Senior John Wong
Yara Mukaled photo
By Yara Mukaled, Courier Staff Writer
As a UC Berkeley Regents Scholar, Gates Millennium Finalist, and multi-scholarship winner, there is not much that James Logan senior John Wong can’t do. One need only to mention his name among teachers and students to realize the extent of his accomplishments. In honor of his final days as a James Logan senior, on the cusp of college transcendence, The Courier spoke to Wong and those who know him personally, to try to answer the question, who really is John Wong?
It’s hard to imagine that someone who has met so much success so early in life is anything but arrogant. Wong has won a full ride to UC Berkeley (where he will attend this fall) as a Regent’s Scholar, organized and promoted “Odyssey to Success” - a program initiated by the Cal State East Bay Vice President to encourage under represented students to attend college – his junior year, is currently an Instructional Aid in a course for African American young men aimed at increasing high school graduation rates here at Logan, and has skipped two levels of math, all while being ranked top 5 in the Logan Honors Index. And yet his counselor, Renee Dutra, says Wong is “one of the most modest people [she’s] met considering how well he does”.
Wong’s aversion to showing off his achievements also means that he is more private than most people, seeming closed off to many of his classmates. James Logan senior and a close friend of Wong’s, Hayley Chong, says that “John is very humble so he comes off as very quiet about everything he does. You have to be really good friends with John for him to open up; he’s pretty private.”
When talking about one of her star students, Ms. Dutra agreed with Hayley, adding that Wong is “very humble” and “is the most polite person”. When I asked her what stood out most about Wong, I expected her to list off all of his accomplishments. Instead, she mused about his “mannerisms” saying that he is “ridiculously amazing and sincere”. Ms. Dutra also emphasized Wong’s tendencies to make himself available to those in need. While he is private and quiet, Wong is “always willing and eager to help”, according to Ms. Dutra.
An opportunity for Wong to give back to his classmates arose this year as the district was cutting back on the amount of school students could miss because of field trips. Physics Day, a day where all Logan physics classes miss school and go to Great America, was canceled to the chagrin of Logan’s physics students, including Wong. Rather than merely mope and accept it as fact like the rest of us, Wong took one for the team and challenged the district ruling. He formed a long, eloquently worded statement of intent and petition, passing it around to all physics classes to obtain student signatures. He met with Director of District Activities, Dr. Orlando Smith, to present the petition and fought for Physics Day on behalf of all of Logan’s physics students. When I asked why he would go through all of that trouble only to be denied his request by the district, Wong replied that he wanted to be “a voice for the voiceless”.
Wong’s willingness to help and be “a voice for the voiceless” reigns true with Dutra’s praise for him as she included in a letter of recommendation written on his behalf, “John will do all in his extraordinary powers to continue to act as super hero role model for our many students in need”. M. Dutra described a meeting she set up between Wong and a Latino Logan student who was “struggling to find his way during a pivotal moment in his life”. Wong also serves as an encouraging mentor through his Instructional Aid position in the class for African American male students at Logan. Wong said that he was “looking to give back to Logan as a graduating senior and help students with racial, economic and social plights”. He appreciates that the class is giving these under represented students a space to be themselves and develop “their innate abilities”.
Yet another example of Wong’s eagerness to give back was his position in “Odyssey to Success”. Wanting to help other students learn about college, Wong spearheaded the effort to promote and organize the transportation of his peers to the program at CSUEB, attending workshops and lectures at the event with his classmates. He says that he felt that kids were mystified about college, as he was, so he wanted an opportunity to understand what college was really like alongside his friends.
Knowing all of this about Wong makes it understandable that he was accepted into a multitude of prestigious colleges including University of Pennsylvania, Cornell, Northwestern, UCLA, and University of Chicago to name a few, as well as receiving very generous scholarships for all. While it is an amazing school, why would Wong choose UC Berkeley over many of the other, some Ivy, colleges he was accepted to? To Wong, getting into UC Berkeley alone was one of his most important, among his many, achievements in high school. Wong grew up aspiring to be a Cal Bear; attending football games with his uncle, a Cal Alum, made Berkeley Wong’s dream school from a young age. To be recognized with such honor as a Regent’s scholar, Berkeley’s most prestigious award, just made the triumph even sweeter.
With so much accomplished already, Wong has every opportunity available to him for his future. With so many options, it ultimately comes down to what does he want to do? In college, Wong plans on joining a business fraternity and landing internships for public health, his prospective major. Pursuing a career in “something along the lines of hospital management”, Wong also hopes to follow a personal hobby of sorts and invest in the stock market, with finance being another one of his interests.
As I attempt to find the “real John” behind all the modesty, I ask him about what he thinks has made him who he is; why is John Wong so successful? With Wong’s answer, I realize that I have finally found what truly makes him who he is. Simply put, Wong attributes his success to the people around him that have shaped him into the person he is today. His upbringing in Taiwan made him more hardworking, he told me, with the “cultural emphasis on education”. His close family ties have supported him through all of his endeavors, and he is inspired by his friends “who are motivated”. While he may come off as introverted and closed-off from those around him due to his humility and modesty, in reality, Wong feeds off the motivation and support of those around him, and would not be the person he is today without the close circle of people that influence him and encourage him.
Patrick Fang, another senior at James Logan has high praise for Wong saying that he “is an ethical man who rises above the social norm. A leader who leads not only by example but also by heart is a leader who wins. And having known him for eight years, I can tell you that Wong always wins.” At the end of the day, despite the impressive list of successes, John Wong is like any other teenager. He plays basketball with his friends, watches TV, and listens to music. Wong does have a piece of advice for students following in his footsteps, “Do what you feel comfortable with, realize that that is boring, and do something you’re not comfortable with.”