Assemblyman Ron Kim Awards Two Students from LaGuardia Community College for Their True “Grit”

Long Island City, NY—February 27, 2014– Assemblyman Ron Kim awarded two LaGuardia Community College students $250 scholarships for their winning essays that poignantly described how they overcame insurmountable obstacles through determination and perseverance.

Kat Lam and Nancy Li Xiuqin were winners in the assemblyman’s Grit Essay Contest, a project that is part of his bold initiative to restore and promote “grit” in the community. Mr. Kim sponsored the contest in partnership with the Law Offices of Gary S. Park. Kat and Nancy were joined by two other awardees, Susan Stuart, a Queensborough Community College student, and Victor Lee, a regional representative of MetroPlus.

“This initiative is centered around and geared toward assisting individuals who are resilient, passionate and determined,” said Mr. Kim at the February 24th awards ceremony. “Its goal is to identify and highlight the amazing stories of individuals who show the ideals of grittiness through their own struggles and obstruction in life.”

He went on to say, “For many years, top researchers have found that the top characteristic trait, above IQs and talent that makes an individual successful is grit, the ability to be passionate and persevere toward long-term goals. When you walk down any part of my district in Flushing, you will see grit every single day. Whether it’s a working-class mother juggling two jobs or an immigrant student staying after school for several hours to learn English. I see my role, as a public servant, to help these gritty individuals find a platform to showcase the strength of our community.”

Kat is one of those Flushing residents. Kat, a native of China, immigrated to the United States with her mother in 2011 and immediately encountered the struggles that many new arrivals experience.

With little money, they had no choice but to rent a room in Flushing where they shared a bed. It took months for her mother to finally land a job in a neighborhood bakery. Focused on saving money for college, Kat worked at a grocery store and a shoe store, and in her spare time went to the library to improve her English. By the Spring 2012 semester she had saved enough money to cover the tuition costs at LaGuardia and enrolled as a biology major with the hope of becoming an oncologist.

While enduring a grueling schedule–classes in the evening classes and working during the day—she had another obstacle thrown in her way: doctors had found a tumor that required surgery.

But she was back in class soon after the operation. While immersing herself in her biology courses, she discovered that she had an equal passion for research. She joined a research project that she presented at the National Collegiate Honors Council’s annual conference, a national association of honors programs at four and two-year colleges, and took first prize in its science poster presentation competition.

She also enriched her science education by working as a medical assistant at a Flushing medical center that specializes in gastroenterology and hepatology and by serving as a research intern at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Kat will be graduating in February and hopes that in the fall of 2014 she will be enrolled in the molecular and cellular biology program at one of her top choices—Johns Hopkins, Cornell and Barnard. Her career goal is to be a scientist where she will research and develop on cancer vaccines.

Nancy, too, was born in China to parents who wanted her to be a restaurateur like them. But, she wanted to enter a career where she could help people. So, with her sights set for becoming a physical therapy assistant, Nancy enrolled in LaGuardia’s GED Bridge to College and Careers Program.

Struggling to balance school and a job in a restaurant, Nancy thought about dropping out of school on several occasions, but she persevered. She improved her command of English and maintained a high G.P.A. that qualified her for acceptance into Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

Nancy will earn her associate degree next semester and hopes to transfer to Columbia University and, ultimately, pursue a master’s.

“LaGuardia students like Kat and Nancy embody the word, “grit,” said Dr. Gail O. Mellow, president of LaGuardia. “They are hardworking, passionate about learning, and often must overcome large hurdles on the path to success. By shining a spotlight on the importance of grit to student success, and by inspiring these generous scholarships being donated by the Law Offices of Gary S. Park, Assemblyman Ron Kim is showing extraordinary leadership and his work will have a profound impact on our community.”

Mr. Park praised the winners for their true grittiness that has made Flushing a thriving and successful immigrant community, and thanked Mr. Kim for their collaboration.

“I want to thank Assemblyman Kim for giving my law firm the opportunity to participate in the “Grit Essay Contest,” he said. “I look forward to supporting this and other worthy community projects.”

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LaGuardia Community College located in Long Island City, Queens, was founded in 1971 as a bold experiment in opening the doors of higher education to all, and we proudly carry forward that legacy today. LaGuardia educates students through over 50 degree, certificate and continuing education programs, providing an inspiring place for students to achieve their dreams. Upon graduation, LaGuardia students’ lives are transformed as family income increases 17%, and students transfer to four-year colleges at three times the national average. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), LaGuardia is a nationally recognized leader among community colleges for boundary-breaking success educating underserved students. At LaGuardia we imagine new ideas, create new curriculum and pioneer programs to make our community and our country stronger. Visit to learn more.