That's the Spirit!
A PASSION FOR SERVICE —
At this year’s AGM, we invited Juan Lucas Umali, a junior at HKIS, to talk about his experience at HKIS. In his words, “if it weren’t for this school, you all would be seeing an entirely different person up here today.”
But his journey through the school wasn’t a walk in the park. Juan Lucas struggled to find his footing in Middle School, and although in his freshman year he began to take advantage of the opportunities available to him, he still couldn’t find his true passions. “I discovered an interest in biology, which I pursued by tackling AP Bio as a Sophomore. And then I got into music, which I explored by graduating from Beginning Band to Wind Ensemble in two years. And more recently, I've found a calling to service by having the privilege to coach domestic helpers on how to swim through leading the Aquatics Service club.”
He was content enough, but not truly fulfilled. Then, a friend encouraged him to run for Senator of Student Life on the school’s Student Senate. “After a rather traumatizing Middle School campaign experience, I’ve never again ran for an elected position — but this time, I took the risk. Needless to say, it pretty much changed my life,” reflects Juan Lucas.
It’s very unusual for a sophomore to run — and win! — a student election in the High School; usually student leaders find their strengths in their senior year. But gradually, Juan Lucas realised that all of his interests combined had led him to this point: “With my versatile blend of a high school experience, and a richer, more far-reaching skill-set, I knew how to collaborate and represent very different groups of passionate people that made up the student body. I’ve also come to appreciate the hidden talents of the individuals that I served, making it my mission to lead them into the limelight through initiatives like Gratitude Grams and Sincerely HKIS,” he explains.
Juan Lucas gives a thumbs up as he stands with fellow students from the Music for the Elderly service club.
“With my versatile blend of a high school experience, and a richer, more far-reaching skill-set, I knew how to collaborate and represent very different groups of passionate people that made up the student body."
Creating an inclusive and fun environment was something close to his heart, and something he felt he could lead other students to achieve together. He founded the Spirit Council — a council dedicated to fostering a sincerer, warmer, and more united school environment. This has been hugely rewarding not only for the student body, who have benefited from this work, but for Juan Lucas himself. “Despite everything going on in the world, this past year has been the best year of my life because I’ve finally found my place in the community.”
Click here to enjoy more from Juan Lucas in an episode of Dragonwaves, HKIS's podcast!
Juan Lucas credits two major factors that have helped him along the way. First: HKIS’s supportive teachers. Thinking about one math teacher in particular, Juan Lucas says, “what makes him even more effective is his love of learning that shines through his lessons, and you can tell by the way he talks to each and every one of his students that he genuinely cares for our wellbeing.”
As part of his Elixir project with International Care Ministries, Juan Lucas traveled to the Philippines to serve the ultra-poor.
“Very few schools provide a dynamic curriculum that is remarkable in both breadth and depth, and even fewer give students the freedom to explore, the autonomy to lead, and the culture to empower.”
Second, Juan Lucas also sees that choice and courses available to students help them expand their horizons. “Very few schools provide a dynamic curriculum that is remarkable in both breadth and depth, and even fewer give students the freedom to explore, the autonomy to lead, and the culture to empower.”
Whatever the formula for Juan Lucas’s success in High School may have been, one thing is clear: He is an exceptional student who has charted his course with humility and hard work. He makes us Dragons proud!
Listen to Juan Lucas Umali passionately tell his own HKIS story of finding his place on campus.
Click Here to Watch