Junior Kevin Kozlowski did not know English until he started elementary school.
The Brooklyn, N.Y., native, who is vying for the Student Association presidency in this week’s runoff election, is the son of Polish immigrants who left the eastern European nation while it was still in the grips of communism.
“They wanted to have an opportunity,” Kozlowski said. “What they left behind, they were trying to leave behind.”
Kozlowski said his parents, Kazimierz and Urszula, lived a tough life in Poland. His father grew up without indoor plumbing and as a young adult was conscripted to fight in the Polish army. However, it was not easy for them to move to a different country.
“They didn’t know the language or anyone (else) coming here,” Kozlowski said.
Despite these challenges, they were able to find a close-knit Polish community in Brooklyn that helped them plant their roots in the United States and raise Kevin and his twin sister, Olivia, he said.
Kozlowski said he enjoyed playing street ball and roller hockey in a neighborhood where his fluency in Polish landed him a job at a local deli.
“It is an opportunity I was happy to have,” Kozlowski said.
He said he is also grateful for his sister.
“I’m really glad I have a twin sister because we have gone through a lot of things together,” Kozlowski said. “We had some of the biggest fights growing up, but we have had some of the greatest times together.”
Although he had a happy childhood, it came at a price for his father.
Kazimierz worked between six to seven days a week as a cab driver to help earn money for the family, the U-At Large Student Association senator said.
“As a kid, he wasn’t around much,” Kozlowski said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to appreciate it.”
Despite Kazmierz’s demanding job, he was still able to find time for his family, the junior said.
“My dad’s very much into cycling,” Kozlowski said. “On Sundays, we would go on massively long bike rides through New York City.”
Kozlowski said he is working to emulate his father’s values.
“I’m trying to carry on what he is doing,” he said. “He has worked all of these years to invest the money in us.”
Urszula, a bookkeeper in New York, was another important influence on his life, he said.
“She is just as dedicated and humble as my father,” Kozlowski said.
He said he will not soon forget the lessons he has learned from his parents.
“They have taught me things I will carry on with me the rest of my life.”
The dedication of his parents helped him get to GW, he said.
However, without the help of a high school counselor, he would not have found the University. Kozlowski told his counselor he had an interest in diplomacy and his counselor opened a book and then put his finger on GW.
“I went home, I went on the Web site and then visited,” he said. “Then, I knew I wanted to go here.”
Although he is majoring in international affairs in the Elliott School of International Affairs, Kozlowski said he is not sure what he wants to do after he graduates. He said law school and a future career in international diplomacy is a possibility, but he has not made up his mind yet.
“If I’m not still paying off loans, I want to make a difference,” Kozlowski said. “I really do want to make a difference. I really do want to make the world a better place than I found it.”