GW graduate named one of America’s top Asian-American student leaders

Several months ago GW graduate Jim Lee received a telephone call that his name was entered in a contest honoring Asian-American student leaders at universities across the country. Lee was told to submit an essay about himself and the activities he was involved in at college and in the community. A short time after, Lee was called in for an interview and then his name and picture were published in A Magazine as one of the top ten Asian American Leaders of 2000.

Lee, who continues to take classes at GW, was given this honor because of his commitment to community service in the District. He has served in countless volunteer activities and has organized various community projects.

It was a great honor, Lee said. I’m not exactly sure why I got it. My co-workers work just as hard as I do and all demonstrate the qualities of our country’s future leaders.

Lee, who is modest about the award, said there is nothing that makes him so special and he said he really did not deserve the award more than anyone else. He just loves doing community service and getting other people interested in community service, Lee said.

Deepti Tanuku, site coordinator at the Shaw Junior High School tutorial program, has worked with Lee in many volunteer activities through GW’s Neighbors Project.

He’s a great guy and is very active in both the GW and Shaw community, Tanuku said. I think a lot of people just really appreciate how down to earth and easy-going he is.

Lee said the people who work around him have made him what he is today.

I am very lucky to have them around me, Lee said.

Lee began volunteering as soon as he came to GW. During his freshmen and sophomore years, he worked at the For Love of Children Learning Center, an alternative high school run by a non-profit social work agency based in the District. There, Lee tutored teenagers who were either kicked out or were not in the public school system for some other reason, he said. Lee also worked for the Emmaus Services for the Aged cleaning houses and delivering groceries.

During his junior year at GW, Lee joined the Neighbor’s Project as an Americorps member recruiting volunteer tutors for the FLOC Learning Center.

Recruiting wasn’t really that hard, Lee said. I just made some fliers and held some training sessions. People were very enthusiastic to become tutors.

During his junior year Lee also started a program that brought several high school students from around the District to GW for tutoring, changing the normal procedure of students going out to high schools. Lee said he felt the program would offer a more comfortable atmosphere for tutors and a new environment for students.

Sometimes college kids seem to feel a little intimidated by teaching people who are at the high school level. Lee said. It seems that they’d rather teach younger children, which is less intimidating and maybe a little safer. That’s why I felt this program would really work out well for the tutors because they’d be in an environment that was safe and familiar and the students would be exposed to what college life really is.

During his junior year Lee also recruited students to volunteer at an after school program in Shaw and to work in soup kitchens for the homeless. To top it off, Lee started an English class in Chinatown open to anyone who was interested.

The program was really for anyone who wanted to learn English, Lee said. There were people of all ages there. I got the idea for it because there used to be a class just like it during the day, but a lot of people couldn’t make it because of work and school, so I decided it would be a good idea to start one in the evening hours.

Lee, who graduated with a history degree, said he will continue to volunteer and help in his community no matter what he chooses for a career.

I just have a strong personal commitment to my community, Lee said. It has become a way of life for me.

Lee said he is glad so many students are willing to give their time to volunteer. He said he has had no trouble recruiting and managing about 200 volunteers because people are so willing to participate.

Lee maintains contact with a couple of the students who he has tutored over the past several years.

Volunteering is a truly rewarding experience for me, Lee said. It gets more and more rewarding each time I do it. To be able to see all the success people have had because of it is great.

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