In English 11 in October, Mrs. Dani DeJong shared a collection of essays from National Public Radio’s program, “This I Believe.” She then challenged her students to write their own personal credo about a core principle that defines their life. The array of topics, concerns, and passions were as diverse as the students themselves.

The ACS Inside Out blog is excited to present the second in the series.


My Opa was an extremely hard worker. One of the hardest working persons I know. He doesn’t have the classic story of working up the ranks at the office or getting that new promotion. He has a much different story.

The Escape

When my Opa was six years old, he, his brother, and his mother had to flee from their small agricultural town in the Ukraine. World War II had begun, and Russia no longer wanted Mennonites in their country. Germany didn’t want them back, as they now saw Mennonites as spies. Stuck with nowhere to go, they fled, hoping to catch a train to get away and lead a new life. As you can imagine, this was a terrifying experience. My Opa and his family were running for their lives. Luckily enough, they reached the train station on the last possible day. The authorities were trying to prevent anyone from leaving the country, so my Opa’s family had to secretly run around to get on the train.

New Way of Life

They arrived in Canada and started a new life. My Great-Oma was a farmer and by working tirelessly on the farm, she provided for her two sons. Eventually my Great-Oma gave the farm to my Opa. He took what he was given and built from the ground up. He assembled a chicken and turkey empire. Later, he met my Oma, who coincidently was born in the same small town in Ukraine. Together, they grew, in farming and in their family.

My dad was the fourth and final child to be born to Abe and Katie. My dad, uncle, and aunts all grew up working on the farm, starting to collect eggs at the young age of six! My Opa worked hard to provide a good life for his family, and his hard work paid off. The last name Kampen became well known in the local agricultural community. After working hard for decades, my Opa retired as an exceptionally successful farmer. My dad, then, took over the family farm.

My Opa’s life story never fails to amaze me. At such a young age, he had to run away from home and come to an entirely new world. It would have been really easy for me to give up if I were in his situation, but he never did. He pursued and pushed through the tough times. He never failed to encourage me to try harder, whether it be in sports or school. He was an inspiration to me and proved that hard work is the key to success.