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Julianne Woo

The goal of L.A. Unified is to provide students with the knowledge and skills to graduate prepared for college, career and life. As we near the end of the school year, we are featuring stories about some of the outstanding members of the Class of 2017.

Bound for UC San Diego this fall after graduating from Marshall Senior High, Julianne Woo is smart and savvy, with an ultra-sensitive heart and belief in the human capacity for kindness, empathy and caring.

In her ninth-grade history class, Woo became interested in the topic of “comfort women,” the girls and women whom the Imperial Japanese Army forced into prostitution during World War II. After doing research, she joined with the Korean American Forum of California in successfully petitioning the California Department of Education to incorporate the topic into the history curriculum for public schools.

“To see how you worked on a vision and to see it become a reality is amazing,” Woo said of her effort.

What began as a high school project has taken on a whole new meaning for Woo, who hopes to someday study in Korea. There, she wants to participate in a demonstration by the 200 former comfort women who are still alive from that dark period.

Woo’s advocacy for women’s rights is just one of the activities that helped make her years at Marshall a fulfilling experience. She also served as president of the school’s Habitat for Humanity chapter, overcoming her fear of heights as she re-roofed fixer-uppers in Glendale, Pasadena, Downey and Compton.

“It was  amazing how small tasks such as painting, planting trees, lining floor boards can bring a house back to life,” Woo said. “Everything comes together.”

She was tapped as president of the Math Club in her sophomore year because of her communication and organizational abilities – not her math skills. When it came to tackling difficult concepts, Woo turned to the math wizards in the club, whose selfless acts of help etched in her memory.

In her senior year, Woo served as editor in chief of the yearbook, an issue based on the theme, “Captain of our Soul.” Woo said the experience allowed her to appreciate the perseverance of classmates who didn’t let their hardships and challenges bring down them down or impede their future. She also learned the importance of collaboration and compromise and recognizing that “little details matter.”

Her role models include the graceful and compassionate former first lady Michelle Obama. She admires how she was one of the first to attend a magnet school in Chicago, received degrees from two Ivy League schools as a woman of color and she never forgot her roots. She also cares about the world. Woo follows the former first lady on twitter, as well as all her favorite politicians.

She doubly admires former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who grew up poor and worked hard. She knew what she wanted and is unafraid. She readily admires her persistence despite her two-time devastating presidential-bid loss. Woo respects how she keeps on fighting for what’s right and what she believes in. “I think that’s awesome.”

Woo has a younger sister, a junior at Downtown Business Magnet and has these words of wisdom to pass on to the next incoming class of freshman:

“Don’t be scared,” she said. “There are many opportunities to tailor to your interests and personality so you, too, can fit in. Have confidence in who you are and what you stand for, and you can advance confidently in the direction of your dreams.”