07 Aug My Path: From West Adams to Dartmouth & LAPF HQ
By Isaac Kim
I was a freshman in my second semester at West Adams Preparatory High School when Robin Kurtzman, a member of the LA Promise Fund board, pulled me out of class. I had never met Robin before. She was not part of the school’s staff, so I was confused as to who she was and why she was pulling me out of homeroom. My confusion vanished when Robin explained to me that she had just created a new afterschool program for students who were excelling in their classes called the Honors Society. At the time, I didn’t know what I was signing on for, but I knew that I wanted an opportunity to elevate myself. I signed on, and from there, a whole path unfolded, which included, time and again, the LA Promise Fund.
Robin structured the Honors Society to show us that our dreams were attainable. She brought in professionals every Tuesday after school; they would share their stories with us. Whether it was a story of resilience, ambition, or inspiration, it always reminded me of what I was working so hard for. I was working to overcome the barriers placed on first-generation low-income students and break the cycle of poverty in my family.
Robin remained in my life through the four years of high school (and to this day). She helped me understand what the path to success was, and what I needed to do. The summer after my freshman year in high school, she encouraged me to get my first internship. Colleges wanted people who excel outside of academics, she said, and internships provide the skills and experience to demonstrate that I was more than just my GPA.
My first internship was with the LA Promise Fund. I worked at John Muir Middle School, one of LAPF’s partner schools, and I supported their summer programming. I was even given the freedom to create a volleyball class. I led the class with a fellow intern and teammate from my high school’s volleyball team. Watching over a group of middle schoolers proved to be a difficult task, as they were full of energy, and their excitement in learning a new sport made them a force. Regardless, I loved it. I loved helping the students. I loved the energy from the program, and I loved meeting new people.
During that summer I met Alejandro Lopez, now a key cog in the gears of LAPF, but back then, he was just an intern like me. We both enjoyed working with the students of John Muir, and when the internship ended, I was happy with the skills and experience I gained. I felt more social and positive leaving John Muir, as if the energy from the students transferred to me. Aside from an increase in positivity and social skills, I felt more confident in being able to lead others. I noticed, in my sophomore year, group projects became easier to me. It was easier to facilitate conversation on the project. I had led a group of 20 middle schoolers, which was much more difficult than starting a discussion with 3 high schoolers!
My involvement with LAPF only grew from there, and my bond with Robin grew even further. Sophomore year, I continued to attend the Honors Society and check-in with Robin. She always made sure I was doing well both in school and out. She continued to encourage all of us in the Honors Society to get an internship every summer. I interned at LAPF’s partner schools — Manual Arts and West Adams for most summers, and after I graduated, I was given the opportunity to intern at Kaiser Permanente through The Intern Project (TIP).
My time at Kaiser taught me many new things both about myself and the workforce. I always thought I’d like to work in medicine, however, Kaiser showed me that in order to enjoy my career, I should wake up excited for it and eager to learn more about it every day. I found that I did not feel that way about medicine. The experience redefined what passion meant to me and allowed me to learn that I have yet to find what I am truly passionate about.
Fast forward to today. I have completed my first year at Dartmouth College, and I’m back interning with the LA Promise Fund again. This time, I’m at their headquarters, working in the communications department, helping to raise awareness about all the amazing things that LAPF does. At HQ, I’ve even reconnected with Alejandro, who is now the Director of Enrichment and Health Programs. I’m reminded of where I was just four years ago, after my freshman year of high school, and how far I’ve come. Now it’s my chance to give back to the organization and people that have helped me so much.