Many have tried and failed to go back to school as an adult. It takes dedication, patience and commitment. Learning a new language at any point in your life, but especially as an adult, presents similar challenges. Junghee Cho, 54, is attending college for the first time at Pierce College Puyallup, in a completely different country than her native Korea and is learning English as a second language.
Cho’s perseverance has been recognized both at Pierce College and in Washington state.
Cho was nominated for the Transforming Lives Award presented by the Trustees Association of Community and Technical Colleges of Washington state in February. She was also awarded Outstanding Student of the Year for the 2007-2008 school year in the Transitional Education/ESL Program.
Cho moved to Pennsylvania from Korea with her family for her husband’s job over six years ago. Cho has lived in Washington for over four years and is studying general business at Pierce.
“I haven’t studied in 30 years. I never expected to come back to school,” Cho said. “I have a degree, I am not only a mom or a wife.”
Cho didn’t attend college in Korea.
“In my country, we don’t need to go back to school…husbands can support the household. But not here, I must work to support my family.”
When Cho’s family moved to the United States, her two children were teenagers.
Now, her son Kyu Min, 20, is living in Las Vegas, Nev., on a mission trip and wants to study to become a car designer.
“My son sends me letters every week, every time he says he’s so proud of me,” Cho said.
Cho’s daughter KyuEun, 22, is studying to be a high school art teacher at Central Washington University.
When Cho’s family moved to the United States, she said that her children were confused. She said they enjoy the United States but are Korean emotionally. Cho explained that it was unusual for her to experience how expressive Americans are compared to Koreans.
“I do the best for my children. They’re my life,” Cho said. “Why do I study? I want to be an example to my children.”
Cho has also worked as a student employee with Peers to Peers Mentors at Pierce College Puyallup since fall 2010. Cho was referred to apply for the group by ESL Instructor Deb Ramirez, who referred Cho to the job because she knew that she liked working with people. Cho has helped bridge the gap between the ESL department and Peers to Peers Mentors.
Carson Davis, Peers to Peers mentoring coordinator, said that ESL students may be the group’s most consistent demographic. Davis explained how student awareness is Peers to Peers’ biggest problem.
“Junghee is able to break down that barrier and make people aware that we are here,” Davis said.
Cho is modest when it comes to the admiration and awards she receives.
“To get awards isn’t my goal,” Cho said. “I am so thankful for Pierce College to find my future plan and study.”
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost