Countywide : Ideal Teen Will Reach for the Stars

She plays the piano, dances ballet, speaks French, and is good with a camera. She likes to model and act. But she would rather be an astronaut some day.

Meet Clarissa Ngo, 18, your ideal California teen-ager.

In February, Ngo won the Teen Image Award during the Miss Teen California Scholarship Pageant for “personifying the ideal teen-ager.” She eventually placed first runner-up among 91 contestants in competitions held in Los Angeles, winning a seven-week modeling scholarship and $1,500 cash.

For that, and her other accomplishments, Ngo, who will graduate among the top in her class at Foothill High School this month, was honored recently by the Tustin Unified School District as an outstanding student.


“I’ve worked hard for what I’ve got,” said Ngo, the oldest of Ernest and Jacqueline Ngo’s three children. Ernest Ngo, an immigrant from Singapore, is a doctor at Western Medical Center-Santa Ana, and Jacqueline Ngo, who was born and raised in Indonesia, is a homemaker.

“I was fortunate to have supportive parents,” Ngo said. “Good family relationship is the foundation you need to be successful.”

While growing up, Ngo said her mother took her to “2,000 classes,” from piano to ballet to gymnastics. She appreciated that, she said, because it provided her the opportunity to experience a variety of interests. Eventually, when she was 6, she focused on ballet and piano because she liked the discipline.

Her efforts have paid off. Last summer, she was selected to train with the Joffrey Ballet of New York after passing a rigorous audition conducted nationwide.


Currently, she goes to the Laguna Dance Theatre in Mission Viejo for daily ballet lessons.

But it is in academics that Ngo has excelled best. She has won awards in English, science and math competitions. For a science project in 1991, she received $1,213 from the Society of Women Engineers and earned a week’s stay at the NASA Space Camp in Florida.

With a 4.74 grade-point average, Ngo has been offered more than $30,000 in college scholarships during her senior year. She has been accepted to Harvard, Princeton, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, Brown, Claremont McKenna, Pepperdine, UCLA, UC Irvine and UC San Diego.

She has decided to go to Harvard and plans to major in biology, with the hopes of becoming part of a space mission some day. She said her stay at the Space Camp inspired her to become an astronaut.

“It was really great,” Ngo said of the experience. “We followed the astronaut program, learned scuba diving, fixed equipment underwater and simulated space missions.”

Genevieve Koerner, a student counselor at Foothill High School, said Ngo is one of the most talented students she has met in more than 25 years with the Tustin Unified School District.

“She is intelligent, diligent with her work and always has a smile on her face,” Koerner said. “She is so pretty and moves so gracefully.”

Koerner said Ngo’s decision to go to Harvard was a difficult one because of all the other scholarship offers.


“But she likes the academics at Harvard,” Koerner said. “And it’s close to New York for her ballet and everything else that interests her.”