For Some Young Korean-Americans, Summertime is No Vacation

Although summer vacation is normally a time for high-school students to take a break and distance themselves from their school work, some Korean-American students have been busier than ever because of volunteer work they are doing in the local community. The Korea Times has been running a series of articles called ‘Korean-American teenagers having a meaningful summer break,’ about a  volunteer program (‘Youth Community Action Project’) that the paper is co-hosting with the Korean Community Services of Metropolitan New York. The program is expected to provide students with experience in local organizations and to develop ties between young Korean Americans and Korean-American society.

Yunjung Kim and Bondeok Lee in New Age Research Foundation (Photo via Korea Times)

Yunjung Kim, 15, and Bondoek Lee, 14, for example, volunteered at New Age Research Foundation, a private research center focused on skin disease in Fresh Meadows, Queens. Excerpts from the Korea Times report are translated below.

Kim and Lee, who want to be doctors in the future, jointly expressed their satisfaction with an experience that helped them get used to medical terminology naturally. Struggling with unusual medical terms in the skin disease research center, they smiled and said they learned new terms that they wouldn’t ordinarily face.

“The most satisfying aspect of this experience is that I got used to many medical terms. When I become a doctor in the future, I am sure it will be helpful,” Kim stated. “When I found a new disease that was not on the website, I felt like my effort was finally being rewarded. Searching out medical websites, I feel my knowledge is expanding,” Lee added.

Volunteers in Queens Botanical Garden (Photo via Korea Times)

Volunteers at the Queens Botanical Garden, including Doyeon Kim of Townsend Harris High School, have been able to gain practical gardening experience as well as acquire knowledge about specific plants. In the morning, they take part in workshops which provide them with information such as how to use gardening tools. In the afternoon, they apply what they’ve learned, weeding the lawn or making the ground even, reported the Korea Times in another article. Excerpts are translated below.

Kim became an expert about trees and flowers he hadn’t known of before, becoming more aware of their characteristics and different kinds. “Through YCAP, I am experiencing various things and learning practical skills,” said Kim, who has participated in YCAP since 2010, “In particular, I get more excited because there are more outdoor activities. I think I can do some gardening by myself.”

Regina Forlenza, a visitor services coordinator at the Queens garden, said “Every year, thanks to the efforts of Korean-American students, the garden has been getting more and more beautiful.”

Yuna Han and Jiseon Lim in summer class at the YWCA, Queens (Photo via Korea Times)

In summer classes at the YWCA in Queens, Yuna Han of Bayside High School and Jiseon Lim of Brooklyn Technical High School play active roles, teaching kids subjects such as math, English and Korean and assisting in outdoor activities, according to another article.

“When I was a child, my academic achievement, including Korean, was improved so much with my older sisters’ and brothers’ help,” says Kim, a second-generation Korean-American who is fluent in Korean. “The kids who I am teaching now will have good memories, like me, in the future,” he said.

“I have been volunteering in a Korean language school and a summer school for two years to further my dream to be a teacher” said Han. “Based on this experience here, I want to be a teacher who brings everything down to the children’s level.”

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