Project Exploration is proud to announce this month’s STEM Facilitator Spotlight is Bori Kim! Bori has been with Project Exploration for over four years! She is working with Sisters4Science at Fredrick Funston Elementary, and she was kind enough to answer some questions about her time with PE:
If you don’t mind, please start with the basics: a little about you, your background, how long you have been working with PE, anything you feel comfortable adding.
I’m Bori and I have been a STEM facilitator for Project Exploration since September, 2013. My students call me Miss Bori, which I love to hear. So much lighter and more friendly than to be called Miss Kim. I used to be an intern and a student-teacher in Randolph County public schools that is in North Carolina. I majored in Elementary Education (K-6) with Children’s Literacy and Science at University of North Carolina—Greensboro and completed my degree as Bachelors of Art in English with Creative Writing at North Park University, Chicago.
I’ve always loved writing – maybe since 9th grade when I won the Creative Writing Contest in a school district back in Seoul, Korea. There was a teacher, Mrs. Han, who taught Korean Literature who saw my potential as a writer and had always supported me in every way. Even at North Park University, Prof. Odelius saw what really is inside of me and walked with me to where I am now—a poet. These two are such beautiful models for me as I work with middle-grade students. As a facilitator, a teacher, or an educator (no matter what my title is), my responsibility is to see what is inside of each one and support them to be who they really are.
Please tell me a little about how you got involved with Project Exploration and why.
Back in summer 2013, my friend who used to work for ASM (After School Matters) invited me to Summer CCOL (Chicago City of Learning) or STEM Fest, either one of it and I had a chance to talk with a former director at Project Exploration regarding youth mentoring programs. I believe, I showed her enough interest in youth-mentoring and social justice then, which I would love to be volunteering. A month later, she wanted to interview me for an available position—here is a little secret to the story, someone interrupted us in the middle of it and said, “I have been meeting a lot of people and I know a person just by looking at the face for a few seconds. Join us and have fun. This is fun. Welcome to the team.” This is our Executive Director, Ms. Natasha Smith-Walker. Thank you, Ms. Natasha. That was one of miracles in my life, such a surprise 🙂
As I got to know deeper and deeper what Project Exploration does, I have seen Project Exploration shares what I am pursuing as a citizen that brings equity and opportunities to those in needs and it is such joy to work with my students.
Does your work as a STEM Facilitator relate to your studies prior to your work with PE. Please tell me more about how they relate – if at all – and the skills from your studies that you brought to the PE team.
Like I said earlier, I studied English with Creative Writing which taught me to try different writing styles and techniques – a very valuable skill I’ve found as I work with Project Exploration. We do a lot of writing, such as e-articles, blog posts, and short captions on social media. My poetic style does play its role mostly on the monthly blog post.
Working in various classroom settings, I have acquired classroom management skills and organization; plus, since I met Jacki for the first time, I have learned a lot of effective management skills. More than anything else, without knowing who my students are, there is no way to do “proper management.”
Is there a memorable event, student, or group that stands out in your mind that you have worked with? Perhaps a specific project?
Well, I have countless memories with Project Exploration and students… It’s hard to tell just one, but I remember our first-ever spring break camp, “Innovation Lauchpad” with Motorola Mobility. I really enjoyed having meetings and preps with Motorola staff members—two of them are our current board members. Both Motorola and PE were prepping together, beginning in January to bring a memorable, enjoyable learning experience for the girls. Finally on the spring break, the girls loved every experience with Motorola and did a fabulous job presenting their prototypes to the executive leaders at the end.
I love that there are people who try so hard to create a safe, friendly learning environment that helps each student grow outside of one’s boundary.
Another one is pretty recent: fundraising event at Vice District Brewing Company last fall. I got to meet our board members and had chance to chat with them. One talk I remember with Sue, one of our board members from Motorola Mobility (she is currently at Northwestern Medicine). We chatted over our travel experiences and social justice issues. Like I said, sounds like I keep saying this, but I truly do love all people around me who are fighting for social justice matters. Sue and I both agreed we need more corporations to support the work we do 🙂
What have you learned from working with Project Exploration Students? What is your biggest/most important/most valuable takeaway from working with PE students?
Before I give you an appropriate answer, I’d like to invite you to a “back stage,” so to speak, that eventually leads you to the answer.
“Learning begins with relationships.”—this is a quote from our founder, Dr. Gabe Lyon. Every time we have a chance to hear from her, that is what she always says or begins her speech with. This I believe is one that we keep to the very core here in Project Exploration and this has become my own life ethic since I first heard from Dr. Gabe. Of course, this ethic has changed, transformed me over the years. Yes, contents matter, projects matter, and just everything we do matters, but above all, everything between my girls and myself matter. All the questions they’ve asked me like how old I am, if I have a boyfriend or not, even why I am not yet married. I don’t have all the answers for them, but we still are here for each other. I don’t ever want to create hierarchy over my students. Instead, I want them to be there as they are—this is what I have learned or been learning who they are. Once I have given them a safe, pleasant space to open up, they invite me into their reality.
So, in just one sentence, I have learned each one has so much to grow inside that needs to be watered and cared for over time.
Outside of working with Project Exploration, how do you enjoy spending your time?
If you ever ask anyone else in Project Exploration what Miss Bori does when she’s out of work, their answers are just six letters—coffee. More specifically, iced-latte or caramel macchiato. Or, something else that depends on the weather (oh, I prefer rainy days). Yes, you may definitely find me sitting in a local coffee shop with a pen, a planner, and/or a book. I do love tasting different kinds of coffee—yes, all different depending on its origin and light or dark roast. I love medium-to-dark roast in Italian style, which is just personal preference.
Another enjoyable moment is to snuggle in bed until late morning that sounds very comfy. I have to admit this: I’m a lot closer to a night owl that loves working at night, mostly writing. Waking up late in the morning to homemade iced-latte is always adorable. That I don’t want to ever miss.
What’s next for you? What’s the next big goal or aspiration in your life?
As you have probably figured out how much I love writing, I won’t give up on writing. I would love to publish a novel or a collection of poetry when it is time. I still need more experiences as a writer—I have considered to go to a grad school for Creative Writing or for Non-Profit Management that I may work for those in poverty and in need all over the globe.
Are there any other benefits or enjoyable aspects to working with Project Exploration that you would like to add?
I always love to meet new people and get to know them in deeper ways. There have been so many opportunities for me to meet others in such professional fields like Illinois Police Department, Cook County Court, Motorola Mobility Foundation, and the latest, James Dyson Foundation.
Ms. Sue Wydra I mentioned earlier, is one of my current role models. It has been two years since we met at Motorola Mobility. I love that I could keep a relationship, friendship with her out of work and that I can reach her for personal needs.
Thank you to Bori Kim for taking the time to write this and for all she does for Project Exploration. Project Exploration is proud to have wonderful STEM Facilitators like Bori. Whether she is enriching the world with poetry or enriching young minds with science, she is part of what makes PE a wonderful place for learning, creativity, and innovation to thrive. While she may love rainy days, it is clear that her future and that of PE in part because of her will be anything but dreary. From all of us here at PE, we wish you the best Bori, both in your job as a STEM Facilitator and in your future goals. Thank you.
To learn more about the amazing STEM Facilitators and STEM Professionals that help make PE what it is, check out our previous spotlights on our blog.
Interview Completed By: Bori Kim
Interview Conducted By: Lukas C. Cottingham, Marketing and Communications Director