College of Humanities & the Arts
Why did you choose your major?
After reading the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass in high school, I fell in love with the quote:
What he most dreaded, that I most desired. What he most loved, that I most hated. That which to him was a great evil, to be carefully shunned, was to me a great good, to be diligently sought; and the argument which he so warmly urged, against my learning to read, only served to inspire me with a desire and a determination to learn.
Frederick Douglass, an ex-slave, profound orator, and social reformer was a firm believer of equality education for all. His Narrative inspired me to cherish and apprise for my education, reinforcing the value and power of education that my parents have longingly tried to instill in me. Education is access, possibility, and above all, freedom.
I desire to provide the same access, possibility, and freedom that I have received to young children. By pursuing a career in education, I aspire to create a direct impact on the lives of the future generation, inspiring them to think and learn about the world in all ways possible. My passion for teaching and learning drives who I am and what I am majoring in here at SJSU. Liberal Studies Teacher Preparation is the most practical path towards a career in elementary education. I collaborate with other future teachers, creating engaging lesson plans and learning necessary skills to provide the best for my future students. I am proud to be majoring in Liberal Studies as it is well preparing me to become an effective and experienced teacher.
What does receiving this particular award mean to you?
This award represents all the hard work and sacrifices I have made to get where I am today. It is a token of honor and resilience, for never giving up and never backing down, in spite of all the difficult times in my life. I thank all professors, teachers, family and friends for bringing me where I am today. Their continuous support and guidance have led me here. I am proud, but more so humble than proud, to receive this award because it encourages me to accomplish more, and essentially, do even better. There is no limit to success and enough is never enough. This award is a reminder to keep fighting and to keep aiming high.
Who has been influential in your life and/or who has contributed to your academic success?
First, I would like to acknowledge my family for their unconditional love and care. I know I used to disappoint them with my poor decisions and rebellious actions. Somewhere along the way, I finally realized I did not want to be a disappointment any longer. They never gave up on me and for that, they inspire me to be the best daughter, sister, and student I could possibly be. Also, I would like to acknowledge the leaders of programs I attended in my adolescent past, such as Aim High’s Suzy Garren and Lowell High School JROTC’s Colonel Doug Bullard. They both gave me endless encouragement and high hopes for the future. They taught me to embrace my potential and because of them, I am extremely grateful. I thank all my teachers for challenging, yet endlessly rooting me for my success. Ultimately, I am indebted to my friends because they love and tolerate me for who I am, regardless of any situation. They have given me protection, acceptance, and hope. From the bottom of my heart, I am forever fortunate to be theirs.
Did you overcome any hardships or adversities in your life that have helped shape who you are today? And if so, could you please briefly elaborate?
My parents emigrated from Shantou, China in 1991 to provide a better life for their children, my younger brother and me. Growing up in San Francisco Chinatown, my mother, father, younger brother and I occupied the first floor of a three-flat Victorian home with my other cousins, whose parents recently immigrated as well. At some point, there were a total of thirteen bodies dominating that flat. I recall my parents working basic, minimum-wage jobs: my mother in a sewing plant and my dad as a full-time kitchen chef. When I was in third grade, my father was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and that set a great change in my family’s life.
I lost my father to a mental sickness and instead of him working tag-team with my mother to take care of my brother and me, it quickly became my mother taking care of all three of us. I frequently questioned “Why him? Why now? Why us? Why me?” and always thought about how unfortunate and hard life was for me and my family. For a long time, there was endless distress and heartache in my mother and brother’s heart and soul, including my own. Disappointment and anger lived with us as we struggled and longed to find balance and peace in our home. Till this day, I still squirm when I hear the doorbell ring because it could be the return of the police officers. And with that, it would bring the sirens, the yelling, the hospitals, and the doctors. I despised those moments, and I still do, because people whom I most cared for were in tears and agony for something that was out of my control.
It took quite some time for me to understand and even acknowledge my father’s mental illness because it was so unexpected. Eventually, I came to accept that this is my life and it has shaped me for the better. I appreciate my mother’s strength and my father’s love as it lives and grows each and every day. I am still in the process of learning to appreciate the imperfect beauty of everything, but life has thrown me these obstacles for a reason. I am in no state of giving up. Despite all that has happened, I take pride in the challenges and hardships I have faced and still continue to face because without them, I would not be who I am today.
What would you say to other students to encourage or inspire them to attain academic excellence?
Everyone wants to be successful, because no one likes to fail. But we all must fail in order to understand success. I am not advocating for failure, but it is, in some ways, a sole motivator to high achievement. I have been there before; I have failed multiple high school courses and even today, I score imperfectly on exams and assignments. We are all undoubtedly imperfect, fragile human beings, going through this rollercoaster of life. My message is to have patience, will, and integrity. In order to be successful, hard work is necessary to attain excellence in anything and everything that we do. Nothing good comes easy and nothing easy comes good. And when there are voices that bring negativity, telling you that you cannot, or that you are incompetent, do not listen. Instead, think positively and trust yourself that you can. You may be motivated to seek success for the people you care about and the community that surrounds you, but remember to do it for yourself. Do not dwell on the depressing, incomplete aspects of your life. Act and know that you deserve better. That “better” is not possible unless you put yourself there first. So think positively and if it happens, fail, but get back up and try again.
How do you envision yourself in 5-10 years?
In five years, I hope to have completed my Masters of Arts in Education and obtained my credential to teach in California. I see myself working in a fourth grade classroom in a Bay Area public school. In ten years time, I envision myself as a principal or maybe even a university professor. And maybe somewhere along the line, I see myself traveling to another state to teach, such as Washington or New York.
A few words from her nominating professor:
Debby will have a bright future in education. She’s preparing herself for graduate school to earn a teaching credential and/or masters degree. She is doing lots of volunteer work related to her future career, doing volunteer work at Horace Mann Elementary School, serving as a Teaching Intern at Aim High, and working as a Literacy Tutor as Reading Partners. She does all this while being a top student and helping to pay her way through school with earnings from her Federal Work Study job at SJSU’s Humanities Department, where she does a super job! Someday she will surely be a leader in K-12 education.
- Professor Chris Jochim