"Because when you love something, you want to do it all the time, even if no one is paying for it. At least that's how I felt about drawing." -- Meg Cabot, "All-American Girl"
Courtney Timmons is going to Okinawa in October. "That's interesting," you say. "So ... who's Courtney?"
She wasn't the student body president of College Park, the high school she attended. She didn't star in basketball or track or letter in any team sport in high school for that matter.
She didn't go on to Harvard or MIT. And she didn't become a star or make the cover page of a national magazine.
So what makes her so special?
Courtney is a bright 23-year-old who was born in Walnut Creek and has resided in Contra Costa County all but four years of her young life.
She enjoyed a normal childhood as the older of two daughters raised by loving parents.
When she was a preschooler, Courtney wanted to be a marine biologist.
While other girls played with dolls, she enjoyed watching the fishes and other sea life in her aquarium at home.
Courtney divulges that she aspired for a long time to become a dolphin trainer, and although she never got that opportunity, it remains one of her unfulfilled dreams.
As a high school student, Courtney volunteered at a nearby day camp working with disabled kids for several years, and earned the lasting praise of her director and mentor, Maureen Valley, with whom she remains in close contact.
Following high school, Courtney enrolled at Diablo Valley College as she felt she wasn't ready to tackle a four-year college just yet, especially without a specific major in mind.
She eventually chose veterinary medicine because of her love of animals.
In preparing her next move, Courtney and her mother read up on dozens of colleges and universities around the country before settling on the University of Findlay.
Never heard of Findlay?
Findlay is a private university founded in 1882 located, appropriately, in Findlay, Ohio.
Regarded as one of the leading academic schools in Ohio, it is known for its innovative programs such as preveterinary medicine and health.
Courtney flew back to Ohio to look over the campus and was immediately smitten. It was exactly what she'd hoped for, a high standard school with an enrollment of 4,200 students.
Encouraged to follow her dream by her mentor Valley, she returned to Findlay and registered as a pre-vet student.
But after a couple years, she had a change of heart. Although she enjoyed her classes, she developed uncertainties about working in the hospital and, in particular, the thought of having to endure euthanizing animals.
Courtney switched majors to biology and opted to study zoanthids genetics, which comes as no surprise because of her lifelong love of marine life.
I won't attempt to explain what her study entails except to say it relates to coral.
Based on the impressive research completed by Courtney and her roommate, who was also involved in a similar project, their adviser contacted Dr. James Reimer, associate professor at the University of the Ryukyus in Japan, renowned for his extensive work with zoanthids.
He extended an invitation to both students to continue their research and study in Okinawa and to work for him. Courtney and her roommate plan to leave for Japan in October.
If all goes well -- and there is no reason to believe it won't -- she will earn her master's degree and in another year or so her doctorate.
And I'm certain the work she and her roommate produce will benefit sea life a hundred fold.
Heinous crimes young people commit make headlines and capture the interest of most readers.
It's unfortunate the same doesn't apply to the Courtneys who are much more deserving of public recognition.
Courtney may not think so, but she is special!
Eizo Kobayashi is a Concord resident and a member of the Concord Senior Citizens Club. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.