A Journey of Self-Discovery for an Aspiring Leader
The journey hasn’t always been smooth and easy for the 2015 Peter Mansbridge Youth Leadership Award winner Miguel Widjaja. It took Miguel a lot of hard work, a few mistakes and a level of risk-taking to get to where he is today.
Growing up in Indonesia, Miguel was no perfect child to his hard-working parents. As a rambunctious, fun-loving and thrill-seeking kid, he loved to play soccer and ride his bike down the mountains. School was the least of his concerns, and as his grades dropped, his future became the greatest concern for his parents. Wanting a better future for their children, Miguel’s parents moved the family from Jakarta to Vancouver when Miguel was ten. It was in this new life in a new country where Miguel realized he needed to do something about his life.
“The first few years in Canada was rough and there was a lot of stress at home. I began to see the sacrifice my parents had made for me and my sister,” said Miguel. “My mindset shifted. I became quieter and more docile, and I started paying attention to my grades.”
Junior Achievement played a part in changing Miguel’s mindset. In grade 5, Miguel took the JA Our Business World program led by a business volunteer who spoke Indonesian to him. The pen assembly activity sparked his interest in how things are put together and how business operates. He realized that in order to make something happen, people need to come together as a team.
Miguel gained his first taste of team leadership in grade 10 when he took a business course led by his teacher who used the JA Company Program in her curriculum. As VP Marketing of his student company, he looked forward to applying the marketing theories and skills he had learned. However, his biggest learning was in leadership.
“Leading is hard. It’s completely different from being just a team member. It forces you to branch out and take more risks – risks that are more intuitive than calculated,” said Miguel. “It’s also about goal-setting. If you align your goals with your team members, they will be motivated to work towards the goals together with you.”
Through his participation in JA programs and other business conferences, Miguel became passionate about social entrepreneurship. As he thought about himself and his future, he started to think about others. Having seen the poverty in his homeland Indonesia, he wanted to give back to the community. In grade 11, Miguel joined the JA Company Program for the second time, and this time, his company sold an innovative product – colour-changing pencils. For each pencil sold, one pencil would be sent to schools in Guatemala. In the end, his company made a profit and sent over 2,000 pencils to Guatemala.
In the midst of his busy schedule with school work and extracurricular activities, Miguel still managed to apply for awards and scholarships. In 2014, he received the JABC Award for Excellence and Leadership. In 2015, he received a personal phone call from Peter Mansbridge, CBC Chief Correspondent, congratulating him on winning the national Peter Mansbridge Youth Leadership Award. Miguel was both elated and humbled. His hard work had paid off.
In Fall 2015, Miguel began his studies in Commerce at Queens University in Kingston, Ontario. Looking back at his journey, he attributes much of his growth and self-discovery to JA. “JA has played a huge part in making me what I am today. They have shown me what the future could hold for me if I work hard and pursue my passion. I think every student should have the opportunity to learn and grow with Junior Achievement.”
“By leading, you’re inspiring a cause; you’re inspiring an opportunity; you’re inspiring people.”
– Miguel Widjaja