Senior Spotlight: Anbar Saleem


A photo of Anbar Saleem, used with his permission.

Sean Huey Melido, Student Life Editor

Anbar Saleem is a senior at John F. Kennedy Memorial High School. He is a very compassionate student with outstanding an academic performance, work ethics and study habits. He is dedicated especially to his extracurriculars, those including; Math Team, Robotics, Computer Science Club, Science Olympiad, and Cross Country. He is always optimistic and motivates others around him to do the best of their abilities. He has his own website where he displays his programming and coding skills along with his projects, as well as his resume and current activities.

What is your general opinion about JFK?

I think we’re actually a really good school, I love this school. The teachers that I’ve had have definitely been the best of my life and I’ve heard pretty big horror stories from other friends that go to other schools and I was like, “nah the teachers that I have here are really supportive, like all day these teachers are amazing and they definitely kept me going.” I had a nice bond with them, even the coaches too, and I enjoyed it.

Did you have a “peak,” was it grades or overall performance?

When I was looking through my transcript, it was a slow gradual process, overtime you improve, like you learn studying habits, you become more comfortable, and also it depends on the classes you take so if there is a harder class it varies. I’d say I’m at my peak-ish but I can stay here till the end of high school.

Where does your determination come from to do what you do?

Cross country started like, “oh I’m starting high school, never done a sport before” so it was a way for me to do an athletic thing, like I could start being more fit, also to meet new people. It all started with me having a general idea of what I like and then the people that sort of kept me there. Determination really comes from, when something’s fun, like if I enjoy doing something, I’ll do it longer. I joined cross country, did it longer. I joined robotics, did it longer. Programming, I joined the classes and I just kept going, or I kept trying, and then last year I was like, “do I really wanna do this going forward and into college?” so I tested myself and I made that website. The website was literally just a test if I wanted to actually do this for the rest of my life.

What inspired your passion for programming?

It all started, like my brother studied computer science in college and I was like “oh that looks cool,” I never did anything, I never touched one line of code until really, ninth grade when I took Intro to Computer Science. I was like, “oh they’re offering it now, might as well take it. It sounds interesting, heard the program is very cool,” so I tried it, and I enjoyed it like, all my classmates were really competitive but some, we work off each other. It was either a simple assignment where all of us would see someone do something extra and we just keep doing more extra, it became a game at one point. That was so fun that I continued with those guys till the AP Computer Science course, and after that’s been finished, I was like “I wanna keep doing this, it was really fun.” So I went to a Hackathon, and that was the first place where I was on a team with people that I didn’t know, and we’re just programming for twelve hours. After that, it was like, “alright, now I’m gonna see if I wanna do this for college,” so I tried doing more practice, learning outside the school curriculum and then realized school was just a tip of the iceberg, and when I looked into it myself, it was like “radical,” a lot of opportunities and projects to try out for fun.

Were you “naturally gifted” or had a struggle but eventually got into it?

I definitely busted my butt to get where I am, it was a lot of learning. You could say I was okay at math, but I wouldn’t say it’s a “natural gift.” I learned, I had to go to teachers and then after I was done with the teachers, done with the classes. I’d say it wasn’t a “natural gift” that kept me going but I kept learning more because I took time. I take time whenever I learn something, because if it’s fun, then I’d keep going with it.

How did this help shape who you are today?

The projects that I undertook, that website was three months during the summer. Three months, me alone, an hour a day of working. This all helped me [develop] like a good worth ethic like a lot of people think they do something bad, they might eventually get tired. Me, I realized through all this that if it’s something you like, go with it. If it’s something you enjoy doing, and you’re relatively okay at it, keep going at it, keep pursuing it. The website, I liked it and just what kept me going really was I love getting into a zone and I found myself in that zone when working on these projects and learning this stuff, and then also it’s really satisfying seeing a final project

Did you always know this is what you wanted to do, have you ever had doubts about this path?

That’s the whole point of me doing the website, the website was because I was doubting whether I wanted to do computer science the rest of my life, I was like, “do I wanna do that, do I wanna do engineering.” I said alright, this will be the way I test if I wanna this for the rest of my life and when I figured out a big project I’ve never done all alone, just see if I can keep doing this for the rest of my life, keep learning.  I realized, “yeah,” it sort of helped my doubts, and everyones always gonna have doubts, it’s just what happens when you’re human.

Were you self taught or aided?

