Charlene Lee, a senior majoring in English education from Pasig City, Philippines, expresses her heartfelt gratitude to her Heavenly Father and dream school (soon alma mater), Brigham Young University–Hawaii.
From Homeschooling to Higher Learning
Growing up as the daughter of two BYUH alums Lee would often hear stories about her parents’ fun and enlightening experiences at the university. Those stories, along with their example, inspired her to enroll in BYU–Hawaii. Hoping to feel adventures akin to her parents’ enjoyment in balancing schoolwork and leisure time, this encouraged her to pursue education while developing a feeling of “high love and high expectations.”
Initially raised throughout the United States before her family settled back in the Philippines, Lee was mostly homeschooled in her early teens, and that resulted in her having a unique relationship with the Church and that resulted in her cherishing the relationships she made. She shares, “Most of my life was basically either Church or home. All my friends were fellow Church members.” This combination of learning with an influence from the Church motivated her to seek out a similar experience at BYU–Hawaii.
A Definite Version of Herself
Lee found her four-year tenure in BYU–Hawaii to be difficult but extremely rewarding. She explains, “This school perfectly reflects the ideal way to ‘live life.’ Our schedules are often filled with study and work, but the rich aura of socializing here makes up for it. We have a lot of fun either hanging out or going to the beach, even both.” Lee credits the institution for bringing her a sense of belonging that exponentially increased her expectations of the school.
Lee’s journey at BYU–Hawaii has made her a more complete definitive version of herself. She shares some takeaways she learned, saying, “If we put the Lord first before anything else, everything falls into place. My heartfelt prayers and continuous application of the scriptures allowed me to not just ‘survive’ juggling work, studying, and extracurricular activities but also surprise myself in ways I’ve never ever expected in my life.”
Lee was also active in performing acts of service around the university, sharing, “Service helps keep me afloat. Taking part in clubs, magnifying Church callings, and volunteering for events in school allowed me to collaborate with and help others and learn from a multitude of experiences. I basically ‘entered to learn and went forth to serve.’” Lee also cautions about common perceived notions when serving, saying, “I think we should stop telling ourselves that we’re too busy to serve. It’s hard, but if we make time for serving, the Lord magnifies our time. The days will stretch on so we can finish the things we need to do. Also, just have fun while doing it.”
A Deep Appreciation for Mentorship
Lee expresses her heartfelt gratitude to her mentor, Keni Reid, acknowledging his profound impact on her growth and development. She shares, “He’s one of my longest managers here at my job who embodies Christlike leadership. He’s always empathetic and trusting. He believed in my capabilities, fostering my growth through accountability and trust. He actively listens and guides me during tough times and teaches me invaluable lessons about the organization and the gospel of Jesus Christ. He shaped me into the worker I aspire to be."
Lee also credits Dr. Caryn Lesuma for illuminating her on the power of community and empathy, saying, “She stands out as one of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had. Her respect for students and never ending belief that there's always something new to learn from us created an equal ground for discussions. We learned together, fostering a mutual exchange of knowledge. Her teaching style taught me the awesome impact of books, reading, and writing on understanding people's lives better."
Parting Advice and Her Path Forward
In sharing some parting advice to current BYUH students, Lee shares, “Prioritize the Lord first. Then, the people. Then, learning,” exemplifying God’s first two great commandments: to love Him and then love our neighbor as ourselves. She adds, “Never believe the adversary’s words that you’re not enough. Always remember he can never stop you from fulfilling your maximum potential.”
Charlene Lee's time at BYU–Hawaii has been a profound journey shaped by faith, mentorship, and a commitment to service. Her inspiring words reflect the essence of prioritizing faith, others, and personal potential, leaving a legacy that embodies the university's spirit of devotion, learning, and purposeful living.
As her academic adventure here at BYU–Hawaii ends, she shares her hopes for her future as she plans on starting a family and hopefully making Heavenly Father proud as she strives to live worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.