| Jan Einstein Lim knows what his name stands for: "Jan" is "Ian," meaning "son of God," and "Einstein" is simply the genius part of his name. At 17 and a new high school graduate among the cream of the crop at Memorial High School in Madison, Jan believes that Einstein himself was a believer in God more than other scientists of his time and that he wanted to believe that there is order in the universe.
This order in Jan's universe is apparent, notwithstanding his family's emigration from Southeast Asia to two North American countries. The United States is his "third" home country, the first being the Philippines where he was born, and then Canada where he grew up. "We lived in Scarborough, part of Toronto, where there were lots of people of color," Jan recalled. "I never heard of 'minority' in Canada, at least in our place because there was a very good mix of all races, and there were lots of Asians, too." That being so, Jan never felt "different" -- a kind of order in his life that the young man never thought was a problem in some other places.
When the family moved to Madison four years ago, Jan only had minor difficulty in adjusting to his new environment, especially to his new school. "In my freshman year, I didn't know anyone; I ate alone," he remembered. "There were more 'people of color' in Scarborough than in Madison, I thought. But it's nice that Madison is now addressing diversity.
"Teachers are good and they encourage self-learning," Jan said of the mentors and teachers he had at Memorial. "My favorite subject is art, and I admire the efforts of our art teachers in order to keep the program." He talked about a recent weekend fund-raiser that he participated in where he sold seven of the nine ceramics art pieces that he created. "With the budget cuts, Memorial might have fewer art classes," he lamented, a possibility that he doesn't want to happen, considering the quality learning he has received from the art program.
And why does he like art? "It's a break from everything else; it's very different from other subjects in that you use a lot of imagination," Jan quickly answered. "Ceramics is really physical and you have to be focused; and then you make something out of rock or clay that lasts." Jan added he wants to keep ceramics art as a hobby.
Aside from art, he said he likes biology more than any other science course. "It's interesting to know animals," he said. That is why he has decided to take up biomedical engineering in college. "It has to do with constructing medical devices and prosthesis," he beamed, "and that fits in what I like -- art! I'd be building something. I find satisfaction in creating something."
The young graduate credits Memorial High School for having sophisticated tools and ingredients needed for their molecular biology class where he also learned about DNA testing.
As to who or what influenced his focus on achieving in school, Jan said with certainty, "my parents." And how do they do it? "They want to make sure I'm on track; they will always ask me, 'How was your test yesterday?' They have rules, including curfew -- I can't be out of our home past midnight."
While Jan admitted that as a teen-ager, sometimes he gets weary of his parents' reminders, he said he's glad they're doing it. "A lot of parents don't care about what their children are doing."
Has he ever gotten in trouble in school? "I never look for trouble, so trouble doesn't find me," he said without a blink. He added there was talk of "gang activities" in school, but cautioned that people should focus more on the positives rather than the negatives.
"Memorial has a good sense of community, and teachers try to make it comfortable for students," Jan said, citing the backyard periods where students go to interact with each other in a fun, safe way.
Jan gives a lot of credit to his teachers and parents for his success in school, but this graduate did a lot by himself, as well. "I really work hard on it; I spend around three to four hours everyday just doing my homework," he said. "For difficult subjects like math, I study it very slowly so I can understand it."
At 17, Jan's simple dream is just "to grow up and be happy." To him, happiness means "achieving my full potential, and reaching a point in my life when I can look back and be proud of what I have done and not regret it."
Going back to where he came from, Jan said he isn't totally detached from his Filipino roots, and in like manner, he isn't fully Americanized. "I still want to keep my Filipino culture." He then enumerated some Filipino values that he is proud of: respect for elders; concern about academics and belief that education is the key to success; and religion/spirituality.
It was amazing to listen to a 17-year old talk about making his mark in American society. "Filipinos hide to blend in; but it's possible to make an impression, to make other people realize that we're here, that we benefit society."
This young man will go far, indeed.
|Jan Einstein Lim
This brainy youth enjoys best of east and west
|by Heidi M Pascual
"My religion consists of a humble admiration of the illimitable superior spirit who reveals himself in the slight details we are able to perceive with our frail and feeble mind." -- Albert Einstein [U.S. (German-born) physicist (1879 - 1955); discovered special relativity 1905 and general relativity (1915-1916); explained photoelectric effect and Brownian motion; Nobel Prize winner in Physics 1921]