Leadership, participation instills confidence

April 19, 2017 - 8 minutes read

Owen Kwong, currently in Grade 7 and among the first students to tackle the new pre-Capstone program at Chartwell Elementary school, is very excited about high school. It wasn’t always that way – as a new student in Grade 1, Owen was extremely shy when he first arrived at Chartwell. Over time, with the assistance of his family, the school teachers and his classmates and friends, Owen has developed confidence and eagerly takes part in a range of activities that help create a powerful school community.

“My mom helped me see that even if you mess up, you can learn from your mistakes and move on,” says Owen. “My teachers encouraged me to come out of my shell and try new things, and now I’m a lot less shy.”

“Owen is a wonderful example of a Rights Respecting school leader who is involved in many activities and shines in all of them,” says Chartwell Elementary School Principal Chantal Trudeau. “He is a great role model, participates in all the team sports, and is a whiz at Math!”

Born in Vancouver, with grandparents from China and Panama, Owen takes an advanced math class after challenging the unit tests ahead of his classmates in the regular Grade 7 curriculum. He feels more challenged doing the advanced math, and he is grateful for the assignments that his teacher, Ms. Johnston, has helped him access through extra district support in mathematics.

“Math is my favourite subject, because I love that there’s a right answer,” says Owen. “I can’t say the same about writing – in math, there’s one answer, and it’s interesting to figure out what it is.”

While he excels in math, Owen also loves sports and music. In the last two years, he has participated in basketball, cross country, volleyball, track and Ultimate Frisbee at school. Owen also enjoys swimming; after only two summers worth of lessons, he is almost finished the Red Cross program with only one more level to go and he would like to advance further in swimming after that. He is also in Hollyburn Country Club’s high performance tennis program with Steve Tseng as his main coach and has signed up for the district’s Premier Tennis Academy ahead of his Grade 8 year.  Because tennis is an interest that his family shares, Owen also has plenty of time to hone his skills outside of coached sessions, formal play and tournaments.  Owen plays Level 8 piano in the Royal Conservatory of Music program and enjoys performing at the North Shore Music Festival. He is also in the school band playing the alto-sax.

DSC_6547It’s a good thing that Owen enjoys math. His grandfather was a civil engineer who came to Vancouver and built a structural engineering company from the ground up, and Owen would like to obtain his engineering degree at UBC to practice engineering himself. He’ll get excellent preparation through Chartwell’s capstone connect program, and will have the opportunity to  focus on subjects he loves as he moves through high school.

As a Rights Respecting school, Chartwell has infused knowledge about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into the school culture. Owen’s capstone project, which he worked on shortly after interviewing for this story, is on the topic ‘Peace and Justice for Kids’,  focused on understanding how violence affects children in the world, and what can be done to help children affected by violence.

Children at the school also learn to develop leadership skills and to take part in activities that nurture character and social responsibility, such as a recent walk for water organized by the leadership club. Owen, as a key member of the leadership club, took on a role in that project to raise awareness about the difficulty of getting clean water in some countries. Students carried a 4-litre jug of water from source to the school, collecting donations for health care in Equador.

“Everyone takes part in charitable activities in the school, and I get my friends to volunteer, because it’s more fun when everyone helps out – some people just need encouragement, like I did when I was very shy. It’s important to help out and help others because some people are less fortunate and you’d want someone to help you out if you were less fortunate.”

At the end of April, Owen will also be helping his father serve a pancake breakfast on the downtown Eastside – extending the charitable lessons learned at school into the broader community.

Owen and his fellow Grade 7 students will be visiting Sentinel in May, and it’s clear that it’s a transition that he has been eagerly anticipating for some time: he says his favourite memory of school came last year during a Grade 6/7 awards ceremony, when service awards were handed out to older students moving on to high school. He hopes that younger students will pick up on one of his favourite lessons:

“Try your hardest at everything,” says Owen. “And even if you’re really good at something, it’s important to stay humble.”

DSC_6546Owen wants to thank his teacher, Ms. Rosemary Johnston, for helping him find a more challenging math program, and his mother, for helping him build confidence.

“Over the last two years Owen has grown in confidence – he speaks up more frequently in class, speaks at assemblies, makes morning announcements and takes on many leadership opportunities in the classroom and on sports teams,” says Johnston. “He is exceptionally reliable and responsible, has never missed or handed in a late homework assignment and is the first to volunteer for all leadership jobs and initiatives, even remembering and reminding others.”

Though he’s among the first to volunteer for leadership jobs and classroom/school initiatives and is a stickler for detail, Johnston points to Owen’s integrity as one of the key skills for future leaders.

“He is honest, says what he means and means what he says, displays kindness in all situations, and yet never seeks the limelight.”

All the best to you, Owen, as you complete your work this term and embrace the exciting world of secondary school!