Standout Students: White Bear Lake’s Isaac Maruyama Says to Focus on ‘What Makes You Happy’

by | Sep 2019

White Bear Lake Area High School senior Isaac Maruyama

Photo: Rachel Nadeau

“You have to get involved in things you find interesting,” White Bear Lake Area High School senior Issac Maruyama says.

In this year’s education issue, we highlight scholars, athletes, scientists and thinkers from the class of 2020: Elizabeth (Ella) SutherlandJack DobrotkaRuby Ales

Isaac Maruyama
White Bear Lake Area High School

What is exciting for you in your life right now?
Music. I started to take piano young and have been doing percussion since sixth grade. I recently picked up guitar, and I’ve ventured into songwriting.

What have been the high points of your academic career so far?
I’ve really enjoyed high school, but the time I felt most excited about learning would have to be fifth grade. The amount of flexibility you have, not having to worry about grades or what college you’re going to go. There’s more of an emphasis on talking about why we’re learning, versus having to run through the curriculum.

What have been some of the challenges you’ve experienced in your education?
Staying motivated when sometimes it doesn’t feel like what you’re doing is the most efficient. You can get into a bit of a grind where there are a lot of things to do, but it’s more under the category of busywork. If you’re passionate about something, there are so many resources for you.

What are your main academic interests?
If I had to pick, I like things like behavioral economics.

What is behavioral economics?

There are all these unseen mechanisms that drive the way society works and the way people act. A lot of times when you try to understand them with theoretical economics or history classes and political science, sometimes it feels very artificial. You can never predict with 100 percent accuracy what a person is going to do based on a graph that you’ve drawn.

The idea of trying to take science and scientific rigor and apply that to the human world is something that has always fascinated me because we don’t know yet if it’s possible to figure out. Behavioral economics is trying to rethink economics to be applicable to more to real-word situations in terms of how people will actually act given certain incentives.

In traditional economics, people are assumed to be perfectly rational decision-makers. For example, if they’re given two options, they’ll choose the best one. But behavioral economics recognizes that … if you give people two options, there are 100 things going on that will make them choose something other than the best thing.

What have been some struggles or challenges you’ve experienced in high school?
Staying motivated. Doing all the things you have to do. Keeping up the same level of quality when sometimes it doesn’t feel like what you’re doing is the most beneficial way for you to learn.

What are your thoughts for life after graduation?
I would like to go to college. I haven’t decided where. At some point, I would like to start my own company, or in collaboration with someone, to have the creative freedom to do what I want. I would like to travel as much as possible, to see as many places as possible.

What’s one thing about you that people might be surprised to learn?
Last summer I built a hang glider. I’ve always liked the idea of flying and was not able to afford a real hang glider, so I decided to try to construct something that would get me two inches off the ground and not kill me. I’m still in the process of getting it to work.

What advice would you give someone just starting high school?
Don’t worry about your grades and what college you’re going to go to because the real point of this time is that you have so much freedom. Spend it figuring out what you really want to do, what makes you happy. You have to get involved in things you find interesting. Try to learn things outside of school. Read a lot. Try picking up new skills.

Who has inspired you to be the person you are?
My parents. I’m consistently reminded of how lucky I am. A majority of the factors that determine the kind of person I am today are directly related to my parents. I’ve also been lucky to have a ton of great teachers. I do cross-country, Nordic skiing and track, and I have had very good coaches that have pushed me a lot in that aspect of my life. I want to thank those three groups of people who have been the biggest helps to me.


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