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Jeff Park '13Ed

Since he was in seventh grade, Jeff Park ’13Ed aspired to become a teacher. Now, more than 15 years later, he’s well on his way to fulfilling his dream.

Park’s long path toward his ultimate goal — becoming a guidance counselor — began when a favorite teacher demonstrated the positive impact an educator can have on young lives. “It was my social studies teacher,” Park recalls. “He really connected with my classmates and me. It was inspiring. Ever since then, I had a burning desire to become a teacher.”

Park excelled in his studies throughout high school. By the time he graduated, however, he seemed to be driving off the path he had carved out for himself. “As a first-generation American from a Korean family, I’d always known that academics meant everything in our household,” he said. “Once I graduated from high school, I really needed a break.”

Choosing to take a hiatus from academics, he pursued a number of different careers over a span of five years. Park slowly realized that the world from which he was shying away was actually where he belonged. “I just didn't enjoy what I was doing those five years, so I went back to my first love — education,” he said.

After earning an associate degree at Queensboro Community College, Park attended an open house for prospective students at St. John’s University. “What impressed me most about St. John’s,” he said, “was that all the students knew what they wanted to do in life — and what they needed to do to get there.”

Park’s decision to attend the University was cemented after he met with Charisse Willis ’89SVC, ’91MS, ’95PD, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies in The School of Education. “She told me, ‘I’m going to get to know you. I’m going to know your name.’ Now that I’m a student here, I know she wasn’t kidding.”

Today, Park, 28, is a student-teacher of seventh-grade social studies at The Queens School of Inquiry, a job he truly relishes. “Yes, it can be challenging,” he said. “But I’d do anything to help the kids succeed.”

Park’s dedication to his students mirrors his devotion to his church and his charitable work. “My faith in God encourages me to give back to the community,” he said, “so the Vincentian mission was instilled in me long ago. I still teach Sunday school, I’ve been a mentor to youth, and soon I’ll be going on my first Midnight Run with Campus Ministry.”

Park, who was raised by his grandmother while his parents worked to save money for a house, is familiar with the challenges many of his students face. “Sometimes,” he noted, “they don’t have a father figure at home, or their mom may be working two jobs, so I’ll assist them as much as I can.  Even if they have a question about something in math or science, I’ll figure out the answer and do what I can to help.”

Park knows his decision to return to the world of education was a wise one. “I love the student-teacher interaction,” he said. “There’s this moment that happens when the students finally get what you are trying to teach them. It’s indescribable. It’s in that moment when you realize why you are doing what you’re doing.”