The website, I learned it from scratch on my own over the summer, my brother would sometimes give me advice, but all the coding, that was pretty much me. Intro to CompSci, then yes, that was a class. I was aided by the class and just keep doing practice. But the website, I didn’t know HTML, CSS, Javascript, all the languages you need. I did not know jack, so what I would do was basically teach myself through just looking at all these other peoples websites and constantly googling everyday. I wouldn’t take notes or anything, because I didn’t want it to be annoying. So just, I’d do it anytime I found myself stuck or didn’t know what to do, I’d google my problem, find the solution, and implement it there, and that’s basically how I learned how to do all this stuff, it was self-teaching.

Were you involved in any extracurriculars?

Four-year extracurricular, I had cross country, robotics, math team, science olympiad, and now computer science club as well. Of those, cross country I eventually got varsity last year, and this year I got the Most Improved Player award. Robotics, I went from becoming a general member, now I’m the Electable Division Caption. Science Olympiad after one of my friends graduated, I sort of became the “building,” for the groups, I had to help out with that the most. Math team, I’m now the captain of as well. Those are my main extracurriculars I’ve stayed with because I love doing them, they’re just so fun.

Say, you had the power to turn back time, any decisions you would change?

The biggest decision where I’ve always thought, what if I changed, was skipping sixth grade, I’ve always wondered what would happen if I didn’t do that and stayed a grade below. I realized I would be on such a different path. I’d meet so many different people, so anytime I think about it I’m like, “nah I can’t, I love the people that I’ve met too much to ever not meet them” so that’d be a decision I’d keep. There are some like, “maybe not take this class,” but they’re also good learning experiences, they all build to who I am today. If I made a bad decision, I wouldn’t want to change it because I did learn something from it in the end.

Your high school career is coming to an end, what next?

I’ve always been ready, I’ve always been excited for college. I’m a pretty sentimental person so if I had to leave some friends behind I’m definitely going to be sad. I’d like to keep in touch with them, sometimes in some cases that just doesn’t happen but I’ll do my best to keep in touch with my close friends. As for learning in college, I can’t wait to meet new people. College applications, I finally submitted my last one so I just gotta wait till April now for the decisions to come in. Right now, it’s all up in the air, I gotta wait till the decisions are made, but I’m definitely excited to see what I can do and who I could do it with in the future.

What are your expectations for the future?

I’m a pretty hard working guy, I love working in groups so I feel like I’m just gonna keep learning, keep doing what I do, keep planning new projects, keep meeting new people. Basically, I want to keep my worth ethic, get better, and just learn more along the way, like network, new people, maybe get experience in different fields, the general things.

What makes you extraordinary?

I’d like to say, it is my determination and worth ethic. I put my all into anything I find fun, and if I enjoy doing it, I just keep going and get results. Like the website, I did not think it would get to where it is today, but after three months of working everyday, and maybe an occasional day off, it got to where it is and I’m really proud of it. As for everything else, I’d like to say I made decisions that were for myself, my extracurriculars, I didn’t take any just to get a position, every leadership position I have now is meaningful to me. I wasn’t really a badge collector in high school which is what I’m proud of. I have passion for electrical and electronics, math and competition. Math team, where I am there, I worked my butt off. In cross country, I was the slowest in my team and now, this year I got Most Improved. I was able to participate in the states meet for the first time. Computer Science club, I busted my butt to restructure that so it would work in quarantine, that was one thing I was really happy especially with the other groups’ leaders.

On your website, you’ve programmed projects such as Pokémon and Osu, do you like gaming?

Osu, that was incomplete really, I didn’t really fully finish that. Pokémon, that started out a APCSA project that I basically went further with and ended up making it a personal project. The Pokémon game, that was a text-based battle simulator. The project was just to make a game, I made a Pokémon battle simulator text, instead of a full game. I love gaming of course, my favorite game’s like Minecraft, Mario, I’m really into those. As for gamings’ impact on my coding, if I find something fun and it’s to learn a new concept, yea, these games are mainly for me to practice concepts. The Pokémon game, that includes pretty much every concept from Intro to APCSA, like Java that we learned. All those concepts are in that game. Osu, that was just to get me to practice making user interfaces in java. I didn’t know how to do that so I thought, “how could I practice that?” with making a game like Osu. They’re all just like a way I can practice something, learn something new.

When you first led a project, how did you come about it?

