by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
photography by Brian Schneider
A life-threatening brain injury in middle school that resulted in peripheral vision loss didn’t stop Patrick Cha from pursuing his ambitions. Now a senior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in Bethesda, Md., he emerged from the experience with a drive to not let the impairment hold him back.
Cha was recently named a finalist for the Wendy’s High School Heisman (WHSH) award, a collaborative project by Wendy’s and the Heisman Trophy that recognizes high school students who are exceptional leaders in athletics, academics and community service. Currently the captain of his school’s tennis team, Cha made his mark early as an athlete, earning the team’s MVP award as a freshman and earning varsity letters all four years. He’s ranked among the top 20 male tennis players in the 18 age division in Maryland, and has previously secured 10 Junior U.S. Tennis Association Champion/Finalist Finishes.
There’s also a scholarly side to Cha’s extensive scholar-athlete resume. He’s a four-time Maryland Scholar-Athlete with a 4.0 GPA and varsity letter, as well as an AP Scholar and member of the National Honor Society. Currently, he’s the editor-in-chief for the school newspaper, The Tattler, and has received several awards and scholarships for his writing. In his spare time, Cha serves as the president of the school’s peer tutoring club, Model United Nations, chemistry club and ukulele club (which he founded).
As an independent researcher, Cha has also delved into global health, sports diplomacy and American history. His research articles have been published in journals for Harvard University and Columbia University. In addition, he is also the co-author of the book You are not Forgotten: Stories of Korean War Veterans (2012).
Following the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013, Cha founded NetBenefitUSA, an NGO devoted to promoting socially responsible high school sports. The organization has been involved with the state’s Special Olympics, campaigns against domestic abuse, food drives and donating thousands of dollars to help those in need. Cha has personally sought pledges for every hour of his tennis practice and tournament play.
You can watch Cha’s inspiring finalist video for the WHSH award below. He will be traveling to New York City for the weekend, where they will announce the winners (one female, one male) on Sunday, December 14. You can also see Cha’s full WHSH profile here.