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Sung Kim, International Achievement Liaison, Dunloggin and Ellicott Mills Middle Schools

November 16th, 2017

The American Indian Lakota phrase “mitakuye oyasin” meaning “all are connected,” guides Sung Kim’s work both as an international achievement liaison at Dunloggin and Ellicott Mills middle schools and as a practicing artist. Kim, an immigrant from South Korea, understands the importance of thoughtfully communicating with his international students and families, so language is less of a barrier and meaningful relationships can be made.

Sung Kim facing camera.

For Kim, a typical day means communicating with staff and international families, coordinating language services, reaching out to families about school and county events, assisting administration and student services in meetings and interventions, monitoring and working with students on their progress, and generally advocating for international students and families. Fluent in Korean and proficient in Chinese, Kim works particularly closely with families from those countries.

Kim came to the United States when he was 11. A graduate of Mount Hebron High School, he went on to study painting and drawing at the Maryland Institute College of Art and School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He fell into the field of interpretation and translation as he was starting a family in Chicago. When he learned of the international achievement liaison position at HCPSS, he decided to return to his Maryland hometown, where he was confident he could offer his child a good education. He has since served in this capacity in several HCPSS schools, at all levels, for the past eight years.

Sung Kim working with students in classroom

Kim impacts learning by “bringing the experience of an immigrant to my student interactions. I know how much courage and strength it takes to overcome and become whatever you want to be. Young people are intrinsically motivated, and when we have meaningful interactions with them, we can turn on the switch.”

Kim has also focused on parent outreach, inviting them to the school and helping acclimate them to American school culture. He said, “I believe it is important to make every family an integral part of our system because it’s not only the student, but the whole family, that is involved in education. I simply think that strong families make strong students.”

Sung Kim sitting at desk and talking with student

Both of Kim’s educator and artist roles are dedicated to the human connection and to looking at situations from all possible angles: “My art is a human expression that marks my existence, so I use the elements of time and mark-making in a deliberate way. For the same reason, when I shift to my work with students and families, I approach with care and respect for people because that is also a human act.” His strong personal calling for art is matched only by the reward he finds in helping people acclimate to a new environment.

Sung Kim's artwork on display.

Dunloggin Principal Jeffrey Fink commends Kim for being, “unbelievable in reaching corners of the international community where we hadn’t been able to reach before. He makes the families and kids feel included in everything. The kids he works with directly are more engaged in everything we do, which helps increase their level of engagement in the classroom and translates into their grades.” HCPSS International Student & Family Services Specialist Min Kim added, “Sung Kim is the consummate professional and serves as a wonderful role model for many of our Asian male students.”