"Solving each problem was like unraveling an abstract and complex puzzle and gaining new understandings of the beautiful world around me."
- Jesse D.
As a tradition, my family makes dumplings to celebrate the Chinese New Year. During the preparation, we all sit around a table and listen to my father’s storytelling. As we pinch the edges of each half-moon-shaped dumpling, my father’s booming voice and hearty chuckle fill the room. His sparkling eyes shine like the stars as he recounts his personal experiences.
Through listening to these stories, as a young girl, I learned not just about our culture but also about my own family’s journeys.
My father grew up in a small rural Chinese village. He was an adventurous and mischievous boy who would always venture out to play in the mountains. My father enjoyed standing at the top to observe the beautiful scenery of the village, the river, and the land way beyond his hometown.
He was curious and wanted to explore the bigger world outside of his village. In my father’s descriptions of the humble village houses and rumbling river, I feel like I was also standing there with him, experiencing the wind rustling through my hair at the top of the mountain.
As he grew older, my father’s desire for exploration became greater. He gradually realized that education was his only ticket to go out into the bigger world. He worked extremely hard on his studies and graduated top of his high school class. My father was really interested in math and science; he loved the practicality of these subjects, and it provided him with the knowledge of how the world worked. Influenced by his passion, I also really enjoyed math and science from a young age. Solving each problem was like unraveling an abstract and complex puzzle and gaining new understandings of the beautiful world around me.
My father became the first person in his family and village to get into college. Although that was a great accomplishment, his aspirations didn’t stop there. He finished his bachelor’s degree in three years and became the head professor and researcher at Zhejiang University. However, his ambition to see more and do more made him restless and unsatisfied with his planned out future. My father decided to come to the United States and pursue the American dream.
Even after all these experiences, my father still hasn’t lost the spark in his eyes. I can still see the shadow of the ambitious young boy hungry for exploration. Every time I hear these stories, I feel proud of my family’s heritage and strive to endorse these important values. I feel grateful and proud of my father for everything he has done for our family and for providing my brother and me with the best education. Inspired by my father’s motivation, perseverance, and value in education, I work hard and challenge myself in pursuing high ambitions.
"I realized that even though I felt greatly inspired by my father’s experiences, I cannot follow in his footsteps; I have to create a new path for myself."
- Jesse D.
My father’s hard work and determination in his studies motivate me to work hard in school. Since freshman year, I’ve taken the most rigorous course schedule that my school offers. I took a total of twelve AP courses which is the highest amount of AP courses that anyone in my school has taken. During my junior year, I took AP Physics and AP Calculus. These classes were typically reserved for senior students. After communicating with my counselor, the Head of the Math Department, and the Head of the Science Department, I became the only junior student taking AP Physics 1 and AP Calculus after they saw my passion and work in STEM. While taking very challenging courses, I also took classes that were interesting to me. I’ve always been very enthusiastic about computer science.
During my sophomore and junior year, I took AP Computer Science Principles and AP Computer Science A. Since my school didn’t offer these courses, I talked to my counselor and was able to take them through VHSLearning, an online learning platform. Learning about Computer Science online was very challenging as there was no physical guidance present which was very different from my previous classes. I learned to become more self-directed in this independent learning process. In maxing out my course schedule, I have become the valedictorian after consistently being in the Top 5 of my class.
Additionally, my father’s experience immigrating to the United States influenced me to step outside my boundaries and be fearless in pursuing my passions. Throughout high school, I often found myself to be the only girl in STEM, whether it’s in courses like AP Physics or extracurricular activities like FTC Robotics. However, the fear of being the only girl didn’t stop me from reaching my aspirations, but rather these experiences prompted me to grow and become more independent.
In order to share my passion and promote these subjects, I started the first Math Club and Computer Science Club at my high school. The innate courage and confidence I developed over time have helped me become a leader in these activities and encourage more girls in my high school to pursue STEM.
As I got older, I began to realize that my world differed significantly from my parents. My parents worked hard to provide me with the best education in the United States. Growing up in a predominantly white town, I am immersed both in Chinese and American culture. Contrary to the misty mountains and rumbling rivers, my world is filled with busy car-filled streets and innovative technologies. While my father had to work hard in order to see the bigger world, I could access vast information and opportunities at my fingertips. I realized that even though I felt greatly inspired by my father’s experiences, I cannot follow in his footsteps; I have to create a new path for myself.
As I begin my own journey, I hold my family’s traditional values close to my heart while keeping an open mind to new ideas and opportunities. Through new challenges and experiences, I want to carry on the tradition of storytelling and bring my new stories to the family table.
- Jesse D.