Friend Crush: Derek Hua ‘25 and Richard Yang ‘25

A common passion brings Derek Hua ‘25 and Richard Yang ‘25 closer than ever before.


Esther Park

Derek Hua ’25 and Richard Yang ’25 stand next to their shelter in 6th grade School of the Wild (left). They pose again at West High many years later (right).

Nine years ago on a driveway, was where sophomores Derek Hua and Richard Yang first met.

“I was outside with my parents and just wandering around when Derek and his grandma were taking a walk,” Yang said. “Then they stopped at my house and introduced themselves to my mom.”

Since meeting each other, Hua and Yang have developed a close friendship throughout the rest of their childhood. Although they are almost complete opposites in how they spend their free time to their personalities, it doesn’t affect their relationship.

“We’re just so different, but it works. Basically everything, like, personality-wise; we’re really different,” Hua said.

While Yang is a quiet person who passes time by reading books or practicing cello, Hua is very social and involves himself in all sorts of activities such as tennis. But their contrasting personalities and ways of life complement each other. More or less, their differences actually brought them closer.

But something new they both had in common appeared in the summer break before 7th grade. One day, Hua and Yang biked over to their friend’s house to hang out. They found out that he was making sugar rockets, and decided to make them together. Since it was their first time experimenting with rockets and propellers, it was a great learning experience. They used powdered sugar as fuel by mixing it with potassium nitrate and then lit it on fire to launch the rockets.

“It was new to me, and I thought the building process was very fun ‘cause it was messy and high stakes,” Hua said.

Then this epic idea came to their minds: what if we started a rocketry club at Northwest? That’s precisely what they did once school started in August.

“We both enjoy science. Well, I enjoy more of the creative part of it, and he enjoys more of the analytical part, like, the logical part of it. I’m more of a builder and I usually do more of the planning part. And he does more of the calculations like the math parts. And we chose to do rocketry because it’s something new, and it’s something that really combines both of our specialties really well,” Hua said.

Starting a club in the first year of middle school was not without obstacles, but with the guidance of Dan Hill, a science teacher, they were able to establish and run this club successfully.

We just got a lot of our friends to join, and we had a pretty good first year.

— Richard Yang '25

“We just got a lot of our friends to join, and we had a pretty good first year. [Since] I didn’t have any classes or any lunches with Derek, I didn’t really see him at all except in the rocketry club, so that sorta became the only place where I’d see him. But then there was COVID and the competition got canceled because of it. The year after that, a lot of us were online so that meant that not a lot of us could actually be there,” Yang said.

Although Hua and Yang faced the challenge of trying to run a club during the pandemic and then being thrown into starting a rocketry club here at West, their cooperation as co-founders, as well as best friends, pulled through.

“9th grade was a pretty interesting year since all of us were coming back from COVID. A lot of us had busy schedules, so it was hard to find a time that worked for everyone. And before at Northwest, I feel like Mr. Hill guided us a lot, but the club sponsored by Mr. Kraeplin [the aerospace teacher] gives us a lot more freedom, but that also means that we have to decide what we want to do,” Yang said.

The two boys struggled together in balancing their time to run a club and getting used to high school in their freshman year. But now, not only do they have much more experience, overcoming obstacles together has also taken their friendship to a whole new level.

I mean, I’ve known him for such a long time that I mean, we can really get as close as we can.

— Derek Hua '25

“I mean, I’ve known him for such a long time that I mean, we can really get as close as we can,” Hua said.

And over the years, they have both changed a lot, from trying out different clubs and school events to being involved in various activities outside of school, but their devotion to rocketry stayed the same.

“Now we still are best friends,” Yang said. “And we talk a lot about rocketry club because it’s the one thing we both really like to do.”