Name: Nam Kyu Kang
Host Site: California State University, Bakersfield Fabrications Lab
Alma Mater: California State Polytechnic University, Pomona
Major: Political Science and Marketing Management
Background: My undergrad at Cal Poly Pomona (CPP) was one big emotional roller coaster, with loads of fond memories and regrets. Entering CPP with a major in social science, was a little embarrassing. Whenever I told people that I attend CPP, everyone assumed I was going to school for STEM-related major. However, CPP served to be the best school to complete my undergrad. Due to its smaller sized classes, I was able to make personal connections with all my professors. I got to know everyone in my graduating class, and make long lasting memories. I was able to get involved in my major, and became a member of our competitive Mock Trial Team. Mock Trial served a big role in my college career. Being a political science major, I thought I had to go into the law field. However, after competing in Mock Trial, I soon realized that being a lawyer was not for me. That experience eventually got me involved in student government at CPP.
Serving as the Secretary of External Affairs, I became the chair of our Lobby Corps. Every month, my lobby team and I would visit different Councilmen and Councilwomen to lobby on behalf of the CSU. In March, we went to Sacramento and lobbied at the State Capitol. My involvement in student government made me realize how much I loved advocating for higher education. My love for advocating for minorities and underrepresented population came from my fraternity. My fraternity, Chi Rho Omicron (XPO), opened my eyes to the importance of fighting for minorities. During Veterans’ Day, we would march 5 miles around Los Angeles, advocating for the rights for Filipino Veterans. There, I realized how as a minority in the States, I had a duty to advocate for my fellow peers. As a minority, I realized that it was difficult to have my voice be heard. Stereotyping is common in our society and breaking the societal norm has always been a challenge. I been fortunate enough to be in a position where I can have my voice be heard. I have the power to bring attention to the issues regarding the minorities and their struggles. I would not want to waste this opportunity, and I want to make the most out of it. I think that is what really empowers me to do what I do.
Why You Serve: I serve in AmeriCorps to pursue my passion in higher education and creating an equal platform for minorities. When someone belongs in a lower socio-economic class, they might not have an equal starting point to achieve their dreams. My goal is make sure everyone has an equal chance at pursuing their dreams and goals. After my experiences in college, I realized how much I loved advocating for higher education and advocating for minorities. When I first met Shannon Palka at CPP’s Career Fair, I was skeptical about joining the program. I wanted a full time job after graduating, making that 8-5 income with a 401K. But when I read the description for my position at Bakersfield, I could not turn down the offer. My passion to influence young minds to pursue a higher education really pushed me to take up this position. Like I mentioned previously, I believe that everyone deserves an equal shot at achieving their dreams. I believe that higher education is one of the solutions in helping them achieve it. When someone knows more, they are given more variables in life. They have the knowledge to determine what is good and beneficial to them. With education, someone could expand their path in life from just Path A and B to Path A, B, C, D, and F.
I grew up in Orange County thus the concept of poverty was just a myth to me. When one thinks of Orange County, they think of sunny beaches and the show The OC. Everyone there belongs in middle to upper class. The majority of the population have at least a four-bedroom house and two cars for household. Growing up, I never realized how privileged I was. I never faced hunger growing up. Three meals per day were provided, and I never struggled with money. I struggled with money in a sense that I did not have enough money to buy the new Xbox 360 when it first came out. I used to complain to my mom that I was the only kid in class who did not have the latest iPod Nano. When I left my Orange County bubble, I felt ashamed for how shallow my thoughts were. I did not have the concept of needs and wants until I left Orange County for college. Now that I am in a position to actually help those that are in need, I believe that it is my duty to help them.
Accomplishment: My year has just started, and I still have a lot of events planned for the future. However, I think the highlight of my year will probably be casting the Fab Lab onto live television to promote STEM related activities going on inside the lab. Through the Do the Math program, I was able to reach audiences that I could have never dreamt of. I realized that there are only so many people I can reach on foot and through email. Through this opportunity, the Fab Lab is now on YouTube and can reach thousands in Kern County.
Future Goals: The VISTA program helped me realize that I love working with students and I loved motivating them to pursue a higher education. With the connections I am making right here at Bakersfield, I decided that I want to pursue a career in teaching. I want to work with students at the elementary level. I love seeing their little eyes go big in that awed moment when they learn they can make their own circuits using just a simple copper tape and watch batteries. Kids in elementary schools are curious, and they want to learn. My dream is to satisfy all their hungers for learning. I want to show them that their potential to grow is unlimited, and I want to translate my passion in teaching into their passion to grow and learn.