It’s not that Christopher Alba wasn’t grateful to be named Santa Monica High School’s salutatorian this year. He certainly was.

To him, though, the accomplishment of becoming the first person in his family to graduate from high school and go to college is far more meaningful.

And Alba isn’t just going to any college. The standout Class of 2016 student this fall will attend Yale University, where he plans to build on his numerous academic achievements.

Of course, being honored as salutatorian in front of his 700-plus classmates at Samohi’s Greek Theater earlier this month reminded him just how far he’s come on his educational journey.

“To get the title was pretty great, but it wasn’t like I was competing for this title or anything,” he said. “I was never working my way to get that title. It just kind of happened. But it was a great achievement for me.”

Growing up in a single-parent household, Alba saw his mother as a role model as he attended Franklin Elementary and Lincoln Middle schools. She nurtured him even as she worked two jobs to make ends meet, and she encouraged him to pursue his passions.

Alba also learned from Aidan and Remi Nathanson, who were raised in part by his mother.

“Seeing them be so successful motivated me to keep going,” he said.

At Samohi, Alba was involved in numerous extracurricular activities. He was an Associated Student Body leader, a member of the Delians honor society and a three-year athlete in the cross-country and track and field programs as well as a choir singer. He also climbed the ranks in Junior State of America.

Alba is currently planning to major in biology at Yale with an intent to attend medical school, a career path he’s considered since taking biology in 7th grade at Lincoln. His love of the subject deepened in Kate Song’s Advanced Placement class in high school.

“She was always encouraging, and she made bio more fun than just giving out facts,” he said. “We got to apply concepts we were learning to the real world.”

Through his involvement in student government organizations, though, Alba also became interested in global affairs and health policy. He said he’s thinking about pursuing a double major.

When it came time to weigh his college options, Alba had his pick. He got into Yale as well as Harvard, Princeton, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford, and he was offered significant financial aid.

“I was just looking for a good sense of community, and I found my niche of people at Yale,” he said. “When I went to Bulldog Days, I was more able to connect to the people who were going to Yale. I knew I’d get great academics, so I was focused on where I could see myself fitting in.”

This summer, Alba is working under investor and entrepreneur Ted Meisel to research integrated health care systems. He’s also planning to attend a JSA symposium in Philadelphia next month.

Alba said he’s motivated to build on the success he’s already achieved.

“My driving force is just, I want to get to a point where I’m able to live a comfortable life and give back to my mom,” he said. “She’s always working really hard, and she worked two jobs to fund everything for me. So I want to get to a point where I can help her out.”

jeff@www.smdp.com