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Irvine Student Helaine Zhao Wins Prestigious Scholarship

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Helaine Zhao (Photo Credit: Moment By Flora Hua Photography)

Sixteen-year-old Irvine student, Helaine Zhao, has won a $25,000 Davidson Fellows Scholarship for her project, Finding Focus: A Musical Medium to Increased Attention Span. She is one of only 21 students across the country to be recognized as a 2023 scholarship winner.

The Davidson Fellows Scholarship program offers college scholarships to profoundly intelligent students who have completed significant projects that have the potential to benefit society in the fields of science, technology, engineering, mathematics, literature and music.

Drawing on her 13-year journey with piano, Helaine’s project explores the intersection of instrumental music practice and concentration enhancement. She was inspired after observing the significant improvement in her piano students’ attention spans over time. Her project illustrates the pivotal role of music as a unique, effective tool for training focus and attention — a quality that is critically needed in our current society.

Helaine is currently a senior at the Pacific Academy in Irvine, where she balances her time between academics and her love for music. In accepting the award, she thanked Pacific Academy for “their understanding and support, which has allowed me to prioritize piano practice while also not falling behind in school.” Helaine also thanked her parents and piano teacher in her development of the project and as a musician.

If that wasn’t enough success for a 16-year-old, Helaine has also published five novels online; launched her own cookie business; and founded a non-profit organization that encourages student volunteers to make a positive impact in their local community. So far, the organization has connected more than 300 student volunteers to local events.

To learn more about Helaine and her scholarship-winning project, click here.

ICNV Staff

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