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Essays On My Mother My Coach

1. Describe an example of your leadership experience in which you have positively influenced others, helped resolve disputes, or contributed to group efforts over time. 

I’m not the valedictorian or the star of the soccer team. But I did ace all of my classes, especially English, and am a pretty good goalie. I was also the VP of Fashion Club for three years and have always participated in charity events through my church; both of which allowed me to throw the first Charity Fashion Show at my high school. 

This was an important leadership role for me because I was in charge of the whole event. With approval from of our club president, I gathered the Fashion Club for a special meeting and we came up with cool spring outfits that could be sourced from local thrift stores. About a week later I met with the store managers and got them to donate all of the clothes, shoes, and accessories so that we could put on our show. I was so surprised and excited by how willing these businessmen and women were to participate. In exchange for their donations, we showed the store’s logo and address, and all of the proceeds went to the charities backed by the three thrift stores. 

To be successful I knew I had to delegate tasks. I put the Fashion Club secretary in charge of marketing. She responsible for renting the auditorium and sending out flyers and emails. I trusted her to do this because she was really skilled at PR and designing posters. 

On Tuesday, April 12, 2016 at 7 PM, my high school held its first Charity Fashion Show. It lasted one hour and the auction of two dozen outfits raised over $900 USD for charity. The following day some of the students were even wearing some of the fashion show styles! 

I was very proud of having organized and leading the Fashion Club to hold this inaugural event. The Fashion Club advisor had taught me to own my position as leader by helping others achieve success in their roles and that’s exactly what I did. The event, from organization to execution, was so successful that a few weeks later we began planning the Fall Fashion Show.

2. Every person has a creative side, and it can be expressed in many ways: problem solving, original and innovative thinking, and artistically, to name a few. Describe how you express your creative side. 

My father is a skilled piano player. My mother is a talented painter. I am neither. Still, I grew up hearing Mozart in my living room and my weekends were spent at art museums or in art classes. I was constantly surrounded by creativity, inspiration, and art. But I didn’t inherit my parents’ natural artistic abilities. 

I struggled with the process and the execution of being traditionally creative. I often felt like I was expressing myself wrong. I soon learned that art and emotion go hand-in-hand, but still felt that one’s confidence in the medium plays a huge part in both the success of the process and the product. 

I didn’t want to disappoint my parents, but I was always frustrated with creating art. I tried learning from my tutors, but something was missing. That’s when I decided to do research. I read about famous composers’ lives and immersed myself in how-to-draw-everything books. It was the nuance in these books that struck me as so important, like how to position the brush in one’s hand for a particular effect. 
I devoured book after book about Mozart, Bach, and my favorite composer, Vivaldi. I read biographies about impressionists, modernists, and even Banksy. Throughout my reading about these famous artists, I found myself imitating their practices; by trial and error I was also finding my own creativity. I developed some skills in oil painting and perspective as well as honed my pitch at the piano. (I am still better with a pen and paper than with paint.) Still, inspiration moved me the way it seems to move my parents, and I started feeling art and not just making it. 

I even began finding new ways to express my unique and newfound creativity. I picked up the ukulele, I write short stories, and even have a new interest in musical theater. Now I have more than one way to express my creativity, and I also feel confident that I can use each as an outlet to express myself in ways I never thought imaginable.

3. What would you say is your greatest talent or skill? How have you developed and demonstrated that talent over time? 

I am really proud of my swim career. I set and broke two school records in my junior year in the 100-meter breaststroke and I won accolades from my parents, peers and coach. I have a promising future ahead of me in the pool. But I am most proud of the perspective I gained by being a swimmer. 

The first time I got into a pool I was eight years old, and it was a punishment for being cruel to my deaf older brother. My parents wanted me to experience what it was like for my brother not being able to hear; it ended up being the best punishment I ever received. 

I immediately liked being in the water. I felt weightless and calm. My parents saw my potential as a young child, and in a strange twist of fate, fully supported my swim lessons for the rest of my schooling. They would drive me almost an hour each way to the pool for practices. Their commitment to my success made me want to be even more successful and to make them proud. 

In middle school and high school my practices became more intense. By the time I was 15 I was dedicated to swimming and competing. I was no longer a chubby teenage boy, but a strong and lean athlete. The pool became my happy place, where my only goal was to be better than the day before. Being underwater also calmed my mind, and the mechanical technique of breaststroke became so natural that swimming became like meditation for me. 

