Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Photo By Michael Alexander
Out of some 1,000 student applicants, Immaculate Heart of Mary School eighth grader Ariel Kim is one of 50 middle school finalists from across the country accepted into the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation’s Young Scholars program.


IHM Student Ariel Kim chosen Young Scholar

By ANDREW NELSON, Staff Writer | Published December 22, 2011

ATLANTA–Ariel Kim has got a combination of academic smarts, musical talent and concern for others. She is as comfortable playing oboe in the school band as on a camping trip with the Girl Scouts or helping students tackle a math problem.

“She finds a way to make everyone see what’s special about them as people,” said Tracey LaFreniere, a language arts teacher at Immaculate Heart of Mary School.

“She’s other-centered. She’s always looking for what’s good about others,” she said.

For the past few years, Ariel has been on the stage crew as students put on the school’s annual dinner theater production. Teachers said she’s learned so much that she could lead the production on her own.

Ariel scored high enough on standardized tests to spend time on college campuses since fifth grade. Last summer, she spent three weeks at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, studying existentialism, reading Sartre and Nietzsche. She’s also participated in Model United Nations and learned about forensic science.

Ariel does not boast about her talents. “Bragging makes me turn red and blend into the couch,” she said.

She earned a prestigious scholarship that’ll help foster her talents as she moves into high school and beyond. The 14-year-old is one of 50 young people nationwide accepted into the Young Scholars program offered by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Some 1,000 students apply to the program.

Founded by the late owner of the Washington Redskins football team, Cooke regretted never attending college. When he died in 1997, he dedicated most of his fortune to creating the foundation. Its mission is to help high-achieving, low-income students get the best possible education. The Cooke Foundation helps students with an average family income of below $25,000. It provides financial support and an educational advisor through high school and possibly beyond.

Ariel applied for the program in seventh grade. And then she said the application was out of her mind. She had a phone interview in September and then got the word she was accepted later that month.

“It still doesn’t feel too real. Somebody pinch me,” she said.

She’s met her educational advisor. The two are figuring out a specific educational plan for high school. Ariel said she is looking at boarding schools in New England.

She’s got talent for math, but enjoys the humanities.

“Math comes easy to me. But anything you read or write, I like those classes,” she said.

For her recent success, Ariel credits her family along with friends and teachers at her school.

“I also think of Immaculate Heart of Mary School as my second home–full of the brothers and sisters, moms and dads, whom God couldn’t have possibly crammed into my house. With them, I can be myself because I know they’ve accepted me with open arms. I love every single one of them. I don’t know where I would be without them to catch me when I fall, to hold my hand when the road gets rough. These are the people, young and old, who make me who I am and encourage me to be who I want to be,” she said.

Her bedroom is covered with quotes. “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling” is a line from the movie “Inception.” And there is the saying attributed to Confucius, the Chinese thinker: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”

Ariel is the daughter of Jong Sung and Hyonsug Kim and the older sister to Tommy, a fifth-grader at Immaculate Heart of Mary. The older Kims came to the United States in 1992 to study. The family lives in Duluth and they are members of Korean Martyrs Church, Doraville.

Ariel’s mother, Hyonsug, said education has always been important, which is why the family sent their children to the Catholic school for the past eight years.

“I think I got the lottery. From now on, I don’t need to worry,” she said about the scholarship.

She said the teachers at IHM are responsible for shaping her daughter with her talents and know-how.

For their part, teachers said having Ariel in the classroom has been a unique experience.

“What impresses me about her is she is very interested in learning,” said Haydee Vader, Ariel’s math teacher. “She likes to challenge herself and she doesn’t do it just to get an A.”