Leona Chen – Junior High Student, Mentor and Dreamer

Fremont, CA

I write, dance, and cheer on those around me. I think that true beauty comes from within, even though I fight daily battles with the mirror.

chen.leona7Who are you?

I am an optimist, perfectionist, and former society-named ugly duckling. Smiling is my favorite sport. Daydreaming is my best subject. I believe in finding timeless beauty in everyone, and that imagination is the key to happiness.

What do you do?

I’m an 8th grader in junior high. I’m an older sister, a friend, and a mentor to the kids’ performing group from the Fremont Taiwan Center.

In 5th grade, after every performance, my mom would tell me that I needed to smile more. I remember hating how she always picked on me. But I took her advice, and as the younger kids made their way into more and more shows, I became the one offstage, making silly faces to make them giggle. I made the mistakes, and they learned from them. Choreographing and teaching dance for them was one of the best experiences I had, because they trusted me. I wasn’t the scary, mean teacher. I was their “Leona 姐姐”, and that made our classes together a lot of fun, because they weren’t too shy to offer feedback. The greatest thing about being the oldest is that I became a role model, and they’re my motivation to do my best, because I don’t want to let them down.

I write, dance, and cheer on those around me. I think that true beauty comes from within, even though I fight daily battles with the mirror. I read books and get bossed around by my 妹妹 a lot. And one day, I’m going to defy everybody who told me that I wouldn’t get far in life.

Why are you proud to be of Taiwanese heritage?

When I was in 3rd grade, my mom enrolled me in the Fremont Taiwan School. Back then, being Taiwanese American was an epiphany for me, and I loved being part of a community so energetic and passionate. As the years progressed, I became an MC for performances that promoted Taiwanese culture, and grew closer to my great big FTS family and my Taiwanese roots.

And I’m not going to lie, the food and night markets in Taiwan are pretty amazing.

It’s lovely to come back from a vacation with a suitcase full of cool things.

“Where’d you get that?” “Taiwan.” “Lucky!”

What does the future of Taiwanese America look like to you?

I see Taiwanese Americans being proud of their identity, educated on their culture, and secure in who they are. I see “Taiwanese American” becoming an internationally familiar concept. Maybe one day the old question will pop up again: “Are you Chinese? Filipino? Japanese? Korean?” Instead of being exasperated, I see Taiwanese Americans willing to share their ethnic background, and someday, we won’t have to explain.

Any additional information you would like to share?

7-Eleven in Taiwan is the best, end of discussion.

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2 Responses to “Leona Chen – Junior High Student, Mentor and Dreamer”

  1. Jenny Chung

    OMG IT’S MY HOMEGIRL LEONA <3
    aha, ur a total inspiration to me and my friends.
    you rock.

  2. I have seen this girl perform speeches numerous times, at typhoon fundraisers and our New Year celebrations. She is always very energetic, and her Mandarin and Taiwanese is impeccable. I think we will all see her on TV one day doing great things for our Taiwanese community. Jia You!

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