by Jason Kim, corps member on The Comcast Team at Browne Education Campus
People often look at the shape of my eyes and the color of my skin and wonder about my origins. I used to hesitate when they asked. For the past 18 years, I’ve been constantly yanked out of the familiar and thrown into brand new worlds. Ask me to point out my hometown on a map and I would need more than a dozen fingers. From the sweltering Panorama City in California to the bustling capital of South Korea and everywhere in between, my life is characterized by the amalgamation of different cultures and ideas.
But whether I was attending Ranchito Avenue Elementary School or Seoul American Elementary School, one aspect of my life has always been constant: a persistent support system to push me along in my academic development, a perpetual reminder that to truly affect change in this world, one must always seek to improve him or herself. And that is what my journey into DC’s public schools was initially all about, self-improvement.
I graduated from La Canada High School and was admitted into the University of California Berkeley, but when I saw the words “give a year. change the world.” on the side of my computer screen, I stopped to consider the benefits of a service year. With three years of experience in tutoring, teaching was a career I was seriously considering. City Year seemed like the perfect way to get experience in the classroom. And funnily enough, I thought it would be refreshing break before I hit the books once more as a college student.
Fast forward a year and I stepped into my fifth grade math class at the Browne Education Campus. I opened the door and cringed as a blast of noise hit me. The teacher, a young man hurried over and shook my hand with an exasperated look. We introduced ourselves, and then, “see that table in the back?” He indicated a group of children with the lowest literacy levels, “I need you to help them understand the text.” With that, I was thrown into one of our country’s greatest challenges, the dropout crisis.
It was through this challenge that I met Steven. Amidst the chaos I often witnessed in the classrooms, Steven sat quietly at his desk, counting on his fingers, muttering numbers under his breath, and filling out his worksheets. I remember writing 10 simple one-digit addition problems on the board at the beginning of the year and watching him struggle through them in the five minutes I gave him. I remember correcting his answers later that night and setting my pen down in dismay. He answered two problems correctly.
But I pushed him. I made worksheets for him to complete every morning. For the next two months, my fingers were his to count on. I called his mother and tutored him an hour before school every morning, and now he can solve addition, subtraction, and multiplication problems.
My service year started out as a personal crusade, but now, whenever the alarm clock blares at 5:00am, I bolt out of bed to be that support system for students like Steven. To push him towards fulfilling his potential in the hopes that one day, when I am gone, he knows how to push himself.
So where am I from? My name is Jason Kim, I’m 18 years old, and I am from a strong household that constantly supports me in my academic pursuits. I am a proud City Year corps member serving on The Comcast Team at the Browne Education Campus, and I serve to replicate the environment I was provided as a child for all of my students.