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Dublin High School Senior Wesley Wong on Supporting the Valley Children’s Museum

April 6, 2019

By Wendy Fukumaki (Interview by Michael Utsumi)

DUBLIN, CA–On May 31st, the largest graduating class in the history of Dublin High School will walk through their commencement ceremony. For many, it will be a time for celebration. For others, it will also include many moments of reflection. For one former John Green Elementary Gator, it will become a full-circle moment. It began with taking after-school classes with an emphasis in chemistry. This just furthered his interest in STEM related courses and a potential career in automation. We were introduced to DHS senior Wesley Wong by a proponent of the Valley Children’s Museum. We are pleased to share the progress of the VCM and to highlight Mr. Wong’s contributions.

VCM Exterior

As told by Wendy Fukumaki:

One of Dublin’s best kept secrets is the Valley Children’s Museum. Never heard of it? Well you’re not alone. Keep on reading so that you can be “in-the-know” and share it with others! Valley Children’s Museum (VCM) has been in existence for 18 years serving the Tri-Valley. It began with a group of dedicated parent volunteers who created hands-on learning activities and brought them into Tri-Valley classrooms. In 2007, VCM received the donation of a 53’ mobile classroom trailer which can accommodate up to 20 students plus teachers and facilitators. The trailer was originally created as a mobile classroom about the California Missions. Recently, through a donation from Sandia Labs, the trailer has now been converted into a Makerspace with the goal of offering creative STEAM play (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math). Walls have been outfitted with magnetic and LEGO panels and chalkboards, and new supplies have been installed for building, experimenting and creating. Let the “challenges” begin!

The Museum trailer is parked at Emerald Glen Park off Gleason Drive. From April through September it is open every Thursday during the Farmer’s Market. Throughout the year, it is open for Super Saturday which is every 3rd Saturday of the Month. The activities vary each month and are facilitated by high school volunteers and volunteers from the local chapters of the National Charity League.

Super Saturdays are sponsored by VCM’s Teen Leadership Council represented by students from Dublin High, Dougherty Valley High and Amador Valley High Schools. They create, promote and implement hands-on programming for children ages 3 – 10. Dublin High senior Wesley Wong (who is also President of the Dublin Youth Commission) is Secretary of the Council, and last year, junior Keerthana Sivakumar started Valley Children’s Museum Volunteer Club at Dublin High. Members of the DHS club consistently fill every volunteer shift, as well as provide offsite support.

According to VCM’s Volunteer Coordinator Linda Spencer, “The students are a mainstay of the creativity and successful implementation of our activities – their enthusiasm and energy keep our programs fresh and relevant. It is a win-win situation – we benefit from their leadership and they gain experience that will benefit them as they move into college and beyond.”

The Museum relies on donations and operates on a small budget, so it doesn’t do any paid advertising and instead relies on posting flyers at local businesses, emails to their mailing list and Facebook postings. That’s why it’s such a well-kept secret. However, the Museum is working now to change that. It is increasing its efforts to generate awareness of this resource to families while increasing its fundraising activities to expand current programs and for a future permanent state-of-the-art children’s museum.

Recently the City of Dublin donated land for a new permanent Valley Children’s Museum. This is an important step towards the Tri-Valley having its own children’s museum.

If you’re interested in getting involved there are numerous opportunities for volunteers and board positions. Please reach out to Wendy Fukamaki (wendy.valleychildrensmuseum@gmail.com).

To understand how the Valley Children’s Museum exposure nestled into his high school experience, we reached out to Wesley Wong to gain his insights.

OneDublin.org: Please explain what prompted your interest in becoming involved in the Dublin Youth Commission. (YAC)

DSC_0199Wesley Wong:Having moved to Dublin from a very young age, who I am today has been molded by my time here. I wanted to be involved in Dublin’s Youth Advisory Committee as I saw it as an avenue where I could give back to the community that I grew up in. Having lived here for over 16 years, I have experienced first-hand the rapid expansion of housing and population that Dublin has gone through. Due to these increases in population, I have seen the number of students attending Dublin schools skyrocket. When I first made the decision to join the committee, I believed that these increases in student population could lead to increased competition for scarce resources and a subsequent increase in the overall stress level of the student body. As a member of the Youth Advisory Committee, I sought to address the issue of stress. One way the committee pursued this problem was through the implementation of a stress management workshop that we ran at the Tri-Valley Teen Job and Career Fair, where one of the activities was teaching students how to make their own stress balls from balloons and flour.

“Another reason that drove me to join the Youth Advisory Committee was that I felt that I could contribute more to the community through the different programs that we ran as a committee than the work that I could put in as a single volunteer. Throughout the year, a focus of the YAC is to fundraise during city events for the Youth mini-grant and the youth fee assistance fund. The youth mini-grant is a program for which we review applications to and allocate funds towards projects and groups we felt could impact our community the most. The Fee Assistance Program provides eligible Dublin youth and seniors financial assistance to participate in City-sponsored recreation programs. This allows both children and seniors the opportunity to have quality recreational experiences that may not be possible without assistance.”