It’s two different ways, it’s either if I wanna learn a specific concept like Osu, I was practicing user interfaces. I was like “oh, what can I do? I wanna learn about user interfaces.” I gave Osu my work, “yea I’ll try that!” For my website, I wanted to make a big project, a personal website because that will help me in a work force later when recruiters might need to look at my portfolio, might need to see what projects I’ve done. Basically, I needed to make a website, I don’t know how to do it but I will make a website. Then I map out what concepts will I need to know. It all starts with me, even if I don’t know what the heck I’m doing, I’ll have an idea of what I want to do. I’ll look up in any way possible how I can get what I want to do done. For one part of my website, the projects section, that I did not want to have to keep updating it anytime I did a new project. I did not want to keep going into the code, adding a button, adding a link and all that so I was like “how can I automate this?” and I said “oh wait! I can probably automate this.” I looked up, I asked my brother, “how do you recommend I automate this?” and then I learned a new concept, I learned how to make a java script, how to code a script that puts it all into a template. So anytime a new project goes on my github, it will automatically make a new button and update my website so I don’t have to keep coding it and doing that, which was a valuable lesson I learned. I will probably use those concepts into my career a lot.

What is the ideal work environment?

Surround yourself with those with a good work ethic or an amazing work ethic. Don’t surround yourself with lazy or unmotivated people and if there are unmotivated people, distance yourself, maybe try to motivate them yourself and try to get them going. If you’re around people that get you motivated to do more work, or if you motivate yourself in some way, the ideal work environment is not one where you hate what you’re doing. If you hate what you’re doing, you’re not gonna do a good job. I only do things that I love because I love them and I wanna get better at them. Math team, I like math, wanna get better at competition math, I did it. Robotics, I like robotics, I though it was really cool, I did it. Science Olympiad, I thought that was cool, I did it. Computer Science club, I love computer science and I wanted to teach others some concepts, so I did that. I worked my butt off to do that. The website, I really wanted to make a website and as I was doing it I really loved doing it and I love learning, so I kept doing and I did it to the best of my ability. The ideal work environment is just one where you enjoy what you’re doing. If you hate what you’re doing, you’re gonna get trash results in the end. 

How did quarantine affect you?

I was very shrieking bored for a long time. Very bored, but when quarantine started, there were people I didn’t really talk to too much that I’d end up randomly calling, and now and they’re in my classes. I’ve met like my best friends, my most meaningful friends that got me through a lot of stuff  during quarantine. Like Hritish Mehta and Michael Hein, those two sort of carried my quarantine, they’ve kept me sane, they’ve been on calls with me, they’re friends that have been with me throughout this entire quarantine. Since both of my brothers have graduated, I’m like the only kid in the house, having someone to talk to has definitely really improved me. Quarantine, that’s when I also did the website, I was really bored and wanted to get myself working. I’ve felt lazy so that was to keep me from being lazy, and I hope that I achieved it. 

Did you just accept and move on, how did you deal?

There was stuff I was sad with, so far I don’t know if we could do senior play, my robotics competition got cancelled the day before it was gonna happen, we were all ready and the robot was done, we worked really hard on it. We finalized it and then quarantine started the day before the competition. We missed our Junior Cotillion, prom is up in the air, we don’t know what’s going to happen with that. Cross Country definitely got really hit pretty hard this year. So yeah, there have been a lot of shortcomings, but the way I sort of think of it is like, you can’t take time just dwelling on things and just be sad. What I always say, it’s like another broken glass on the self, you have to just keep it on the shelf and move it. Sometimes it might be hard but it’s something you gotta do in life, and find other things that can also help you. What I did, Computer Science club, I really wanted to do it, so we got it going virtual. Math team, me and Roshan, our captain, got it going virtual, and it’s been going pretty well. Robotics, we’re gonna see what happens with that. We just had to adapt, really, and I feel like we did an okay job at adapting so far. I kept myself from being lazy, and doing that type of stuff helped distract me, and also having my friends helped distract me.

Why do you keep going?

Why not? Like I said, if you enjoy what you’re doing keep doing it, and if you don’t enjoy what you’re doing, find a way to stop doing it and keep going with something you like doing. There’s no point in doing anything if it doesn’t make you happy or fulfill some purpose in the end. The job that I’m gonna do in the future, the ballots that I’m gonna try to find, is one that I enjoy and also one that makes a good amount of money cause you know, your man’s gotta eat. It’s just what keeps me going, the people around me have shown, “wow, I actually really like that website. Looks really cool!” and “Oh wow, you did a really good job with this club.” Having encouragement of people actually enjoying what you’re doing yourself, just having that sort of motivation, and then having self-motivation, is definitely what keeps me going, like I like what I’m doing.

To view Anbar’s website, visit