Success Stories

Breaking the cycle of poverty

Jimmy Jang

During his senior year at Grand Valley, Jimmy Jang tutored his fellow students in economics and so enjoyed the mentorship aspect of the experience that he decided to pursue his passion for teaching.

After graduating from Grand Valley in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, Jang traveled to South Korea to teach in rural and underserved communities for two years.

During his time there, Jang taught English to children at a public elementary school located in a secluded rural area where poverty was the norm.

While teaching, Jang said he was intrigued by how communities in South Korea were breaking the cycle of poverty through education.

Jang said it is common for South Korean parents to spend large sums of money on English lessons for their children, as it tends to give them an advantage in South Korea’s competitive academic environment.

“In South Korea, knowing the English language opens up a myriad of economic opportunities in the future,” said Jang.  

However, Jang said only wealthy Koreans can afford to send their children to English language school. By providing children with free English lessons, he was able to expose them to opportunities they would not have been able to experience otherwise.

Jang called his experience in South Korea life-changing. “I never expected to fall in love with teaching or volunteering in different modes where I could positively impact an underserved community,” he said.

Jang recognized the influence of his peers at GVSU who helped inspire him to continue Grand Valley’s strong tradition of philanthropic pursuits.

Jang plans to graduate from Johns Hopkins University with a master’s degree in economics and then pursue a doctoral degree in instructional design, development and evaluation at Syracuse University.

After his academic career, Jang said he plans to work in a large urban school system where he can positively impact thousands of underserved children.

by Jessica Hines

This story was filed with the tags: International, Volunteerism