Springboard to Influence

December 01, 2008 | Apple Delight
By Blake Weaver

Springboard to Influence

As a former NICS graduate, I often wonder where my classmates and other NICS Alumni have “landed” in life.

I can clearly remember discussing my aspirations with other classmates my senior year at ICS-Uijongbu. Even in our relatively small class, it seemed inevitable that after graduation we would be spread out all over the world pursuing many different vocations. Although most of us could not fully comprehend the impact ICS had on our adolescent development at the time, there are plenty of us who now much appreciate and fully realize the foundational springboard that NICS provided us as students back then. In the next few paragraphs of this article, I want to highlight one particular NICS Alumni. Perhaps you will notice the distinct role that her NICS school played in the development of her young life.

I am delighted to introduce you to Dr. Josephine Kim. Dr. Kim was a student at the International Christian School in Uijongbu, South Korea from 1987-1992. This is how Dr. Kim describes her time at ICS:

“Little did Dr. Joe Hale know that when he began a school in Uijongbu, Korea to accommodate his children in a foreign land, God had plans for him to serve and touch the lives of thousands of other children and adolescents. After five years of living in a highly “White” part of the U.S., I began to see myself as a blonde, blue-eyed child. In fact, I would meander to the Girls’ Room with my American friends in Virginia and be stunned at the reflection I saw. My reflection showed blatant images of a Korean girl, but it didn’t match the “All-American” image I saw in my mind’s eye. Obviously, my identity crisis took stage early; however, it was never as confusing as when I first arrived in Seoul, Korea, after my tenure in the U.S. Here I was a very Korean girl in appearance but a very American girl in thought, speech, and conduct. I was suddenly surrounded by people who apparently looked just like me, but in my mind’s eye, they were foreigners and strangers. They were people with whom I did not identify, and my “Kitchen Korean” (the ability to communicate basic needs and wants such as “Did you eat?” “Do you want some water?”) proved to be highly insufficient. It was the first time I realized how miserable it was to have the inside composition not match the outside presentation. The dissonance was unbearable, and I responded to the identity confusion with immense anger and resentment.

It was at this moment that ICS came into view as a form of deliverance; it entered as a light at the end of a bleak tunnel. School soon became the only place of reprieve – a safe place where I could stay connected to a familiar language and thought-processes. It was a place where I found true acceptance and caring imposition from teachers who sacrificed beyond what was required. All adolescents go through normative developmental stages, but when that process is colored by cross-cultural experiences, the process can become complicated and multi-layered. I found myself asking, “Who am I?” “Am I American?” “Am I Korean?” and would sadly conclude that I did not belong anywhere, because I was stuck in between two cultures, two ways of being, and two vastly different worldviews. It was during this confusing time that ICS teachers, along with my caring parents, instilled in me that before I was Korean, before I was American, I was a child of God, and that was my first and foremost identity. ICS had a culture of its own – a culture characterized by love and concern. From an academic standpoint, I could describe the school as having been culturally sensitive and possessing a warm climate; however, anyone who was there knows it was beyond that. It was God’s love displayed mercifully toward children and adolescents who failed to accept and love themselves. My former teachers at ICS left indelible marks on my life, and I aspire to become an educator who can emulate their personhood in my classroom, office, and in life in general.”

According to her biography below, it is quite evident that Dr. Kim has extensively achieved many noble accolades. Based on her wide scope of influence today, the “marks” left on her life as a high-school student are often made apparent to those she encounters every day. Here is where she has “landed,” and we are surely delighted to have her as a part of our NICS worldwide Alumni:

“Josephine Kim is a Lecturer on Education in the Risk and Prevention program at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. She earned a Ph.D. in counselor education from the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia and is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor in the state of Massachusetts. She also is a National Certified Counselor whose clinical skills and experiences span many contexts including residential facilities, community agencies, and public and private schools. She has worked with multicultural populations through individual, group, and family counseling and has taught students of all ages in varied educational contexts, including private and public language schools and private and public colleges and universities. She has provided professional consultation and expertise on multicultural, mental health, and educational issues to various internet, newspaper, magazine, and television sources in Korea and in the U.S. She was recently recruited as USA Today’s collegiate case study expert on school violence and was featured in EBS (Education Broadcast System) programs related to self esteem and other developmental issues of youths. She has been the keynote speaker at numerous parent, teacher, and youth conferences in Korea and in the U.S. She has been called upon during national crises, being deployed by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the federal government to work with Katrina victims during the summer of 2006 and the provost’s office of Virginia Tech in the spring of 2007, directly following the campus massacre. She serves on the board of directors of several Asian American non-profit organizations and is the executive director and co-founder of Mustard Seed Generation, Inc., a non-profit organization that aims to educate Korean Americans on issues of spiritual, cultural, and racial identity, mental health issues, and career development. She is the faculty advisor to Asian Coalition for Education, the Asian graduate student organization at Harvard Graduate School of Education.”

Blake Weaver is the Development Director at the NICS Home Office.

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