I have been blessed to know and work together with many wonderful groups of people, but today I am focusing on Korean Resource Center (KRC) & NAKASEC. Especially for Korean American students in a similar situation to mine, I want to share about the support, motivation and encouragement I found with the people at these organizations. To do this, I will tell you the stories of some key moments so far in my journey.
Applying for College
During my senior year in high school, I learned that my visa had expired and that I was living here without documentation. I was eventually too discouraged to even apply to college. However, my mother did not give up on me; she soon referred me to someone from KRC to get some support regarding my options. Several KRC staff members guided me through the entire application and helped me understand about California’s AB540 law and the DREAM Act. Because of KRC, I was able to learn about the broader context of immigration issues and renew my hope to attend college.
Scholarship (AKA Attending College)
With the help of KRC, I was able to file an AB540 affidavit and enroll in community college. Nevertheless, it was still difficult to stay enrolled in school because of my status. As an undocumented student, I am unable to get a job or receive financial aid, so I am completely dependent upon my mother’s income. To lift some of the financial burdens on her shoulder, I looked for private scholarships that do not require social security numbers. Fortunately, I was able to find KRC and NAKASEC’s DREAM Scholarship Fund and applied. Several weeks later, they informed me that I was one of two recipients who had won the scholarship.
It was an incredible feeling because it was my first successful scholarship application. Without this opportunity, I wouldn’t have been able to finish my two years at community college and transfer to UC Berkeley, where I study now.
Shortly after I was awarded the scholarship, I heard about the Citizenship Day mobilization organized by NAKASEC. Without any hesitation, I decided to attend the event. Though I half expected it, I really had an amazing experience. To start off, we drove cross-country from LA to Washington, DC and we had unforgettable time with youth leaders and staff members from NAKASEC.
Secondly, it was my first time visiting Washington, DC, and I had the opportunity to participate in visits with Congress members on Capitol Hill. Additionally, I met prominent politicians as well as community leaders at the Citizenship Day town halls. Each one of them truly inspired me toward activism and motivated me to serve our community.
A Sense of Belonging
I will probably not forget the moments that I spent with KRC & NAKASEC, from Citizenship Day to many more I haven’t mentioned: the AKASIA youth retreat, the Texas incident where a freak snowstorm prevented us from reaching DC for the March for America, enjoying Korean BBQ at the KRC & NAKASEC backyard, 민족노래방 (KRC’s In-House Karaoke) and meals at the family-style kitchen table. In short, KRC & NAKASEC gave me sense of belonging as a part of their family.
Through these organizations, I was able to gain life and learning experiences that shaped my attitude and personality. Without these organizations, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. I hope much more of my journey with KRC & NAKASEC is yet to come.