For Lisa Du, St. Joseph High School valedictorian, achieving the accomplishment results from hard work that comes as second nature.
Du, the youngest of three siblings, is going off to the University of Texas at Austin to study biomedical engineering in hopes of pursuing a career in engineering or medicine.
She is a second-generation American to two parents who came to the U.S. through academia and research, Du’s mom Lilly Mo said.
In 1993, after obtaining degrees in China, Du’s father moved to the U.S. with Mo for a post-doctorate research position in the U.S., Mo said. She tried pursuing her own doctorate once in the U.S. but only finished with her master’s degree before having her kids.
Eventually, they made their way to Victoria, where Du was born and grew up.
“She’s a self-motivated girl, so I really had no trouble getting her to study. She has goals, and she just tries to do it. I just support her,” Mo said. “She’s my last one, the youngest one, so we like to spoil her a little bit. Whenever she wants something, we try to support her.”
By the time the youngest of three came along, her parents had things mostly figured out, Du said. It was challenging making friends growing up.
“I guess it was a little bit harder for us since we weren’t as connected to the community as people who lived here since, like their grandparents up here,” she said.
As she saw her siblings grow up, who also went to St. Joseph High School, she learned from their experiences, Du said, particularly her older sister Elizabeth Du, who was nearly a valedictorian herself, but missed out due to medical absences.
“My sister was kind of struggling with her mental health, and my parents had to focus on her more. I had to start to take care of myself more and focus on doing my responsibilities and being willing to help out my parents whenever I can,” she said.
Both of her siblings have since gone on to succeed in academia, Du said.
During her time at St. Joseph, she was part of the tennis team and the Medical Professionals Club for all four years at the school.
It was challenging to figure out the balance, Du said.
“All the social like life, like going out and stuff, but still having to, like, realize that academics is your main focus,” she said.
Du said that she is pursuing a biomedical engineering degree at UT because she hasn’t decided quite yet whether she wants to be a doctor or an engineer.
“With engineering, I really liked the problem-solving skills and how you have to think about all the different things that could go wrong and how to fix them afterward, like doing projects, she said. “With doctor, I feel like they have a really intimate connection with their community, and it’s a direct way of giving back. It’s really gratifying.”
The one thing she’ll treasure from her time at St. Joseph is getting to know the peers in her class, particularly through the activities they took part in during their senior field day, Du said.
“I just feel like though I’m valedictorian, everyone has a diverse set of skills that they have all used. It’s obviously not like I’m smarter than the rest of my peers. They can all do great things,” she said. “Just say be responsible, and you know how to make the right choice.”