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My father was on the rooftop of his restaurant holding a pistol on April 29, 1992.  This date, if unfamiliar, is the infamous date of the Los Angeles riots.  My parents' beloved Koreatown, which they now called "home" after immigrating to the States from Korea over 20 years ago, was absolutely devastated when the riots broke out after the beating of Rodney King.  The 10 painstaking years of desperately seeking the American Dream, were crushed in the matter of hours when rioters and looters ravaged across the city, burning and stealing everything in sight.


My parents always tell me of this story to remind me the sufferings they endured to secure the American Dream, while also preserving our treasured Korean culture.  Ever since I was a child, they have instilled in me the importance of remembering one's heritage and culture.  This story serves as a powerful source of motivation and humility for me.    


Since middle school, to the pleasant surprise of my parents, I gladly accepted their teachings and put them into action.  I became immensely involved in our local Korean community by interning and serving as president of a youth leadership group in the Koreatown Youth & Cultural Center, and founding the Korean club in my high school.  However, this passion to serve my community was shaken when I realized that my academics was being jeopardized.  Due to my leadership positions in 4 different organizations, it was extremely difficult to balance them with my schoolwork.   This escalated to even having my UCLA admissions potentially revoked due to unsatisfactory grades.  At this point in time, one question struck me: "Why am I doing this?  Is this really all worth it?"  Although this question challenged me, it did not faze me.  My heritage and the blood that ran through my veins were felt more strongly than ever, and I decided to never compromise my passion when times became tough.


I carried on this philosophy as I entered UCLA, by immediately joining the Korean American Student Association, and serving on Staff this year.  I also took on the position to be the adult Coordinator for my previously mentioned youth group program, and serve on staff for UCLA's Korean Culture Night, which is one of the largest student productions in the U.S.  Throughout this new year as a Sophomore in college, I experienced the similar pressure even more as the workload increased in both areas.  However, I feel very confident when saying that I am now happier than ever, after reminding myself of my father's story.

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Comment by natalia kartashova on January 31, 2011 at 6:50pm
wow Robert,this is impressive...thanks for sharing it

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