Grace Peng is Chemainus Secondary’s Governor General’s Academic Medal winner

Grace Peng finished high school with the highest cumulative grade point average for grades 11 and 12 at Chemainus Secondary School.

Grace Peng has been named as Chemainus Secondary School's recipient of the 2012 Governor General's Academic Medal.

Grace Peng has been named as Chemainus Secondary School's recipient of the 2012 Governor General's Academic Medal.

Grace Peng has been named as Chemainus Secondary School (CSS)’s recipient of the 2012 Governor General’s Academic Medal (GGAM).

Peng, a first-year engineering student at the University of Alberta (U of A) in Edmonton, said her parents first informed her of “an award” she’d received in late September.

“I was thinking, ‘Oh, that’s nice, it’s a certificate or something,’” Peng said.

It wasn’t until she spoke with Sian Peterson, her former principal at CSS, in October that Peng realized she’d won a GGAM.

“I was blown away by it,” added Peng. “This is a whole different class of award we’re talking about.”

Peng, in turn, explained the significance of the award to her parents who “were bursting with pride” as a result.

Peng couldn’t recall her grade point average (GPA) from high school — GGAMs are awarded to one student at every secondary school in the country based on their cumulative GPA for grades 11 and 12 — but she admitted to being an “A-plus student” motivated by a longstanding, amicable rivalry with a fellow classmate.

“It was that friendly competition that really helped push me to attain the best of my academic ability,” Peng added.

Peng set her sights on an engineering degree from the U of A for several reasons.

Job prospects factored heavily into her decision.

“U of A is one of the premier schools in Western Canada for engineering,” said Peng. “There’s millions and millions of dollars coming from these companies for research, for building new buildings, for increasing the size of their libraries. I’m looking for an opportunity to get into the job market, and U of A is where I’ll find it.”

A former teacher of Peng’s played a pivotal role in her decision to attend the U of A, too.

“Mr. Henry was one of my most favourite professors ever,” Peng said.

Gord Henry, a former math teacher at CSS who now teaches at Cowichan High School, graduated from the U of A, Peng said.

Unlike the majority of people who eschew higher math, Henry made teaching it his métier.

“He really loved math in a world where people tried to stay away from math as far as possible,” said Peng. “You know, they try to distance themselves from inverse sin functions and curves and third derivatives. He embraced it wholeheartedly and he tried his best to find interactive ways to engage students. We made music videos, and we danced in the halls and we made posters and it was great.”

The defining factor influencing Peng’s decision to study at U of A, however, was her father’s ties to her current school.

“My dad took his master’s of electrical engineering at U of A,” Peng said, “and my dad’s always talking about his old school and the golden memories from his time there. That’s as clear a foot in the door as I could ever have.”

Peng’s father, Dale, grew up in Taiyuan, the capital of northern China’s Shanxi province. He immigrated to the U.S. in 1985 to attend the biophysics program at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. A year later, Dale said he approached his supervisor to express his interest in pursuing a master’s degree. His supervisor called an associate at the U of A “right in front of him” and Dale Peng was accepted on the spot. He applied for his visa, booked his flight and soon found himself in Edmonton.

Dale completed his master’s in 1987 and remained at the U of A to pursue a PhD in physics and digital communications, but a “life changing event” distracted him from his work and he left the program in 1990. He “gradually shifted into construction,” Dale said, and now oversees small-scale real-estate developments in Chemainus and Duncan.

Grace’s parents were “very, very excited” by the news of her award, Dale said, adding that “she won quite a few other awards, but this one was the highlight.”

A GGAM isn’t accompanied by a scholarship, Grace said, but tuition won’t be a concern of hers for her first two or three years of study; she’s received several awards from Chemainus institutions alongside a scholarship from the U of A itself.

“The generosity of the local donors who set aside these bursary and scholarship funds for us is amazing,” Peng added.

Peng plans to work for a pharmaceutical company for a few years once she’s completed a bachelor of chemical engineering.

