Jenny Joh at the top of Christmas Hill,
July 6 2012 a remarkable young women.

Jenny and her family moved from Seoul to Saanich in 2004, when she was just ten years old. She started grade four at Cloverdale Elementary not speaking a word of English.

Yet last month she stepped forward at her Claremont High School graduation as the Valedictorian!

Jenny is the third of four girls. She said her parents came to Canada because they knew there was more gender equality here and they wanted their daughters to have as many opportunities as possible.

Her first memory of Saanich is travelling from the airport and looking out the window at Elk Lake. She thought it was the ocean – too large and beautiful to be anything else.  As a little girl she remembers being shocked at the sight of the light skinned people all around her – and at how warm and friendly everyone was. 

Jenny worked hard to learn English and adapt to her new world. By the time she finished high school she had risen to the top, graduating as Vice-President of Claremont’s Student Government and with a suitcase full of awards, from the Principle’s Academic Excellence Award to the Claremont Alumni PAC Award.

Jenny’s ambition is to be a Pediatrician and help at-risk children. But she knows that her journey is just beginning. She visited my office recently and talked about her future:

When I look at myself I see two ‘Jennys’, two girls. One who wants all the nice things, the best sunglasses, the nicest purse. But I know that is not going to give me true happiness. The other girl is someone who doesn’t care with others say about her, or how she looks…someone who is completely selfless and works to help those in need.

I've had a very wealthy life compared to so many… there was always food in the fridge, my parents would always buy me the clothes I wanted. But I like myself most when I am giving. When I grow up I want to know that I’ve lived my life for others…more than for myself.

Jenny is most proud of the work she has done with twenty other Claremont students to raise funds for the charity Free the Children. This is the project founded by Craig and Mark Kielburger. Jenny and her friends raised over $10,000 this year! And all of it will go to help schools in a poor and marginalized area in rural Kenya.

This Fall Jenny begins her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto. I’m excited to think of this Saanich Star shining in the big city and I wish her all the best!

Let me end with a quote from her Valedictorian speech. I was sitting in the audience when she said this and it really stuck with me.

If we compare our lives to a single day, what time do you think we are at age 18? The answer works out to be a little after five AM. That is the time when most of us are still asleep. The sun isn’t even out yet! We have a whole day ahead of us and it’s truly up to us to make this day unforgettable!

I hope all our young people leaving high school see hope in the dawn before them. There is a life lesson here for all of us. Whether the sun is still in the sky or the stars have come out, there is still time for each of us to make the most of our day.