Senior Column – Jeremy Du

Jeremy Du, Academics Editor

High school has been tough. Going through various classes and activities, I’ve struggled with figuring out my path for the future. 8th grade me would’ve never guessed that the story of a Civil Rights figure in my history textbook would change my high school career and provide me a stronger sense of purpose. But that’s exactly what happened.

Learning about Rosa Parks’ story of defiance inspired me because of her willingness to enact change and stand up for what she believed. In fact, it inspired me so much that I decided I wanted to become an agent of change just like her.

My sophomore year was the first time AUSD issued a Chromebook to every single student. However, along with this came higher than expected district-wide Chromebook damage costs. Thus, I took the opportunity to help decrease this by collaborating with other students to create an informative video educating students on Chromebook care. Seeing that my efforts helped significantly decrease repair costs across multiple Arcadia schools provided me with a new sense of fulfillment that I couldn’t get enough of.

A few months later, it broke my heart hearing AUSD considered cutting programs and faculty because of inadequate funding, especially since I’ve been a proud student of Arcadia schools since first grade. That’s why I jumped at the chance to volunteer on behalf of Measure A, a $77 million parcel tax campaign to fund AUSD. I saw it as another way to give back to the community that has shaped me into who I am today. I spent hours phone banking and advertising, helping pass a bill that has saved 31 teachers and counselors from being laid off. Moreover, seeing the vast community support from Measure A’s passing made me realize that changemaking is something I want to pursue for the rest of high school, in college, and for the rest of my life. What I didn’t know then was how.

And then this past summer, I found how when I met Sam and Ethan as a Camp Counselor at the LA Arboretum’s Summer Nature Camp.

Everyday in class, Sam zoned out. It disappointed me seeing him uninterested in nature, something I’m captivated by. I tried sitting with him, talking with him, incentivizing him—nothing worked. My inability to engage him drove me crazy, but I was undeterred. One day, I whispered to Sam how excited I was for our compost lesson because of the role worms play in it. He burst into giggles. Sam thought it was hilarious that worm waste actually helps the soil (thank you, scatological humor). Suddenly, he was more engaged, and I felt immensely proud. I realized that patience had been the key to turning Sam into one of the most active students in class.

As for Ethan, on our daily walks past the pond, he would always try to run into the water to play with the ducks. The other counselors and I tried everything to prevent this—including literally holding him back—but nothing worked. Then, I noticed that he just didn’t understand why entering the pond was wrong. I explained that we shouldn’t disturb the ducks’ home just as we wouldn’t like our own homes to be disturbed. He nodded, and afterwards didn’t try to play with them again. It occurred to me that all the bellowing we had done to get Ethan to behave was far less effective than showing respect to him by explaining why he shouldn’t go into the pond.

Through this experience, I learned important lessons about patience and respect, but more importantly saw the capability I have to make change in the lives of kids and positively influence them into becoming better people. This solidified that I wanted to enact change for the rest of my life as an educator. I know it won’t be easy, and that the path to reach that goal may be tough, but I’m motivated every time I think of the possibility to inform, expand perspectives, and inspire those younger than I am. Perhaps one day I’ll even change someone’s life in the same way Rosa Parks changed mine.