ThunderRidge High School senior Brandon Lee was only three when his parents decided to immigrate from South Korea to the United States. He believes that decision provided him with a wealth of opportunities, which he hopes he can use to someday help …
ThunderRidge High School senior Brandon Lee was only 3 when his parents decided to immigrate from South Korea to the United States. He believes that decision provided him with a wealth of opportunities, which he hopes he can use to someday help other Asian-Americans.
Lee is off to a good start. Recently accepted to Harvard University, he also just learned he was selected as a Colorado delegate to the 53 annual U.S. Senate Youth Program. Lee is one of only two Colorado students chosen represent the state.
“I was honored,” Lee said. “It blows my mind I was able to get offered this. I' m so thankful to my teachers and peers and community members who have helped me along the way. And my family for supporting me so much for 17 years.”
A total of 104 students from across the country will participate in the program's annual “Washington Week” in Washington, D.C., in March. They'll spend the week seeing government in action, hearing major policy addresses by senators, cabinet members, officials from the Departments of State and Defense and directors of other federal agencies, and participate in a meeting with a Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Lee also receives a $5,000 scholarship.
“For me, this is not just another outlet into my interest in learning about politics,” said Lee, who is the Colorado Association of Student Councils' executive representative and is involved in orchestra, football, track, Boy Scouts and volunteer work. “This is also an opportunity.
“As an immigrant, I'm really glad to be able to call Colorado home.”
Lee said the American education system and culture was a primary reason for his parents' decision to leave their homeland.
“I'm so glad they made that decision,” Lee said. “They knew the system in America was quite different, and we would be free to pursue interests beyond studying.
“In Korea, I would never have the opportunity to play two varsity sports, and maybe to pursue music as deeply as I have here. It's just an entirely different culture.”
Lee first ran for student government in eighth grade, and said it has been an integral part of his life since then.
“We'll see where it takes me, but right now, I have a lot of interest in politics,” he said. “I'm also very science- and math-oriented. I was thinking of trying to give back to my Asian-American community maybe as a doctor, or in the health field, with law mixed in. Somehow helping them integrate into the community.”
The drive to help others is deeply rooted in Lee. He volunteers at Littleton Adventist Hospital and the Highlands Ranch library. His mother encouraged him to volunteer without thought for what he might get out of it.
“She said just try to learn more about the world and understand it,” he said. “My parents taught me to always try to do your best, and always know how blessed you are. My teachers and parents have always emphasized having a service-oriented mind.
“I'm really thankful to be living in Colorado, in Highlands Ranch, and for the opportunities from teachers, friends and family. I hope to pay them back one day.”
Serene Singh is, a senior at Academy School District 20's Rampart High School in Colorado Springs, is the other Colorado 2015 U.S. Youth Senator.