Free at last – Cegep has allowed Jenny Kuan to come into her own
Within minutes of meeting and speaking with Vanier Commerce student, Jenny Kuan, it’s clear she is an original – vivacious, animated, and funny. But as the recipient of a prestigious 2013 Toyota Earth Day Scholarship valued at $5,000, the main word associated with Jenny is sustainability.
The Toyota Scholarship is awarded to students who do well in their studies, demonstrate commitment to environmental issues through extracurricular activities, and show outstanding potential as environmental leaders.
“When I won the Toyota Scholarship I was really messed up- happy and crazy,” declares Jenny. “I cried for about 30 minutes and called my older sister in tears. Then I read the description of what previous winners had done and felt so under accomplished. I couldn’t believe that I’d actually be able to win the scholarship.”
Jenny’s interest in the environment started in high school but it’s at Vanier where she became active in campus sustainability projects and events that she has been able to use her energy and imagination to encourage fellow students to act responsibly.
“I first came to Vanier to study Mandarin in the weekend Chinese School. I was really comfortable here so it’s the only Cegep I wanted to attend. I like the atmosphere at Vanier. It’s so welcoming. I also have three older sisters who all came to Vanier. One became a CA; another went into pharmaceuticals and the other works in Human Resources.”
“My family has a big say in what I study so I chose the Commerce program to get Mathematics. My family wants me to do something practical like accounting but I want to work for the environment directly and affect people’s behavior. Although I focus on my studies I also have a part time job and I pay for my studies. So it’s my choice, my education, my decision.”
“For my family, grades and school are the priorities. In high school I could not do things outside of school. But now I’m free! I have a bus pass!”
“My family culture is so diff erent. My parents were farmers who came from a small town in China. They did not receive a high level of education, such as the one you could get here in Canada. My father is a cook and my mother was a seamstress although she is now retired and stays home where she cooks and tends her garden. My father speaks some English but mostly he only speaks Chinese.”
“I try to avoid conflicts with my parents. Because of the language barrier it’s difficult to communicate with them. It’s very hard for me to explain the environment to them and reach to the same level of understanding when trying to express my thoughts and ideas to them. But I’m the youngest and in some ways they are more lenient with me than with my three older sisters. They have been quite understanding over the years.”
“I consider myself hardworking but not super smart. I had bad grades in elementary school – apparently I was lazy. I watched too much TV and I didn’t do my homework. Then I started to demand more from myself. In Cegep I did better than ever before. My efforts have paid off and now I feel good about my grades.”
“When I have course projects I try to relate them to the environment. For my Research Methods course I did research on environmental activism. For my Integrated Project I did an essay entitled Water and its Blood Baths, looking at water as a rare resource and the conflict or cooperation it engenders.”
“I also got a sustainability job at Vanier where I had to write two skits to perform in English classes. One script is a comedy on recycling and food waste that tries to make people realize how their habits damage the environment. The second looks at transportation, cleaning up after yourself, battery disposal and other aspects of a lifestyle that are harmful.”
“The Toyota Earth Day Scholarship has reinforced my love for the environment and has encouraged me to make my passion into a career. I hope to inspire many others to realize that individuals really can make a difference!”
How is Jenny going to realize her ambition of helping people make connections between the environment and lifestyle? Well, the next step is to study at Concordia University where she plans to do a Specialization in Urban Planning.