OneDublin.org: As an advocate and leader of the Valley Children’s Museum, please describe some of the ascending responsibilities that you’ve taken on to keep the organization moving forward with your peers.

Wong:Although the teen council at the Valley Children’s Museum is relatively new at just over two years old, we are fortunate to have a distribution of members that is not too heavily concentrated in a single class. Additionally, the creation of a Valley Children’s Museum centered club at Dublin High School allows the council to recruit new volunteers and find potential recruits based off the frequency of which the members come to volunteer for events. As I am currently one of the only members on the council who have a STEM background, I would also like to introduce more students from the engineering academy at DHS to volunteering at the museum so that they can one day continue furthering the STEM initiative started at the museum. The type of student that we are looking to serve on the council is one who demonstrates a commitment to the cause of VCM, “play-based learning” and is willing to devote their time to organizing and running events put on by the council.”

OneDublin.org: You have received great experiences as an Engineering Academy student at Dublin High School.  Yet, many of your “clients” at Super Saturdays are young people (ages 3-10). What has your mentoring process taught you?

DSC_0178

Wong: My experience working with elementary aged children during various events has truly been eye-opening. It has both lead me to realize how as time progresses, children seem to be getting progressively smarter, as well as having brought me to remember how I was introduced to the concept of STEM being a career path. When I was the age of the children that I work with at the museum, I had little to no knowledge of engineering and technology, however, as they have grown up with devices and access to unlimited information from sites such as Youtube, the children of today are smarter than I could have ever imagined. The way that I approached my interactions with the children at the museum so that they would both have fun and learn was at first a challenge, especially as I was competing with the allure of popular games such as Fortnite and Brawl Stars.

“This prompted me to reflect on the many activities and demonstrations that I found to be most interesting over the years in the engineering academy, AP Chemistry, Biology, and Physics. Remembering the awe that captivated my young self as I saw basic chemical reactions and simple machines, I was inspired to implement similar activities in our Super Saturday Events, including classics such as baking soda and vinegar reactions, as well as the egg drop and marshmallow toothpick tower building challenges. Growing up, I was lucky to have been exposed to such experiences that were a part of inspiring me to explore STEM as a career pathway, and through my efforts at VCM, am doing my part in doing that for the next generation of STEM professionals.”

OneDublin.org: Your time as a DUSD student is quickly coming to a close – and your regular association with VCM.  What would you recommend to younger students and encourage to fellow DHS Gaels about the value of supporting the Valley Children’s Museum?

Wong:If you have not already, definitely look into volunteering for an event with the Valley Children’s Museum. It is through such interactions with children that we are able to inspire the next generation of engineers, artists, doctors, etc. Without programs such as VCM and the engineering academy, I would not have discovered my love for hands-on crafts and engineering as soon as I did. With the nearest children’s museums being in Oakland, San Jose, and San Francisco, a children’s museum such as VCM is a vital asset to a community and serves as the children’s museum of the Tri-Valley area. Supporting VCM both in its venture to establish a permanent location while also helping to maintain its presence in the community throughout the year in the form of Super Saturday events are the things that we as a community could do to improve Dublin. Although many of you are probably busy with schoolwork and many extracurriculars, something small yet impactful you can do to help is to simply tell others about the existence of the museum so that more members of our community are aware of our presence and impact.”

OneDublin.org: As a graduating senior, please describe your post high school prospects, your college options and what you plan to achieve in the future.

Wong:As of now, I am interested in pursuing mechanical engineering and robotics during my time in college. After attaining an undergraduate degree, I am looking into several different options, including getting a master’s degree, an MBA, or directly entering the workforce. As for my longer-term career goals, I hope to make contributions in the realm of assisstive technologies, as well as continuing to work in STEM education through a part-time teaching position. As the college application process has come to an end, I am weighing my different options for the next four years, for which my family and I have narrowed down to either Yale University or UC Berkeley. Personally, I am leaning more towards going to Yale for the next four years, even though it may mean that I would have to take out a bit more in student loans, as I find the flexibility presented by the ability to take courses in a wide range of majors and try out interests that I otherwise may not have been able to explore in a public university well worth the additional investment. Also, having lived in California my whole life, I believe that it would be interesting to step foot out of my comfort zone for a couple of years.”

OneDublin.org: Anything else that you would like to add?

Wong:The future will definitely be heavily based on automation, which will lead to significant job loss and a shift of employment to educated and STEM-focused individuals. Potentially going into the field of automation myself, I believe that we should take on responsibility for the potential consequences of our technological advancement on society. One way that the effects could be alleviated would be through the early introduction of STEM careers and pathways just as we have attempted to integrate into the Valley Children’s Museum’s activities.”

For certain, a full-circle moment. And, an affirmation that many of our youths will serve as ambassadors from the Tri-Valley. OneDublin.org would like to thank Wendy Fukumaki for contributing this profile and to Wesley Wong for sharing his experiences and aspirations.

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