High school is, for every student, all about balance. It is a mix of highs, says Classics Teacher and Director of Residential Life Erin Duffy, and the normal “trials and tribulations” that come with being a teenager. Navigating it can be hard. Imagine, then, doing it 8,000 miles from home. Yuk Sum Chan ’21, is doing just that, and he is grateful to have Ms. Duffy as his guide.
New Taft students are assigned temporary advisors. Ms. Duffy was Yuk Sum’s; she was also his Latin teacher. Yuk Sum thought she was a great teacher and enjoyed their regular meetings so much that he asked her to become his permanent advisor.
“I felt like Ms. Duffy really cared about me as a person, not just as a student,” says Yuk Sum. “She was as interested in my activities and feelings and health as she was in my grades in Latin. I really appreciated that degree of care, and valued the bond we were forming.”
Yuk Sum has enjoyed tremendous success at Taft. He is a high-honors student carrying six courses, three at the AP level. He writes for The Pap, is working toward a Global Studies and Service diploma, and competes on the cross country, wrestling, and track teams. Still, there have been a few personal goals that have fallen just short of his grasp.
“There were a couple of votes that did not go my way, and other small disappointments,” says Yuk Sum. “Each time, Ms. Duffy has said the same thing to me: You don’t need to have the title to serve. You don’t need to have the title to be a leader in the dorm. You don’t need to be the captain to be a leader on a team. And you don’t always get a big shiny medal for doing your duty. But you just keep doing it. That’s what’s right. That’s what matters. That’s what truly makes you a leader.”
Yuk Sum has taken that advice to heart, finding new ways to challenge himself while making a difference in the community.
“I think I’ve grown quite a lot—remarkably, my parents would say—into a better person,” Yuk Sum says. “I definitely feel like I’m a kinder, more generous person than I was when I first arrived at Taft as a freshman. And I think a very good amount of that I can attribute to Ms. Duffy.”
Duffy has learned from Yuk Sum, as well. They talk about his home in Hong Kong, his family, and the politics of the region. She marvels at his resilience, and at the “effortlessness” with which he manages the many demands of life at Taft. She is proud of the shared values that have strengthened their bond, and is grateful to be a part of his Taft journey.
“You never know who you are going to impact and be impacted by at a place like Taft,” says Duffy. “We are, on the surface, quite different. But our values are very much the same: We both value family, we both value hard work, we both value honesty. That has allowed us to establish a bond built on trust and respect. And that’s super cool.”