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By joining PAVA, you will have plenty of opportunities to give back to communities and to preserve the environment. However, if you choose to apply yourself, there are just as many benefits if not more for yourself. Yes, that’s right for yourself. I know we are often told to be selfless and considerate towards others, but that’s just not realistic as for now. If you want to change the people around you, your school, your community, let alone the world in any meaningful way, we should first focus on the man or woman in the mirror. As a great psychologist once said: “If you can’t even clean your room, who are you to give advice to the world”.

Joining PAVA will give you a variety of insightful experiences that are quite honestly difficult to find when you’re stuck in high school five out of the seven days in the week. I mean how often do you get a chance to shake hands with the mayor of Los Angeles or have a real conversation with a resident of Skid Row. To make you a little more excited or maybe terrified, how does walking across the red carpet in the heart of Hollywood playing traditional Korean instruments and wearing traditional garments sound? Or maybe something not so extreme like helping us keep the Bird Sanctuary in Griffith Park nice and beautiful or helping run a culture fair in Irvine. How about spending your Saturday morning walking through Koreatown, knocking on the door of a dilapidated home of a sickly man, asking for their vote for a future city council member, only to walk across the street and come across a luxury apartment building and wonder how such a contrast could exist. Now if you’re thinking that I just picked the best or most memorable moments throughout my years in PAVA… you’re right, I sort of did. Like all things there’s always going to be another side, but I think you should feel some degree of curiosity towards these possibilities.

One reason why I think I was not able to mature as quickly was because of my limited worldview. For long periods of our lives, we are trapped in our home with our family, in our school with our peers, and in our small neighborhood with familiar people and places. To expand our worldview, there is the option of reading books, watching movies, and listening to podcasts but nothing beats actually experiencing the world for yourself. Volunteering gives you an excuse for your mom or dad or a reasonable adult to drive you out of that small neighborhood so that you can experience a new environment and interact with a diverse array of people. If this sounds a little intimidating, that’s completely normal. If my 13 year old me read those past few lines, he would have been like “No, thank you” and then would continue to walk into his room and play video games for the next few hours. Please don’t be like me. Trust me when I say that volunteering is much more fulfilling and rewarding.

I like to think that everyone takes something different from their time with PAVA. One thing I was reminded of was how fortunate I was. It’s a cliche to say that we take things for granted, but it’s a cliche because it’s true - we really do. I mean the biggest concerns for me are typically along the lines of: “Oh man, I have a math test I have to study for tonight” or “How am I going to get in enough protein today”. These are concerns I have because everything from a house to two caring parents are provided for me. I remember during an event, where we were giving supplies to the homeless, one of us asked “Are there any other items you would want next time?” One man said that it would be really nice to have socks. Apparently, socks are seldom donated to the homeless and walking for long periods of time without them can cause all sorts of problems. Everyday, without thinking about it, I had reached into a drawer filled with about a dozen socks and had pulled a pair right up my feet. Now, I’m not saying that you and I should feel guilty for having all these socks, just that maybe we can feel a little more appreciative of the things we have.

Let’s face it. Right now whether you’re in middle school or stepping into your final year of high school like myself, it is very difficult to make a meaningful impact. However, I think during your time at PAVA you’ll see glimpses of what is possible. Whether you are young and wish to see a little bit more of the world or you are more experienced and have become cynical, come volunteer and allow yourself to be inspired or to be filled with hope. One day once we’ve become independent and more refined, we can give back in our own way.

Kenneth Kim

National President

La Canada High School

Class of 2021

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