Written By Nam Kang, CSU STEM VISTA Member 2016-17 CSU Bakersfield, Fabrication Laboratory
We all wonder which kind of journey our life will take us on, where will we will be, and what we will be doing in the future. Like everyone else, I have been on that journey, unsure of what my future holds. Then one day, I wandered down a path that helped me realize what my future will look like.
I have always enjoyed being a mentor to others. Perhaps, it was the influence of great mentors that I have been blessed with in my life, or how easily I can connect with others. But my passion for becoming a great mentor has always been inside of me. Thus, wanting to pursue a career in teaching came naturally for me.
Of course, there are no journeys without roadblocks, and my main roadblock was my parents. Most of the men on my dad’s side of the family are in the professions of law or government. So naturally, my dad wanted me to pursue a career in law. A teaching profession in traditional, Korean culture, was a career for women. While that may not necessarily be the case today, my dad still frowned upon his eldest son wanting to pursue a career in teaching. The pressure to become a lawyer weighed heavily on my shoulders throughout high school. I was never the brightest student in any of my classes. To sit down and reading a book was uncomfortable for me. I always excelled in extracurricular activities, such as student government. Promoting ideas, and actively engaging with my peers were always my strongest skills. I especially loved activities where I could facilitate a group of students to come up with a unique, and different ideas. Since my parents discouraged me from pursuing a career in teaching, I decided to pursue my higher education in student leadership development, in hopes of becoming an activities director. But, that dream came to end, when I got accepted into Cal Poly Pomona, as a Political Science major. While it was a disappointing start to a new journey, little did I know, when one window closes, another sure does open itself to you.
Being a political science major, I actively got involved with political affairs at Cal Poly Pomona. I became an advocate for higher education at local, and state level government, and it only further fueled my passion for teaching. The majority of my political involvement at Cal Poly Pomona focused on providing equal educational opportunities for future CSU students. I realized then, I could not escape my passion for teaching. However, as my college career was slowly coming to an end, my dad’s pressure for me to go to law school only got more intense. I was lost, not knowing what to do. I was never passionate about my classes, as I had no real desire to pursue a career in criminal, or civic law. I never got stellar grades in any of those courses, and my grades reflected my lack of passion in those classes. While my grades were excellent in public administration, and public policy courses, it could not make up for my overall GPA. I did not have the grades, or the passion to get into a law school. Then, out of the blue, a window of opportunity revealed itself. I went all in, into the window.
Using the excuses of, wanting to take a break from school, and doing some good community work, I took my chances in AmeriCorps. While serving as a member of the CSU STEM VISTA, I was able to work with students of all age groups. I was exposed to the hands-on, in-classroom experiences, as I traveled throughout Kern County, providing STEM related education in classrooms. While the job was demanding and occasionally exhausting, seeing the awed faces of students when I taught them something new, energized me to go to work every day. Helping students realize that pursuing an education in STEM could be a reality, gave me the motivation to be better at my job. From that point on, there was no looking back. My passion for teaching must have shined through me, as my dad finally gave in, granting his approval for me to pursue a career in teaching. My passion to lead and mentor the next generation is ready to be put into work, as I start my teaching career with Teach for America, this upcoming school year.
Looking back at my journey, I am grateful for the opportunity that AmeriCorps has presented to me. I was unsure about taking that first step into a different, and unknown direction in my life. But sometimes, you really can’t know which journey life will take you on, if you don’t take that first step into the unknown.