Alahambra teenager Jonathan Sugianto is pursuing his dreams after he was fortunate enough to have survived a childhood diagnosis of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), a cancer of the white blood cells.
When he was eight years old, in 2003, Sugianto was diagnosed with ALL. Shortly after, he began a five-month treatment program that included chemotherapy, multiple operations, bone marrow transplants, blood transfusions, and various medications. After his cancer went into remission, he was released from the hospital in 2007 and was officially labeled a cancer survivor in 2008.
Sugianto first became interested in racing at age three, and one of the most inspiring events of his life happened when he was still diagnosed with cancer and Sugianto was granted his wish by the Make-A-Wish-Foundation to meet Jeff Gordon, a four time National Auto Sport Association (NASA) champion and professional stock car racing driver. This encounter fueled Sugianto’s passion.
From then on, Jonathan pursued his dream of becoming a professional racer by first riding go-karts in his spare time and then training during the summer to prepare for competitions. A typical weekly regimen consists of running the treadmill, cycling for long distances, swimming, and using a race car simulator for many hours. In addition to training during the summer, Jonathan takes advantage of his high school’s maximum absence period of up to ten school days each year to train in places such as Florida and North California.
To date, Sugianto has won three championships in go-karting. Now, he is old enough and has enough experience to drive in race cars and has moved on to driving a Formula 2000 car, establishing his personal best record by finishing in sixth place out of nearly 30 other drivers at the Virginia International Raceway in 2012.
In an interview with J Student Reporters, Sugianto said that his biggest priority when driving is to be aware of his surroundings.
“If you can’t see another driver or you misjudge a pass, it can spell disaster, and you can easily crash,” he explained, “so that’s my number one priority in driving.”
After graduating from high school, Jonathan plans to defer his college education for some time to focus on racing and endure a demanding schedule of training for future competitions such as the 2014 Skip Barber Formula Racing Series. His lifelong dream is to win the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race (Indy 500), part of the IndyCar series held annually at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Speedway, Indiana.
Reflecting on his fortune as a cancer survivor and his opportunity to chase his dreams of becoming a professional racer, Sugianto says that he has been exceptionally humbled.
“It gets better, [so] don’t give up,” Sugianto said when asked what advice he’d like to give his peers who are facing challenges.
He continued, “Just believe that you’re going to keep getting better.”