“That’s actually what my uncle’s doing in the Netherlands right now,” she added.

Peng’s ambitions aren’t limited to synthesizing novel pharmaceutical compounds, however.

“This one’s going to leave a couple of people scratching their heads,” Peng said. “My dream job? To be a business lawyer.”

Peng said she hopes to pursue a law degree after spending a couple of years working as an engineer with her final goal being that of a mediator in dispute resolution.

In the interim, she’ll make the most of the cold, dark winters Prairie provinces are famous for.

“I’ve never been in an Edmonton winter before,” Peng said. “When it snows, it becomes almost blizzard-like, but it’s very beautiful. I love it.”

Peng has yet to receive her medal. Peterson said Peng will be awarded the medal in mid-February when she returns home for her spring reading break.

Just Posted

(File photo)
Poverty reduction survey identifies 10 poverty themes

Poverty reduction plan will be finalized in July 2021

Nanaimo-Ladysmith MP Paul Manly says he has no intentions of leaving the Green Party. (House of Commons image)
Island Green MPs have “no intention” of leaving the party after ‘heartbreaking’ departure

Manly, May only remaining Green MPs after Jenica Atwin left for the Liberals over internal disputes

New COVID-19 cases on Vancouver Island by local health area for the week of May 30-June 5. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control image)
COVID-19 cases drop again almost everywhere on Vancouver Island

Nanaimo had four new cases last week, down from 22 the week before

Justine Keefer’s Cedar Elementary School Grade 6/7 class put together a student paper, as part of a school project. Pictured here Andrew Gregory, left, Felix Leduc, Addison Armstrong, Lucia Walker and Anise Dick. (Karl Yu/News Bulletin)
Cedar Elementary School students create their own newspaper

Grade 6/7 class publishes Wolf Pack News as part of language arts and social studies

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau participates in a plenary session at the G7 Summit in Carbis Bay, England on Friday June 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada donating 13M surplus COVID-19 vaccine doses to poor countries

Trudeau says the government will pay for 87 million shots to be distributed to poor countries

David and Collet Stephan leave for a break during an appeal hearing in Calgary on Thursday, March 9, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Todd Korol
Appeal Court rejects stay for Alberta couple facing third trial in son’s death

Pair accused in their earlier trials of not seeking medical attention for their son sooner

Highway notices like this come down effective June 14. Public health restrictions on non-essential travel and commercial operation have hit local businesses in every corner of B.C. (B.C. government)
Province-wide travel back on in B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan

Gathering changes include up to 50 people for outdoor events

Calgary Stampeders’ Jerome Messam leaps over a tackle during second half CFL western semifinal football action in Calgary, Sunday, Nov. 15, 2015.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
CFL football will be played this summer in Canada

Governors vote unanimously in favour to start the ‘21 campaign on Aug. 5

Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino holds a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Nov. 12, 2020. The federal government is announcing that Indigenous people can now apply to reclaim their names on passports and other government documents. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Indigenous people can now reclaim traditional names on their passports and other ID

Announcement applies to all individuals of First Nations, Inuit and Métis background

Harvesting hay in the Fraser Valley. (Tom Fletcher/Black Press)
COVID-19: B.C. waives farm income requirement for a second year

Property owners don’t need minimum income for 2022 taxes

A view of the outside of St. Andrews Roman Catholic Cathedral on Victoria’s Blanshard Street. (Don Denton/News staff)
Vancouver Island bishop apologizes for church’s role in residential schools

Bishop Gary Gordon of the Diocese of Victoria voices commitment to healing and reconciliation

Cruise ship passengers arrive at Juneau, Alaska in 2018. Cruise lines have begun booking passengers for trips from Seattle to Alaska as early as this July, bypassing B.C. ports that are not allowed to have visitors until March 2022 under a Canadian COVID-19 restrictions. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire)
B.C. doesn’t depend on U.S. law to attract cruise ships, Horgan says

Provinces to get update next week on Canada’s border closure

Most Read