Simon Wong is the founder of STEAM International Kindergarten (STEAM-IS), the only educational institute in Hong Kong that is affiliated to Nasa.
Wong comes from a family of horsemen and grew up around horses. “I often dream of being a jockey,” he says, “even to this day.”
“My grandfather worked for the Royal Hong Kong Jockey Club [back when it was still Royal] for over 40 years. He started out as a riding boy and went on to [become] an assistant trainer.” But that was as far as his grandfather could go without having had an education, Wong explains.
Wong’s father, on the other hand, started his career as a riding boy (a bronco rider) at a time when only a handful of Chinese riders were capable of filling this position. After 50 years on the job – and through a combination of luck and talent – his father became a successful horse trainer.
“Coming from [this] background, I was trained to be a jockey by my grandfather and [the rest of] my family.” Wong was also trained by his uncle, who took care of wushu film horses, at ShawStudios from the age of seven.
As fate would have it, Wong left Hong Kong for America with his family when he was 12 – effectively putting a stop to his dreams of becoming a jockey. “My connection with horses since I came back to Hong Kong is to ride as much and as often [as possible]. I started my training as a dressage rider a few years ago and hope to start my competition journey soon.”
To Wong, timing is everything. The sequence of events in his life – his return to Hong Kong; meeting his wife Winnie Young Yuen-yee (a former Miss Hong Kong); having children; and going into the education business – has led him to where he is today.
“My wife spearheaded the project as she saw there was a need for change in our Hong Kong traditional learning system,” Wong says. Inspired by a sister-in-law who is an ESL specialist programme developer and trainer for the American Education board, and a cousin who used to work for the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, an American federal research facility, the Wongs saw an opportunity to bring science-focused education to Hong Kong. Their efforts led to an exclusive partnership with the American space agency. Early evenings are a thing of the past now for Wong, due to the US-Hong Kong time difference.
Regardless of work commitments, Wong always puts his family first. He never misses dinner with his wife and children, and always puts the little ones to bed each night.
Wong’s father described punctuality as a way of showing respect to the other party. “I try to uphold what my father taught me, but with the Hong Kong traffic situation, one can never tell … I just try to do my best and not to disappoint.”