From shy teenager to community leader

Steven Zhu

Steven Zhu, 2017 Valedictorian of SUIS Jiaoke Campus’ BC Program.

Currently studying Finance and Economics at the University of Toronto’s Rotman Commerce; University College’s 2019-2020 President of Student Council.

My contribution

My name is Steven Zhu, and I was the 2017 Valedictorian of SUIS Jiaoke Campus’ BC Program. I am currently studying Finance and Economics at the University of Toronto’s Rotman Commerce. For the 2019-2020 academic year, I was President of the Student Council for University College, the University of Toronto’s founding college.

After being interviewed by more than 700 voters, I was elected as President of the University of Toronto’s University College (UC) Student Council with a high support rate. Under my leadership, council executives were able to accomplish much for our community and beyond. We organized many events every month for students so that they could experience greater enjoyment during their school life. For example, we helped students voice their suggestions related to food services to the cafeteria service providers. As a result of our efforts, the UC cafeteria made a variety of improvements, including better-tasting food, more sustainable tableware, and a friendlier meal plan policy.

We also helped our students deal with other issues and supported their plans for conducting their own events. I would often communicate with university administration staff on behalf of the council to solve all issues passed on from previous leadership teams, and redesigned the recruitment process, which resulted in a quadrupling of the number of job applications received. We also redesigned our logo to give the council a brand-new look, launched a newsletter, and increased our social media presence to better promote our events to students. In addition to all the above, we raised over CAD500 for people who had suffered from the Australian bush fires and facilitated the donation of countless articles of clothing to homeless youth.

At the end of our term, feedback gathered from students indicated that the 2019-2020 Student Council under my leadership was the most successful to date. The seamless collaboration among the executives brought a series of successes to the council; we supported each other and built a warm, international family together.


My SUIS memories

Although I graduated from SUIS three years ago, all of my experiences are still vividly remembered. Whether it was the encouragement from the school, the help from the teachers, or the support of classmates, I remember all of them to this day. The most important thing for me is that not only did I receive love, I learned to love others.

I remember when I first came to SUIS – I was a shy and introverted boy. However, the family-like atmosphere at SUIS encouraged me to find my own voice and to start my own clubs. Through these activities, I became a confident and extroverted person, transforming from someone who needed help to someone who provided it.

SUIS provided me a wonderful platform to develop my leadership. With everyone’s support, I founded the Tracker Project in grade 11 with a goal of helping people in need, in particular children with cerebral palsy. During my tenure as President, our team devoted more than 1000 hours to society. On weekends, we taught children with cerebral palsy different courses, cleaned up nursing homes for the elderly, and spent time with orphans. We raised nearly 7000 yuan for children with cerebral palsy, and donated more than 150 items of clothing and countless stationery to poor students in Diebu, Gansu Province from 2015 to 2017.

I also led an Innovation Club, another club I founded while at SUIS, where we designed special keyboards for children with cerebral palsy. In order to help them type like other children, we developed four keyboard models for them and donated two of them to a residential treatment center.

I also established a Cafeteria Committee, helping to successfully help the cafeteria service provider and students reach a mutual understanding by acting as a liaison between them. This role prepared me well for eventually coordinating communication between the cafeteria and students at University College!

I remember my Grade 10 planning teacher telling us that different students have different learning styles. We were given a set of ‘multiple intelligence’ test questions in order to help us understand what learning methods were most appropriate for each of us. After taking the test, I discovered that I was a visual learner, so my teacher suggested that I practice summarizing knowledge learned through tables or tree diagrams after each class to better learn new knowledge and skills. I followed his suggestion and began to study with the help of these tools, which in turn greatly improved my efficiency as a student. I worked hard to maintain this habit, which enabled a more thorough understanding of content learned and in the end brought me higher scores. SUIS encouraged me to explore the most effective learning methods for me, and this has been of great benefit.

All courses I participated in at SUIS had group assignments. Students were divided into several groups and each group chose its leader. The groups completed their projects through a feasible division of work and good cooperation. The assignments were in the form of posters, speeches, dances, and even dramas. I learned how to be a good team leader after studying at SUIS for three years. I figured out how to distribute tasks evenly and assign each task to the most suitable teammate. I also learned how to be a good team member. I always finished the tasks assigned by the team leader on time and provided constructive suggestions to the group. After commencing my studies at university, I was chosen as the team leader for nearly all group assignments due to the teamwork skills I developed at SUIS. I made action plans together with my teammates, strictly implemented them, carefully searched for relevant information, completed the assignments by a division of labor, repeatedly discussed and modified them, and designed creative ways to deliver them to audiences. When taking on the role of team leader, our team always received very high results.

I want to thank SUIS for giving me so many opportunities to develop my soft skills! They have benefited me a lot!


Words of encouragement

I would like to give three suggestions to current SUIS students: plan your time wisely, frequent your teachers’ offices, and decide your career direction as early as possible.

Every day before I go to bed, I list in a notebook all the things that need to be done the next day, and I then rank them according to their level of importance. The most important tasks will be arranged in the most efficient timeslots, and the less important ones will be completed in a fragmented time manner. Therefore, I make good use of my time. This good habit allowed me to earn a high GPA, participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities, and ensure at least seven hours of sleep every day.

I was a frequent visitor to the teachers’ offices at my high school and this habit has continued at university. If ever I didn’t understand something, I would go to the teacher’s office. Doing this not only allows me to have a deeper understanding of the material at hand, but also serves to build good relationships with teachers. I encourage you to visit your teachers’ offices more frequently.

Moreover, it is also important for you to determine your career direction – the earlier you decide, the more time you will have to prepare. I decided my career goal before I came to SUIS. I wanted to study business and become a successful entrepreneur in the future. Being admitted to the world’s top business schools requires rich extracurricular activities, so I had become actively engaged in various extracurricular activities since Grade 10. I established three clubs and was admitted to the best business school in Canada, with my rich extracurricular activities forming a big part of my application portfolio.

The skills we learned at SUIS brought me success after success. No matter how long it has been since we graduated, SUIS will always be ‘home’ to us. During the past three years, I have tried to maintain a WeChat group for all SUIS Jiaoke BC alumni who have entered the University of Toronto. The WeChat group not only provides a platform for SUIS alumni to communicate with each other, but also helps new U of T students get familiar with university life.

I’m really happy to hear that SUIS is preparing to build a platform for all the alumni! I hope you will fully support this project! At the same time, I suggest setting up an Alumni Association to bring together people with similar backgrounds and values like us. While recalling the wonderful SUIS campus life, we can also help each other in our lives and support each other in our careers.