Chen and Friend: ‘Different’ Can Be an Edge

Jalee Kate Fuselier, Miss Hawaii 2010, says get ready for “the real world” by helping others.
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Jalee Kate Fuselier, Miss Hawaii 2010, says get ready for “the real world” by helping others.

BY J. ARTHUR RATH III This is part of a series of articles on education and job development, point-and-counterpoint style, with high-achieving perspectives from Eric Chen and me, J. Arthur Rath.

Chen: Have you ever not tried something because you thought  you wouldn’t succeed?


Rath: As a small kid I was taught: “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try again.”  Such exuberance became wariness once I began recognizing limitations–instead of finding ways to overcome them. But I’m back applying a small kid  philosophy because I’ve been inspired by what our readers will see here.

Chen: Fear of uncertainty causes some to back off. I spent this week reconnecting with law school classmates. Some are prosecutors on the fast track towards becoming judges, senators, and such.  To a certain extent, I live vicariously through their experiences.  There’s a bit of truth to every episode of the television show, “Law and Order. “

I asked my prosecutor friends how they decided which cases  to try in the courts, which cases to settle, and which cases to decline.  They said they are graded on their “success rate” – which, in this case, is the conviction rate.  There is an incentive for them not to take a case to trial unless they think they can win.

Rath:        Taking chances because you believe in something  builds character.

Chen: I agree.  In the Weekend College we have students who are of non-traditional age. Anne, for example, is in her late 40’s. She is finishing her bachelor’s degree now because she never had a chance to do so when she was busy raising her three  children.

Rath: There are no limitations for students who want to get ahead.

Chen: True, but it takes resolution; the non-conventional student must have ability to conquer their fears. Anne told me of them before she enrolled.  She said that it’s been a long time since she was in school and that she was afraid that she might not cut it in the classroom.

Rath:        What did you say?

Chen: I told Anne that her activities of the past 20 years were likely more challenging than what she would experience in the classroom.

Rath: What had Anne been doing?

Chen: She was a stay-at-home mom, taking care of her three children.  Anne also told me of her fear of being the oldest person in the classroom.

Rath: And your response?

Chen: I introduced her to Debra, who was in her 50’s.  Debra started working right out of high school to help support her family.  Earning a bachelor’s degree was always something that she wanted, but she never found the time, given the direction her career was taking.  She is now manager of operations at a Fortune 500 company, she’ll plans to acquire another degree to increase her chances for a promotion.

By the way, both Anne and Debra graduated this year, with honors.

Rath: I want to tell you an inspiring story of another student who was “different”, motivated, and has also achieved  honors. Jalee Kate Fuselier, the new Miss Hawaii, was schooled at home and made the world her learning center.  Jalee says her younger sister Janee, who has cerebral palsy, is her inspiration. She describes why:

“Janee has turned her disability into an ABILITY, she volunteers daily for an organization with which I am affiliated  called ‘Ready for the Real World.’ It rewards community service achievement. My sister brings cheer by giving back to others.”

Left to right, Jalee's mother Janet Fuselier, and Jalee's sister, the inspiring Janee.

Jalee graduated Magna Cum Laude from Hawaii Pacific University with a degree in International Relations and will seek a masters degree, specializing in family counseling.

She told me, “Home schooling gave me the self-discipline and time-management skills to do very well in college. As a home-schooled student I had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders to keep up my work and motivate myself. When I went to HPU, I found additional motivation from teachers was a further boost.”

Jalee lives in Haleiwa on Oahu’s North Shore, she’s volunteered to help disabled children at the Shriner’s Hospital,and went on tour with the “Music with a Message” group.  She spent three summers touring Europe and Africa with teen missions. In 2005 Jalee won title of Hawaii’s Outstanding Teen.

She explained, “The discipline of home schooling helped foster my inner drive.  I am constantly learning and am motivated to make things happen. I can see how these skills will help me in the new job of Miss Hawaii.”

Chen: We’ve described three inspiring self-motivated achievers. Next, we’ll discuss overcoming the fears of failure that may seem inhibiting.

Chen and Friend appears every two weeks in Hawaii Reporter. Contact J. Arthur Rath III, Hawaii-based writer at