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Improving the Lives of Korean Youth Through Outreach and Education

[Day #5] A Lifelong Passion for Service

A.A. Milne once wrote, “Sometimes, the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” A year and a half ago, I never would have imagined how much my experience interning at KKOOM would have changed my life. I had just finished my freshman year in college and the world was struck with COVID-19. Amongst many new changes and challenges in my life, I wanted to give love back to the community against all the worry and panic that had filled every home. “My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:12-13). What began as a volunteer effort to help children in need, for me, grew into a passion for service and a lifetime impact in my own education. 

KKOOM’s Executive Director Grace with KKOOM’s Intern Tae at Duke University where Tae is currently studying.

During my time at KKOOM, I helped in several projects ranging from financial organization to curriculum development for English conversational camps. I was new to the logistics behind volunteering since I was so used to always simply being on the volunteering end of service. I did not know how much time and work went into even making a non-profit organization such as KKOOM work, but each project I worked on gave me a better understanding of the nuances and delicateness of working with children in need. I grew a new appreciation for all of my own teachers and for everyone that has guided me to make me who I am today. 

One of my favorite experiences as a KKOOM intern was being a program developer and student mentor for the KKOOM/STAAR Academy Conversational Classes. Alongside Sara Park and Ryan Kwon, we mentored three high school students in practical English use amongst a variety of topics. This camp was a four week program in which we provided virtual tours of our respective university campuses and introduced English vocabulary to our students. In all honesty, despite all of the planning and prep work we put in for each and every class, I was nervous for each session. I wondered if the students would enjoy the class or if we could have prepared any better. I looked over our slides and discussed the material with my fellow mentors repeatedly. I did not want to disappoint these students. The moment the classes began, the nervousness washed away and was replaced by excitement. Thousands of miles apart, but I felt a connection growing within our small class. Each week, I learned more about the students than I ever hoped to teach them. I learned about their goals and dreams. I learned what their favorite hobbies were and what kinds of music they liked to listen to. I learned what life was like in their shoes. 

Some of the students from the STAAR Academy Conversational classes learning about Duke University’s campus through a virtual tour from KKOOM volunteers Sara and Tae.

“While we try to teach our children about life, our children teach us what life is all about.” – Angela Schwindt. I still wonder about the students that we worked with. How they are doing…how they are working towards their own dreams. They inspire me to want to do it all over again. 

My experiences at KKOOM have encouraged me to pursue an education minor at Duke University alongside my other studies. Ms. Lee has been and continues to be a great role model and mentor for me. She taught me the impact a teacher can have on the lives of their students when passion meets commitment and dedication. Hopefully, one day I can be such a teacher for another student!

– Tae Hoon Lee, KKOOM’s Intern

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