“I’ll see what I can do,” Kevin Ji says before walking off to a Mitchell Park Community Center staff member to pull strings so he can step into a conference room that hasn’t been reserved. Through his multitude of education-related projects, Ji, a senior at Henry M. Gunn High School, has befriended and worked with community members in Palo Alto and across the nation.
His efforts toward emphasizing the importance of education have benefited several communities around the Bay Area and have recently taken him to the White House to former First Lady Michelle Obama’s council to advance education.
Working for Equality
As the founder of Financial Literacy for Youth, an organization that teaches Bay Area youths financial literacy and money management, and a member of the Better Make Room council, Ji commits himself to closing the education gap beyond Palo Alto.
FLY is a peer-to-peer modeling program Ji created in 2013. He was inspired to create FLY after seeing a lack of financial literacy education in the Gunn curriculum.
“It seems when you become an adult, you’re supposed to know how to manage your money, but you never learn that during your education,” Ji says. “I realized that financial education needs to be integrated into our curriculum.”
According to Ji, FLY is making progress in its mission — from holding tutoring sessions at the Mitchell Park Library to creating finance electives at JLS and Terman Middle School, FLY now reaches many students in Palo Alto, and nearby East Palo Alto.
Ultimately, Ji’s dream to make education equity a reality across America led him to the organization Better Make Room, a federal effort to encourage students to attend college. As the program’s regional liaison, Ji says he plans college-signing days for underprivileged Bay Area students.
Evidently, Ji has gained national recognition from his work, in the form of articles and his nomination to join Better Make Room. Ji thinks his teamwork-based approach helped him address community issues.
“You could say that one person changes the world, but I disagree,” Ji says. “It’s that one person with an idea, but you need to have a team to spread that idea.”
Ji accredits his FLY committee and History Club staff with helping him find solutions to his self-proclaimed “crazy ideas,” through late-night message conversations lasting hours.
With his efforts and accomplishments in promoting the importance of education he says he hopes to bring about even more change in the future.
“I want to make an impact,” Ji says. “I don’t want to sit on the sidelines or in a conference talking about issues. I want to make change.”