Swimming on a team taught me how to work with others and be a team player. At meets, I met other swimmers from different schools who trained in ways I never imagined. I also learned how to support my teammates in wins and losses. Above all, I learned tolerance: tolerance for people with the same goals; people who are different; and people I’ve yet to meet in my lane.

4. Describe how you have taken advantage of a significant educational opportunity or worked to overcome an educational barrier you have faced. 

I am a citizen of the world. I was born in Tokyo but my parents—a professor and a singer—and I moved to Sweden when I was just two years old. I got my primary education there, and moved to Canada when I was 11. Because I lived in so many places, I never had a “first” language. I learned English, Japanese, and Swedish all at once. 

I returned to Japan during high school when my grandmother got sick. And it wasn’t until then ‘til I had realized what an extraordinary life I led. While it was a strange homecoming—I was welcomed by cousins I never knew I had—it was a blessing to find a church youth group that made me feel right at home. Because the only way of life I knew involved moving around and exploring new places, I immediately took the opportunity to do outreach with my church. 

I started by doing mission work door to door, but soon found myself tracing the same routes. So, I seized the opportunity to do outreach to the rural prefectures. It was an excellent chance to teach both kids and adults English and satisfy my need to travel and learn about cultures. 

For two summers, three other members and I embarked on bi-weekly trips to Ishikawa (a 7-hour train and bus ride) to teach 20 students, aged 7 to 16. I brought my favorite books as a child (Goodnight, Moon and Where the Wild Things Are) and often read aloud. I also brought word flash cards and we’d make a game out of matching the English word to the Japanese characters. In return, I learned a lot about life in a rural town. 

This experience was both an educational and a life-changing opportunity for me. It not only reinforced my desire to continue to travel, explore places, and meet new people, but also showed me the value in learning from others. I am indebted to my parents for giving me opportunities and a rich life; to honor them I will continue to pay it forward.

5. Describe the most significant challenge you have faced and the steps you have taken to overcome this challenge. How has this challenge affected your academic achievement? 

My parents, John and Jing Li, would have been married for 20 years this fall. But two years ago I came home from soccer practice to find my father very, very drunk. He slurred and yelled terrible things to my mother. She stood stoic while I slinked into a corner, having never seen this vile side of him. After about 10 minutes my father passed out on the couch, and my mother and I ate dinner in silence. 

The following day my mother picked me up from practice and told me she was divorcing my father. Her voice was calm and assured, and in direct contrast to the thoughts now running amuck in my head. I knew why she was leaving him, but I didn’t how she was going to do it. Plus, I was just a year away from graduating. I didn’t want to change schools, make new friends, or quit the soccer team. 

My mother tried to keep things normal when we moved into the spare room in my aunt’s house. I stayed in the same school, but the stigma of divorce followed me everywhere. My classmates stared at me in the hall and spread rumors about me. 

That didn’t last long, though. Inspired by my mother, I made the decision to stand up for myself. I wasn’t aggressive or confrontational, but I told the bullies “people who are too pure have no friends,” which is a saying by Ts'ai Ken T'an and means that in reality, we are all a little damaged and that’s what makes for connections between us. 

Supporting my mother, living with extended family, keeping up my grades, remaining committed to my team, and confronting ignorance are all small challenges in and of themselves. But when they happen all at once, they require a lot of inner strength and confidence. I am proud to say that I was able to tackle them all successfully. My family and I are very close, my grades are still above average, I still love playing soccer, and no one has made a “broken home” comment since that day.

6. Describe your favorite academic subject and explain how it has influenced you. 

Ever since I can remember I loved playing games. As a kid, I mostly played board games for fun. But as I got older, I became obsessed winning, and more importantly learning how to win. 

I was a standout student in elementary school and began completing in Mathletes to broaden my understanding of math subjects. My team and I won state and regional competitions every year for five years. However, in middle school, math was much less glamorous; high-school level, advanced subjects like pre-calculus, logic and number theory felt a little less applicable to the real world. Still, I joined the school Go team, which made using my math skills much more exciting. And at the end of grade 8, I placed third in the state finals. 

