September 01, 2009 08:04
Tina Park became the first Korean American and the youngest female to be elected to the Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees on May 19. LACCD has nine community colleges under its supervision and is the largest community college district in the U.S., with an annual government-funded budget of US$1 billion. Seven members of the Board of Trustees, who are elected to four-year terms, approve and supervise all spending within the district.
"A lot of students are attending community colleges because of the economic crisis since tuitions are low there," says Park, who visited Seoul for the 2009 Korean Women's International Network hosted by the Ministry of Gender Equality from Tuesday through Friday last week. Her primary concern is the specialization and professionalization of community colleges. She says her biggest goal is to "nurture departments of nursing science, health management and eco-friendly industries so that our students, many of whom are from the lower strata of society, can graduate with jobs."
Born in Seoul, Park's family moved to the U.S. when she was six. She graduated with a degree in accounting from Hofstra University in New York and then worked as a financial auditor at the New York Stock Exchange. She survived the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, while she was auditing a firm in the World Trade Center.
At the request of her mother who complained that New York was too dangerous, Park relocated to Los Angeles in 2005 and took a job with a consulting firm. Moving to Los Angeles turned out to be a turning point in her life. Park worked on the fund raising team of the Hillary Clinton campaign during her presidential bid in 2008. That's where Park drew the attention of political insiders, who suggested she run for a spot on the LACCD board.
"The chances weren't in my favor because the opponent was an incumbent on the board at the time. I got 148,200 votes, edging the opponent by 23,000. It wouldn't have been possible if it were not for the many Korean Americans in Los Angeles, who believed in me and supported me," Park says. "I've taken great interest in volunteer work in the local community. I'll try my best during my four-year term to transform the community in a positive way."
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