Benji Kim made a decision as he watched his dad return to work from a serious car accident, with a neck brace and severe pain.
“He showed such selflessness to the family that it really inspired me to do the same,” the 17-year-old said of his dad, who insisted on quickly returning to his labor intensive job to “put food on the table.”
“There is no way that I could live my life just thinking about myself,” Benji said.
His father’s resilience after the accident — a hit-and-run, head-on collision — inspired Benji to give back to the community. So this year, he applied to represent his peers on the Glendale Unified School District board — and won, becoming the first Crescenta Valley High School student in more than a decade to hold the post.
Benji’s teachers describe him as a standout senior who is dedicated to helping others, whether going to Monrovia to plant trees or making care packages for troops in Iraq. He has served the community for more than 380 hours and is involved in the leadership of student organizations like the Project Cooldown Club, which creates community awareness about global warming issues.
“Benji is a role model to other students about being involved for school other than just showing up to class,” said John Tehar, golf coach and student government advisor at Crescenta Valley High.
Benji, a Korean immigrant and Associated Student Body board member, had a few goals that were popular enough to beat Associated Student Body presidents from Clark Magnet, Hoover and Glendale high schools, who also applied for the spot. Each school nominates a few students for the board representative post, and the students elect the winner.
“It wasn’t just about him,” Tehar said. “It was about being a representative for all students and also for Crescenta Valley.”
Now that Benji is the student representative to the board, he has a few plans to shake things up. His first goal is to advocate standardized cellphone regulations, since each school has its own rules, Benji said.
“If it’s on, you get it taken away until the Friday of that week,” Benji said of rules that currently pertain to students at Crescenta Valley and Glendale high schools. He wants a more relaxed policy enacted across the district.
“It’s a little harsh,” Benji said of that policy.
“I want to respect our boundaries, but I really want to uphold the freedom that should be given to students with their property.”
One of his other goals is to change the academic calendar to start and end three weeks earlier.
“There’s three weeks after [advanced placement] and statewide testing, and there’s three weeks of doing nothing because there’s nothing to go over,” Benji said. “I think if we had three weeks earlier, we could spend more time studying, spend more time reviewing for tests, because for an AP student, three weeks is a lot.”