Kapolei Student Recognized For Inspiring Success

Representative Sharon E. Har

Representative Sharon E. Har

I was honored to present a certificate of recognition March 22 on behalf of the Hawaii State House of Representatives to Jennifer Wong, a junior from Kapolei High School.

Jennifer recently won first place overall at the 27th annual Leeward District Science and Engineering Fair.

As I learned more about Jennifer, I was not only astounded with her project, but emotionally moved by her triumph over personal adversity.

Jennifer comes from a very humble background. Her parents, both non-English speaking immigrants from Hong Kong, came to this country seeking a prosperous life for their children.

Immediately they faced the difficulties of a language barrier, which affected their economic and social status. Both parents carried minimum wage jobs and worked around the clock to support their two children. Family time was a rarity because of their work schedules, and even then, her parents stressed the importance of education, dedication and hard work.

Jennifer’s parents valued their Chinese culture and aimed to ensure it was never lost. As a child, Jennifer attended school and then traveled by bus with her father to Chinese school in Chinatown. She also learned to play the piano and took art classes, because her parents not only emphasized education but also the importance of becoming a well-rounded individual.

In 2006, at age 11, she experienced a devastating tragedy – she witnessed her father’s struggle with liver cancer. He suffered but courageously fought the disease, and eventually underwent surgery. Although his surgery was deemed successful, just one month later, he suddenly passed away.

The loss was heartbreaking and greatly affected Jennifer’s tight-knit family.

Rep. Sharon E. Har

Rep. Sharon E. Har presented Kapolei High student Jennifer Wong with a certificate of recognition on behalf of the state House of Representatives for her groundbreaking scientific research March 22. Wong placed first at the Leeward District Science and Engineering Fair, and currently is competing in the state fair. Pictured are (from left) Rep. Ty Cullen, Danxia Wong (mother), Jennifer Wong, Rep. Har and Vice Speaker Joey Manahan. Photo courtesy of Rep. Har's office.

Jennifer’s pain was exacerbated when less than one year after her father’s death, her brother lost his life in a motorcycle accident on Nimitz Highway.

I shudder when thinking of the grief and distress caused by the loss of a family member, but to lose both father and brother in such a short period of time is unthinkable.

Jennifer has experienced devastating loss, yet found strength from her personal losses. Her father’s cancer was the impetus for her science project. Moreover, her brother had always encouraged her to participate in science.

Jennifer’s winning study, “Human Hepatocellular Liver carcinoma cell line Hep-G2 cells: Inflammation response,” was inspired by her father’s death.

She will be moving on to the Hawaii State Science and Engineering Fair, which takes place April 2 to 4, and has automatically qualified for the International Science and Engineering Fair May 13 to 18 in Pittsburgh.

Jennifer’s research yielded – for the first time – a chemical precursor to Nonalcoholic Steatohepatitis (NASH), a common liver disease.

She found that high concentrations of palamatic acid found in those who are obese or early diabetics may serve as a sign to the onset of NASH.

This disease may damage the liver, lead to more severe chronic liver disease such as HCC or cirrhosis, or even cause liver failure.

Jennifer chose this project in memory of her

father and in hopes of assisting people with early identification prior to the onset of NASH.

Jennifer is truly an inspirational student, and we wish her the best at both the State and International Science and Engineering fairs.

She is one of our many second city spotlights!

Contact Rep. Sharon Har (Makakilo, Kapolei) at 586-8500.