JinJin Yuan ’15

JinJin Yuan

Hometown: Bellevue, WA
Exercise Science

After graduation from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. To satisfy my parents, I enrolled in a community college in pursuit of a Business major. The classes seemed monotonous to me, and my grades suffered as a result. It was difficult to imagine myself sitting at a desk working a 9-to-5 job wearing a suit and tie.

I was offered a job as a personal trainer, but was reluctant because I had never considered fitness as a potential career. But I accepted the job, figuring I would at least get a free gym membership. Then I discovered I enjoyed helping people ― and wanted to be better than the typical corporate gym trainer with no educational background other than basic online certification.

I began looking up schools with programs related to health and fitness. Considering all the schools that popped up on my Google search, I felt Seattle Pacific University was the best candidate, with high standards and expectations. For the first time in my life, I was actually excited to go to school. I quit my job at the health club and began taking classes to fulfill my direct transfer associate's degree so I could pursue a career in exercise science.

Enrolling in the Exercise Science program has definitely put me outside my comfort zone. I am continuously being challenged at a high level. This has been the hardest I have ever worked, but I love it. I am so appreciative for this opportunity to learn at such a high caliber and be surrounded by other people who are just as motivated. Dr. Cannavan has made a lasting impression on me. He’s the Washington state director of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and has countless other credentials, so I can ask him just about any question relating to human health and performance. He makes me realize the level at which I need to perform in order to be my best.

My faith has become so much more dynamic since my time at SPU. I’ve realized God has given me a strong healthy body and mind to pursue a career helping others improve their lives. I’m so blessed to have the opportunity to receive a great education. Through the stressful times of studying for exams, my faith holds me up with resilience, and I can see that the bigger picture of what I learn today can ultimately help save someone’s life tomorrow.

After graduation, I will most likely continue toward a master’s degree. I want to use my education to promote social change in my community. With the obesity epidemic becoming more prevalent, I want to provide education and accessibility to healthier living. In the Bellevue (Washington) School District where I live, 22 percent of the student body receives free or reduced-priced meals due to low income, and roughly 185 homeless students eat only when they are at school. Not only do I want to start programs that address these issues, but I also want to provide classes on how to prepare and cook cheap, healthy, and tasty foods for these kids — not just send them home with donated processed canned foods.

I would like to work with local farmers and the community to help facilitate donations of fresh foods to the low-income families. I believe in promoting self-sustaining environments that address the root of the problem and make social change versus just responding to the problem and waiting for it to happen again.

Zainab Gaal-Weber

Zainab Gaal-Weber’s Story

“When I was 13 years old, I was seriously hurt in Somalia and a nurse from Doctors Without Borders helped me. Because she was able to recognize the seriousness of my condition, she saved my life. Ever since then, I have wanted to become a nurse.”