Paying It Forward: YBA Alumni Brings Current Students To Los Angeles City Hall

By January 18, 2024 No Comments

Paying It Forward: YBA and Rise Kohyang Student Alumni Justin Choo Brings Current Students To Los Angeles City Hall

In January 2023, YBA’s Executive Director Betsy Blanchard went to YBA Alumni Justin Choo with an unusual yet exciting proposal. “As one of our YBA scholarship students, I had kept in touch with Justin since he graduated Rise Kohyang High School, became a student at UCLA and started working as an intern at Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass’s office. I thought it would be amazing to see if Justin could coordinate a field trip for current Rise Kohyang YBA students to tour City Hall. What happened next was amazing!”

Betsy connected Justin with Rise Kohyang’s YBA instructor Sue Chae. “I was so happy to reconnect with Ms. Chae as she led my YBA class when I was in high school,” Justin shared. “And I was equally excited to try and set up a field trip for current Rise Kohyang YBA students.”

Justin quickly went to work, asking his supervisor about the possibility of a VIP tour of City Hall and surrounding landmarks for Rise Kohyang YBA students. “As City buildings were just starting to reopen post-COVID restrictions, City Hall didn’t have any tour guides on staff yet,” explained Justin. “However, my supervisor was willing to rally co-workers and heads of departments to take time out of their schedules and give a personalized tour.”

Approximately 80 Rise Kohyang seniors ventured to Downtown Los Angeles in March and first were led on an extensive tour of City Hall. “Our tour included a visit to the main Council meeting room where we discussed current legislation being passed and the responsibilities of the Mayor and Councilmen,” shared Justin. Students also visited El Pueblo de Los Angeles, the location of the first town in Los Angeles, and Grand Central Market.

“This field trip gave our YBA students a behind-the-scenes view of City Hall, which was amazing since most of them had never been to City Hall before,” shared Ms. Chae. “Our YBA students also were intrigued by the gifts on display that were sent by Los Angeles’s sister cities such as Nagoya, Japan, Guangzhou, China and Busan, South Korea.”

A YBA champion, Ms. Chae uses its curriculum and programs to the fullest. “This is our fifth year partnering with YBA for our business leadership/college prep class. Every year, we use YBA resources more and more, whether it’s a “Shark Tank”-style competition, business leader presentations, or help with mock interviews. We take advantage of everything that YBA has to offer and so when Justin came to me with the offer of a VIP field trip to City Hall, I immediately said yes!”

Betsy’s initial idea has now blossomed into an ongoing dialogue between Justin and Ms. Chae about other ways Justin can “pay it forward.” “Since last year, Ms. Chae and I have been discussing a potential field trip to UCLA for future Rise Kohyang senior classes,” shared Justin. “Ideally, I’d recruit other UCLA students like me that went to Rise Kohyang to step up, lead a campus tour, and encourage more seniors to apply. It’s just another way that I can give back to Rise Kohyang and YBA.”