All high school valedictorians deserve our acclaim and congratulations. Many have been high achievers ever since kindergarten, so it's not a surprise when they add that honor to their list of accomplishments.
Then there are those less expected valedictorians like Sacramento's Raymond Chan.
As The Bee's Melody Gutierrez tells his story, Chan was a middling pupil through middle school. At Genevieve Didion, his grade-point average hovered around a 2.5 and he spent more time playing video games than doing homework.
His outlook on school and life changed when his father, Chi Sun, died in 2009 after a three-year struggle with cancer. He saw his mother, Cindy, channel her grief into volunteering with the homeless, and joined her in handing out food to the hungry every Sunday.
Chan realized that despite what he had lost, he was still fortunate.
He focused on what he had and buckled down in school. He got his first straight-A report card in ninth grade. At Kennedy High, he took the hardest math and science classes he could, graduated with a 4.6 GPA and was accepted by nearly every prestigious college where he applied, including Harvard, Princeton and Yale.
In the fall, he's headed to Stanford with a bushel of scholarships to pay his way.
Chan's teachers are glowing in their praise. "In high school, you have kids who are really smart, or kids who work really hard. He is both," says Jonathan Andrews, his advanced placement world history instructor.
In his valedictory speech last month, Chan imparted a message that is wise beyond his 17 years: "It's your attitude, not your circumstances in life, that limits you."
In these uncertain times, there's a lesson in his story for all of us. A positive frame of mind, combined with some real effort, can lead to great, unexpected things.
© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.
What You Should Know About Comments on Sacbee.com
Sacbee.com is happy to provide a forum for reader interaction, discussion, feedback and reaction to our stories. However, we reserve the right to delete inappropriate comments or ban users who can't play nice. (See our full terms of service here.)
Here are some rules of the road:
Keep your comments civil. Don't insult one another or the subjects of our articles. If you think a comment violates our guidelines click the "Report Abuse" link to notify the moderators. Responding to the comment will only encourage bad behavior.
Don't use profanities, vulgarities or hate speech. This is a general interest news site. Sometimes, there are children present. Don't say anything in a way you wouldn't want your own child to hear.
Do not attack other users; focus your comments on issues, not individuals.
Stay on topic. Only post comments relevant to the article at hand.
Do not copy and paste outside material into the comment box.
Don't repeat the same comment over and over. We heard you the first time.
Do not use the commenting system for advertising. That's spam and it isn't allowed.
Don't use all capital letters. That's akin to yelling and not appreciated by the audience.
Don't flag other users' comments just because you don't agree with their point of view. Please only flag comments that violate these guidelines.
You should also know that The Sacramento Bee does not screen comments before they are posted. You are more likely to see inappropriate comments before our staff does, so we ask that you click the "Report Abuse" link to submit those comments for moderator review. You also may notify us via email at email@example.com. Note the headline on which the comment is made and tell us the profile name of the user who made the comment. Remember, comment moderation is subjective. You may find some material objectionable that we won't and vice versa.
If you submit a comment, the user name of your account will appear along with it. Users cannot remove their own comments once they have submitted them.