West Roxbury, Mass.-- Ms. Leslye Porter remembers her last conversation with then-sophomore Bo Jiang before he left for summer vacation this past June.
“He asked me, ‘Can you help me sell my bike?’” said Ms. Porter, a member of the English Department at Catholic Memorial School.
His question, Ms. Porter remembered, sounded odd at first. After all, the two had discussed performing in triathlons during her English II course throughout that previous school year.
For the next three months, she wondered if he ever sold that bike. Then, in September, Bo answered her summer-long question when he returned to CM for his junior year with not just one, but two, triathlon medals from his summer vacation back home in China.
This summer, Bo, a West Roxbury resident, finished both triathlons, the Jurong Chishan Lake International Open Water Swimming Challenge and the Shanghai Triathlon, in less than three hours. His times at each event, impressive for a 14-year-old, shine brighter in the context of Bo’s childhood health issues.
“If you work hard everyday, then you’ll find success,” said Bo.
“It’s not always about the last test, it’s about the next one. That, to me, is the key to conquering any difficult challenge.”
Long before Bo arrived in West Roxbury through the Cambridge-based Campus Bridge program, Bo grew up in the city of Changzhou, in the Chinese province of Jiang Su, where he suffered from respiratory and diet issues beginning at the age of six-years-old. To combat his ailments, his father suggested that Bo pick up running as a sport.
For years, he committed himself to building stamina with every mile ran. Despite this training, Bo never considered himself much of runner, let alone one capable of completing a triathlon.
“No, I never thought it was something that I could possibly do at the time,” he said.
“It was too difficult for me.”
But still, he persisted.
When Bo arrived at CM for his freshman year of high school, he joined the CM freshman cross country and swimming teams and continued his regimen. He worked harder and harder at each practice. Even with his physical ailments turning into less of a burden, Bo still doubted his potential.
His sophomore year English teacher, Ms. Porter, helped him change his mindset.
When Bo took Ms. Porter’s British Literature course, she met Bo’s parents for the first time. During their meeting, Bo’s father explained his son’s devotion to running.
Ms. Porter, an avid runner with 13 marathons and several sprint triathlons on her resume, saw an immediate connection with her student.
“Running is a daily habit for me and doing some type of physical movement for at least an hour a day is a personal necessity,” said Ms. Porter.
Before and after class, Ms. Porter offered Bo tips on how to train and take better care of his body.
“We discussed healthy eating and the importance of the right ‘fuel,’ as well as allowing for rest and recovery days,” she said.
With the support of his father and Ms. Porter, Bo decided to sign up for the Jurong Chishan Lake and Shanghai triathlons that next summer. When he returned to CM for his junior year with two medals in hand, Ms. Porter saw a newfound sense of confidence in Bo.
“Bo works diligently in and out of school,” said Ms. Porter.
“He has proven that a mix of books and exercise are the keys to success.”
Today, Bo believes that his triathlon experience gave him the confidence to test his ambitions and follow his passions, even if he may fail in the process. This year, Bo wants to earn a spot on the varsity swimming team after spending last year on JV.
He also wants to participate in speech and debate and the robotics club.
Lucky for him, his role model, Ms. Porter, sees him every day during English III, the second straight year with her as his teacher.
“She’s always trying to improve herself day after day by keeping up with her running,” said Bo.
“I think, for me, I should challenge myself more and more, just like [Ms. Porter]. I’m still young. She’s taught me that nothing is impossible if you actually spend time putting the work into whatever it is you’re trying to do.”