Steve Kim’s life has been a rollercoaster ride. It wasn’t the usual ups and downs that people often talk about. It was sky high ups and sub-zero downs.
When Kim was very young, his parents had a successful restaurant business. His father passed away when he was six years old, and his mother continued to operate the business by herself. Through some unfortunate hardship, Kim’s mother was left with nothing but bankruptcy and debt.
In the midst of hardship, Kim journeyed through five different high schools, public and private, local and out-of-state. “My mom sent me to different schools because I was a bit of a troublemaker,” said Kim. He was hanging around with not-so-reputable friends and got himself into trouble – including a few run-ins with law enforcement.
At school, Kim did not excel or do well. “It took me a while to realize this but looking back I have never been academically challenged,” said Kim. As a troublemaker, he was always put in the slowest class, which was not even challenging to him. He obviously did have the abilities to be in more advanced classes but he didn’t know any better than just sitting in the class he was assigned to and passing the tests with his eyes closed. He now believes that given different circumstances, if he received the appropriate attention and encouragement, he would have done much better.
“My mom, who was a single mom, was too busy to notice what was going on with me at school,” said Kim. Kim’s mother, who raised Kim by herself after Kim’s father had passed away, is a very successful real estate broker well-known in the Korea Town area of Los Angeles.
Soon after Kim graduated from high school, he started working hand in hand with his mother as a loan officer. At one point, he was making $9,000 a month. However, at a young age with no bills to pay, he did not care about money. He continued to make money and spend it “carelessly” while working with his mother for two years and then decided to pursue something he was passionate about – cars and technology.
A self-admitted performance car fanatic, Kim started working in the automotive aftermarket customizing high-end European sport cars. After three years, the business started slowing down and he finally realized that it was not where he wanted to be.
Coincidentally his housing complex started construction and his unit was the first to go. His uncle who lives right across from Cerritos College recommended that Kim stay with him while he returned to school. It was about time that Kim decided to get serious about his life and education.
When he was deciding his major, what crossed his mind were his high school days without appropriate support. He definitely wanted to know why people make decisions and why things happen the way they do. He also knew that he wanted to be an entrepreneur, so he decided to double major in psychology and business administration.
He began attending Cerritos College in summer 2006. “I did horrible in my first semester coming back to school. I have never learned how to study in junior high or high school,” reckoned Kim. “I learned all of my study skills at Cerritos College.”
At Cerritos College, Kim became a better student and naturally became more involved in the campus life. He is a member of the Science, Engineering and Math Dean’s Advisory Board. He is in the Scholar’s Honors Program and on the Deans’ List. He also started working in the college’s Information Technology Department part-time and has provided computer support to the campus since last year. Last semester, he became involved in the student government as assistant commissioner of information technology.
“I don’t like participating, I love setting up structures and figuring out how the structures would work,” said Kim. To prove his self-analysis, he has two goals as a member of the student government before he transfers to the University of California, Irvine, in spring 2010. One is to complete an on-campus recycling program for bottles, papers and plastics. The other goal is to establish a free Wi-Fi system for students on campus.
The recently married Kim is expecting two “babies” by the end of the year – a baby boy (according to his wife’s “woman’s intuition,” not medically confirmed at press time) and his own restaurant. He plans on making this the first of a restaurant chain with a unique concept. He envisions expanding the business and making it a successful family-owned corporation. Undeniably, the restaurant business runs through his veins.
Sit down with Kim and listen to him for half an hour and you will see that he has an unwavering vision and knows exactly what he wants to do with his life. He aims high and is in full control of everything that he has meticulously planned. He is definitely not a follower; he is a tenacious leader.
The Campus Connection, July 27, 2009