Written by Clara Kieschnick-Llamas
On Friday, Jan. 6, senior Kevin Ji went to Washington D.C. to partake in a meeting with other members of Michelle Obama’s Better Make Room Student Advisory Board.
Better Make Room is an organization connected to the White House’s Reach Higher initiative. Its goal is to encourage high school students to attend college or other post-high school programs. For the Better Make Room program, students on the board have to come up with a long-term educational program tailored specially to their community by the beginning of February.
Ji’s current advisor recognized him due to his local involvement in the community. “I do a lot of work here in education—specifically my Financial Literacy for Youth program that seeks to promote financial literacy through a peer-peer model—and a community leader recognized my work and nominated me for this,” Ji said.
At Gunn, Ji would like to focus on minimizing the achievement gap and promoting peer mentoring. However, he would like to concentrate more on other schools in the Bay Area. “I want to possibly start my own advisory board for this region because I, as a [lone] person, can’t understand the entire Bay Area,” he said. “Instead, I’d get students from different schools across the area to help me understand more about communities that I haven’t lived in.”
Ji would also like to bring College Sign Day—one of Michelle Obama’s more popular Reach Higher programs—to the Bay Area. College Sign Day involves having students dress up in their college gear and bringing in local celebrities who have attended college. “We have a really strong college culture here where everyone wears their college-pride shirts, but a lot of other areas in the Bay Area don’t have that,” Ji said. “The idea would be that I bring up local celebrities so people see that their idols are also going to college, so it would promote people to really realize that college is a great option for them.”
The term for the board is two years, so current high school seniors will have to create a new program for the college they attend next year. “Because they recruited so many high school seniors, they get double the amount of branches across the nation because they get the previous high school and the college,” Ji said. The goal of the majority of members is then to make sure that once students have gotten into university, they graduate.
Ji and all the other members were also invited to Michelle Obama’s final speech as first lady. They sat among celebrities and media in the VIP section. “It was absolutely moving. She started crying, I started crying, everybody started crying [and] everyone started standing up,” he said.
Ji is extremely grateful for the opportunity. “I was speechless,” he said. “[It was] a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be able to meet all of these crazy individuals that are just as passionate as I am. There are a lot of passionate people about what you’re interested in—you just have to find that niche.”