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Buford High School senior Sophia Ji-Hyun Lee participates in six school clubs — Mu Alpha Theta; DECA; FBLA; National Honor Society; Key Club Georgia District Board; and Beta Club — plays varsity golf and tutors students in the writing center. Outside of school, she is involved in art, orchestra — she plays the violin — and archery. She provides private tutoring in English and math and volunteers with various organizations. 

It’s no surprise that the 17-year-old’s advice to underclassmen would be to become as involved as possible during high school. 

“I truly believe that with the abundance of opportunity Buford provides to its students, not being able to experience it all would be the biggest loss,” Sophia says. “Explore, enjoy, and who knows if you’ll find your passion through it all?” 

The daughter of Buford residents Won Lee and Min Lee, Sophia was born in Los Angeles, California, grew up in Orange County and lived in Yantai, China, for five years before moving to Buford after her freshman year of high school, when she began attending BHS in 2020 for her sophomore year. 

“Buford has taught me the value of a classroom and the relationships formed within,” she says. “The classrooms at Buford go beyond the traditional setting in that it provides the students a family and comfortable learning environment to flourish in.” 

Sophia has certainly flourished. Her accomplishments include being named a National Merit Commended Scholar and an AP Scholar with Distinction for 2021 and 2022, an award granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP Exams taken — Sophia has taken 15 thus far in her high school career — and scores of 3 or higher on five or more of those exams. She is an international competitor for DECA and placed second in state. She was the 2022 GHSA Literary region champion in international extemporaneous speaking and runner-up in the state-level competition. She was part of the Buford High School Literary Team that took first place at state in 2022. 

Sophia’s favorite subject in school is math. 

“I love the logic behind math and how it is the fundamental basis of many subjects we study whether it be chemistry, physics, or economics,” she says, adding that her favorite teacher is Mrs. Laura MacAdam, her math instructor during her first year at Buford High School. 

“She … has been one of my greatest mentors since (my sophomore year),” Sophia says. “She is always someone I can depend on for support and has been able to give the best advice.” 

While Mrs. MacAdams tops her list of favorites, Sophia adds, “All of my teachers thus far have been the most supportive teachers who genuinely care about each student, showing me the impact the role of an influential group of mentors can make on a community.” 

After graduation, Sophia plans to attend a four-year university to pursue a career in economics working with an intergovernmental organization such as the United Nations or in research. She speaks four languages — English, Korean, Chinese and Japanese. 

In her free time, Sophia enjoys photography, oil painting, traveling and exploring the world, listening to music, watching movies and reading classic novels. 

Sophia recently learned she is a semifinalist for the 2023 Coca-Cola Scholars Program scholarship, an achievement-based scholarship that awards 150 students $20,000 to apply toward their college educations. Sophia is one of 1,557 semifinalists of more than almost 90,000 applicants. Scholarship recipients will be announced in March 2023. Congratulations, Sophia, and good luck! 

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Deanna Allen has served as editor of the North Gwinnett Voice since June 2021. Effective communication and creative design are her passions.

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