hamilton, where she also is involved in the dance, art, Science Bowl and Olympiad clubs for science, physics and chemistry.
She’s taken top honors in a couple categories in the Arizona Science Olympiad and is a National AP Scholar.
Art and dance are major passions.
“Ever since taking art classes as a young child, I’ve always wanted to create an impact with a meaningful purpose through my paintings,” Karina said.
Her oil painting for the VFW Auxiliary contest, titled “What They Left Behind” and sponsored by VFW Auxiliary 720, gave her what she called “the perfect opportunity to spread respect and gratitude towards veterans through one of my favorite hobbies.”
“My canvas became a stage in which I could voice my appreciation for the sacrifice of these honorable men and women,” she added.
Karina has been involved in art since she was in early grade school.
“I was basically doodling in class since I was like really young,” she said, adding her mother saw her interest and sent her to some art classes in seventh grade.
She enters many competitions, but seizes on topics that “I am super passionate about.”
Karina, who took first place this year in the Arizona Federal Junior Duck Stamp Conservation and Design Program, has to juggle her time for art and her school work with her other passion—interpretive dancing.
“I started when I was 6, but for the first few years, I wasn’t focused on dancing, never took it seriously,” she said, although by age 13 “I started focusing on dance and taking it really seriously with a consistent teacher.”
Now she teaches adult Chinese classical and ethnic dance because she wants “to spread the richness, depth and diversity of Chinese culture through its classical and folk dance.”
“As of now, this art form is popular in China, but still rare and undeveloped overseas. Sharing my love and inspiring others to find their passion for Chinese dance is the reason why I like to teach,” she added.
Karina has her eyes set on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and “perhaps majoring in the fields of bio-engineering and/or artificial intelligence.”
But, she added, “Of course, participating in a few art programs would be one of my priorities too.”