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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Bobie always “found a way” to succeed

Published: March 17, 2006
Section: Opinions

My mother is a homebound instructor, teaching kids who cannot go to school for some period of time. Her students have ranged from pregnant teens to threats to the community to cancer and other chronic illness patients to stabbing victims and beyond. Four years ago, she was teaching a seventh-grader with bone cancer at the Childrens Hospital of Pittsburgh, and his hospital roommate was an eighth-grader, also from our school district and also with bone cancer. (The seventh-grader, family friend Jon Houy, is no longer with us. He passed away at 15 in March 2005, succumbing to a disease that had already taken one of his legs but that had not kept him from excelling as a student and wheelchair basketball player.)

My mother had been assigned to teach this young man, Bobie Chen Bao, as well;

however, due to paperwork issues she was never approved to teach him. The following school year, his ninth grade year, I found that Bobie was in my computer programming class. The teacher called his name, and as would happen many times that year, he was absent. Soon after, I finally saw this kid, a short, Asian boy with baldness stemming from his cancer therapy.

I spent a good bit of time with Bobie that year, his freshman year and my junior year, as we took two semesters of computer science together. Sure, he missed a lot of school getting cancer treatments, but when he was there we talked a lot, sometimes about school or just joking around, and sometimes about life or philosophy, two of his favorite topics. This Bobie was a thinker, to say nothing of his artistic and mathematical abilities and overall brilliance.

Whether it was his plan to become the first non-American born president, his thoughts on his biology class, or discussing religion of philosophy, there was rarely a dull moment with Bobie around. Overall, Bobie was just a really solid guy, a deep guy with wisdom beyond his years who could make you laugh or smile, or think, What the heck is he thinking?

He was determined to succeed in school and in lifecancer was not going to hold him down. He took just about the hardest possible schedule in school last year as a junior, with six honors or AP classes. He founded Gateway Highs Art Club and revived the Intra-School Activities Council to facilitate communication between school clubs and teams. He was a highly-respected member of the mock trial team and co-president of a community service club, not to mention his work spearheading a school-wide recycling program, despite the Environmental Clubs failure at implementing a similar program just a couple years before. Oh, and add to that load the ongoing Life Lessons class that he taught by example to those around him.
Needless to say, Bobie was no average Joe, or Bobby, for that matter.

Seventeen-year-old Bobie Bao passed away on January 25, 2006, but not before affecting a wide array of family, students, teachers, and other friends. Yale University had accepted him to its Class of 2010 in December. The acceptance was described best by guidance counselor Michael Gibson (as quoted in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette), Even though he seemed to know what loomed over the horizon, hed say, Weve just got to concentrate on getting into Yale, Mr. Gibson, and once he got that letter in December, I think he knew hed realized his lifes dream. Bobie left his friends and family with his art (, his web log (, and, most of all, the countless insights he provided over the short time he was with us. May Bobie teach all of us the lesson of boundless perseverance and strength to overcome even the toughest of obstacles. As he closed one of his last web journal entries, Even if it is not feasible, if it is within the realm of possibility, I will find a way as I always have.