Silicon Valley International School (INTL) is proud to present the Rising Star Award. This award is to honor a member of our Alumni community who has made significant contributions within their chosen profession, including volunteer activities (unpaid work) in service to a community or to the public at large.
This year, the award honors Maia Chamberlain, who attended INTL* from 2002-2012. A recent graduate from Princeton University in the study of architecture, Maia is also a world-renowned fencer. She currently ranks as the #2 best fencer in the country, and was named a First-Team All-American in the NCAA. If she remains in the top four, she will qualify for the upcoming 2024 Olympic games in Paris. She currently practices at the Manhattan Fencing Center in NYC.
Prior to these amazing accomplishments, Maia’s journey began at our very own INTL preschool in 2002 through our Chinese Program. About halfway through her education, the path of her life could have been drastically different. In 5th grade, her parents began to consider switching her to a different school.
“My parents thought that after 5th grade we would try out different schools. I remember Menlo School and Castilleja were pretty rigorous academically.”
Her mother Lin remembers the household tension at the time and how upset the family was when she didn’t get into those schools.
“They thought it was the end of the world. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.”
Her parents ultimately did not regret their decision to keep Maia at INTL. In fact, Maia leaned into the school’s multilingual offerings by taking on a third language - French. This diverse palette of language skills have benefited her to this day.
Maia recollects a story from her early days at INTL with thoughtful insight. There was a Chinese teacher who had her and other students write one blog post a week- which, at the time, was a lot of extra work. She went to Barbara Greiner (who was then the Middle School Principal) and asked if it was possible to push to one blog every two weeks instead.
Barbara responded by telling her, “If I am not challenging you, then I am not doing my job.” Maia says that encounters like this helped fortify her endurance for tough challenges, whether they be on the fencing line or in day-to-day tough situations. Being held accountable for tasks wasn’t all that Maia found beneficial, as she describes:
“What was nice about the small classes at [INTL] and the personalized teaching, was that I could have a lot of attention and it helped me focus more. I learned to focus in class and that translated very well in high school.”
The annual exchange trip to France in 7th grade also enhanced her worldview, this time through a French international perspective. After graduating from INTL in 8th grade, she went on to Sequoia High School in Redwood City, where she was a participant in the French IB Programme. She recalls that the teachers at Sequoia were very impressed with both her French vernacular and her accent, a combination that can be rare among second language speakers who do not have a foreign language spoken at home - as is the case with Maia.
In high school, Maia founded a club called the “Global Health Club.” In partnership with a local non-profit, they helped provide livestock for villages in underdeveloped countries. Another initiative was to provide support for the LGBTQ+ community in the form of an info session about transsexual health and awareness.
Even in a hyper-competitive environment such as fencing, Maia’s thoughtfulness and kind values still make an appearance as she is a mentor for other fencers who are trying to improve. As one of the best in the nation, it would be easy for her to withhold this helpful information and use it as a natural advantage. However, Maia instead opts to assist her fencing peers and provide them with valuable insight so that they too can rise up the fencing ranks.
“With the reputation that I’ve gotten over the years with my results, a lot of people look up to me and I use that as a moment to be a good role model. Even if people don’t ask for it, I help with mentoring because sometimes lots of kids don’t know what to ask. But, I can see the same patterns that I experienced when I was their age. It doesn’t take a lot to give some mentorship here and there. So, I’ve gotten a reputation in the fencing world where I’m very open and helpful to my teammates.”
This thoughtfulness for others also extends beyond the classroom. Outside of school, Maia revealed to us that she and her mother spend the holiday seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas working to better the community around them through volunteer work with a soup kitchen and toy drive.
“Ever since I was 10 years old,” Maia explained, “we would always volunteer in a soup kitchen. Every Thanksgiving, every Christmas, I would volunteer for that. I would be in this trailer, from six or seven in the morning on Christmas Day [...] My job [at the toy drive] was to help these kids pick two or three toys that they really wanted and give it to them.”
She continues, “that was always a really fun tradition. We are Buddhist, my mom and I, so we never really had strong traditions when it comes to Christmas. So we thought a fun tradition would be to give back to the community.”
Maia would like to continue this important service with her mom, citing how they continue to bond through this service. Maia Chamberlain is a shining example of the values we hope to give to all of our students - the multicultural insight that allows for global thought in an often narrow world. We wish her the best of luck moving forward in her career in architecture where she is currently pursuing employment, her formidable fencing career, and towards her goal of entry in the 2024 Olympic Games.
*In 2020, the school formally changed its name to Silicon Valley International School (INTL) to better reflect its bilingual programs, location, and international values.