In high school I dove into applied math: physics, information theory, probability and the like. However, I was immediately drawn to game theory. It was fate. I became fascinated with card counting, in particular. I loved that it combined both statistics and probability and the possibility of winning more than an award or title. I read lots of books and practiced my skills with a group of friends until I was confident enough to play for real money. I never played at a casino or anything, but poker night with my friends became the highlight of my week. 

My passion for game theory and card counting has inspired me to pursue learning even more advanced math. I took AP Math AB, BC and Statistics last year and scored 4s and 5s on them. It was a heavy workload to balance, but I am proud of myself for achieving such high marks—and not losing my passion for math in the process. 

I would really like to earn a degree in Applied Mathematics from UC Berkeley, join the Mathematics Undergraduate Student Association (MUSA), and compete in the Putnam Competition. These opportunities will prepare me for a graduate research study in Statistics and Applied Probability, in which I believe I will excel.

7. What have you done to make your school or your community a better place? 

I've always loved riding my bike. My first adult bike was a light blue Huffy cruiser with a bell. I named her Bella. I rode Bella every day when we lived in the suburbs. But when I was 13, I moved to the city to attend a better high school. I, of course, brought Bella. But Bella wasn't built for narrow bike lanes and dodging car doors. 

The aforementioned dodging of a car door sent me flying off my bike just a few weeks after I started high school. I ended up with a broken wrist and a concussion despite wearing my helmet. Bella was beyond repair. 

After recovering and riding the school bus for a while, I convinced my parents to buy me a new bike. They were worried about me getting into another accident, but obliged. I didn't think twice about riding again, but I figured it would be safer to ride with someone. 

There were 10 other kids who biked to school and we banded together to form Bike Buddies. The club is all about maintaining the freedom to ride, but is serious about safety. We make sure our bikes are tuned, that everyone has a helmet and lights, and that we abide by the rules of the road. We ride in pairs and even have reflective vests that say BB on them. The idea is that the more aware of cyclists the community is, the more cautious drivers will be. 

Bike Buddies not only made riding safer, but also resulted in new relationships. I have made friends at school, and was recently asked to speak at a local conference on bike safety and have helped spread the BB program to other schools. 

I am really proud of having the strength not only to recover from a serious bike accident, but also to get back on my bike—her name is Jules and she's silver. BB is the result of my love for riding and my desire to never be in an accident again.

8. What is the one thing that you think sets you apart from other candidates applying to the University of California? 

Things to consider: Don’t be afraid to brag a little. Even if you don’t think you’re unique, you are — remember, there’s only one of you in the world. From your point of view, what do you feel makes you belong on one of UC’s campuses? When looking at your life, what does a stranger need to understand in order to know you? 

What have you not shared with us that will highlight a skill, talent, challenge, or opportunity that you think will help us know you better? We’re not necessarily looking for what makes you unique compared to others, but what makes you, YOU. 

I am a creative introvert. 

Most people would think these two characteristics don't go together. But they do; I am capable of great ideas and am a talented writer, but working in larger groups is not my happy place. 

Because I am creative introvert, I have a unique perspective on teamwork. I don't believe in the Golden Rule and I don't think one should treat others how that one individual wants to be treated. Such an idea assumes that everyone is exactly the same! I believe it's better to ask individuals how they work best or more basically, what they need to be creative, successful or to feel confident. 

This notion may seem a little hippie—my father is a sociologist and my mother a marketer—but it has allowed me to thrive in a number of areas. 

In my sophomore year I founded the Fashion Club, where we can all be high-energy fashionistas that gab about the latest styles and trends. But we also organize fashion show / clothing drives four times a year. In brainstorming the themes for the fashion show, I take more time to think of ideas and don't spitball as freely as some of the other members. 

I'm also a member of the Literature Club, wherein I can enjoy reading books in tandem with others and listen to ideas in a much more calm, traditionally thoughtful setting. Literature Club is like a gathering of introverts, which I love. 

I have also played on my school soccer teams since grade 8. I started out as a forward, and while I can run as well as the rest of my teammates, I never felt comfortable on the offense. I switched to playing goalie my freshman year in high school and this role is much more my speed; I can be both a solo player alone in the goal, but remain an integral part of the team. 

My unique perspective on creativity and teamwork will remain a cornerstone of my education.
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