An Open Letter to C. Leon King:

If someone told little freshman James Kwak that he would experience all the things I did over the past four years, he’d be in awe and be scared of all the things to come. But that’s exactly how I want things to be. To the core, I’m still the same introspective kid that feels hesitant when giving an opinion on a controversial topic. The same kid that feels idiotic when breaking out dance moves. The same kid that is terrified to face opposition from authority. In the past four years, my comfort zone wasn’t a place in which I resided, but rather became a temporary destination for rest.

My growth was rapid and exciting. Not only did my efforts to change influence this growth, but my time and dedication to my school helped to shape me in ways that would be unparalleled had I attended a different one.

I’ve heard that growth stems from a series of catastrophes. From each struggle we face, we can either choose to take it as a lesson and grow or become crippled by that haunting memory until we choose to extinguish it. The beauty of King was that we could choose to create our own struggles. You could choose to cruise through the years and tackle zero challenges, or you could choose to spread yourself so thin that any responsibilities flying your way would make you suffocate. Either way, each lesson you learned became your own, and the person you eventually became was a product of your own choices.

The best piece of advice I’ve received came from my senior year English teacher. He would tell his students, “life is nothing more than us being forced into this world. We’re expected to accept it, take in air, and eventually die. Does that mean we should waste our lives, knowing that our fates are sealed? No; we take the opportunity and search for our meaning. Each person has a purpose, and if that person doesn’t spend his lifetime seeking out that purpose, I consider that a life wasted.”

When we don’t push ourselves, we become complacent and comfortable. I believe that complacency is the most destructive trait one can possess. We’ve had our fair share of struggles and lazy days, but complacency is something that’s incredibly rare to find at King IB. Everyone aspires to do something great. No opportunity is taken for granted and our sense of community helped us through difficult moments throughout the program.

Thanks to C. Leon King, not only did I become a more internationally minded individual, but I was able to grow with over 100 other candidates as well.

I owe it all to you.