Six years ago, a Santa Monica library teen publication featured a poem called “Manhood” by Nikan Namiri.

“Tomorrow is the day I graduate, the day I will come alive,” the young author wrote.

And that tomorrow has arrived.

Namiri recently graduated from Santa Monica High School, and he’s looking forward to starting his college career at UCLA.

Namiri, who was honored as salutatorian in the high school’s Class of 2015, is one of 678 graduates this year and one of 97 heading to University of California campuses, according to Santa Monica-Malibu school district data.

“It sounds cliche, but it’s going to be a new experience,” he said. “The way I’m going to be able to apply myself, I’ll have much more opportunities at UCLA than in high school. I’m really going to get to figure out what I enjoy doing and explore different areas and hone in on what I want to do the rest of my life.”

Namiri said he also considered attending Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore but ultimately decided on UCLA, where several relatives have gone and where he’ll be able to pursue studies in bioengineering while remaining in Southern California.

“It seemed like the right choice,” he said.

Merely having the option to attend UCLA is an accomplishment in and of itself. The highly regarded public university received 92,681 freshman applications for the upcoming fall term, more than any other four-year college in the country. It offered admission to Namiri and 16,026 other outgoing high school seniors, which amounts to a 17.3 percent acceptance rate.

“Our applicant pool and admitted students are just amazing,” Youlonda Copeland-Morgan, UCLA’s associate vice chancellor for enrollment management, said in a press release. “They are not only incredible scholars with great academic achievements, strong test scores and excellent grades, but they are wonderfully talented individuals with strong leadership skills and a commitment to community service.”

Namiri, who went to Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools before attending Samohi, fits those descriptions. In addition to earning exemplary marks in the classroom, he was involved in a variety of extracurricular activities throughout high school.

He was a co-founder and executive of CareDrop, a nonprofit group that has sent water purifiers to communities in Madagascar.

He played soccer for four years and was a team captain at Samohi, and he said he hopes to stay involved in the sport through intramural competition.

Namiri also volunteered for three years at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, boosting his exposure to medicine and research. He said he eventually wants to pursue a doctorate in engineering.

“I always liked the health field, but engineering and the possibility for innovation was the thing that really interests me,” he said. “In the future I want to invent cool things for health care, and bioengineering seemed like the perfect thing.”

Namiri has given himself a head start. He’s spending time this summer working in a UCLA bioengineering lab, learning about how ultrasound testing of human tissue can help surgeons detect cancer.

Namiri said he feels ready for the challenges of college after a productive journey through Samohi.

“I had a really good time there,” Namiri said. “I think I was challenged enough, and I had a good time. Everyone was really supportive … It was a good four years overall.”

jeff@smdp.com

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