As a high school student in Pennsylvania, Hyo Park dreamed of going to college.
But come graduation day, he found himself stuck.
While his friends went off to seek four-year degrees, Park took several part-time jobs to make ends meet — at a deli and a bank, in retail and telemarketing.
When times were really tough, he’d donate plasma twice a week for $50.
“I dreamed of a college education,” Park said. “It was luxury I couldn’t afford.”
That didn’t stop him from keeping hold of that goal. And before long, despite his mother’s reservations, he joined the Navy so that he could eventually seek financial assistance to get a college degree.
In uniform, Park excelled.
He became a ballistic missile defense computer technician, serving aboard the USS Lake Erie stationed in Pearl Harbor. He was deployed to China, Japan and Korea.
And he was recognized by the commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet for his role in helping to develop the nation’s ballistic missile defense capabilities.
Things were going well, but Park never forgot his bigger dream.
In his spare time, he took online college courses at Chaminade. And it was through those classes that he realized the school that offered him the “right fit” had been in front of him all along.
He chose to enroll in Chaminade full-time, and after taking a particularly inspiring organic chemistry course with Professor Bulent Terem — “It was the first class that challenged me to think critically and stimulated my curiosity,” Park says — declared biochemistry as his major.
Hyo & friends celebrate Professor Terem’s birthday
Park remembers those early days at Chaminade with no small amount of fondness—he was finally where he belonged.
But he also cringes a little when he recalls how socially awkward—his words—he was, having taken up a host of habits in the military that just didn’t translate well in the real world. (Turns out, people don’t stand at attention in front of their professors’ desks.)
Eventually, though, Park loosened up, got used to civilian life again, made friends. He gained some valuable mentors, too. Professors like Terem who, Park said, live to make learning engaging, and whose passions in their fields are absolutely infectious.
In hopes of giving back to Terem, Park even volunteered to serve as his lab assistant.
“Although I initially started with the intention of helping Dr. Terem,” he said, “I realized that I was able to develop my leadership and communication skills because of these experiences.”
And Park just kept building on those skills—and looking for more opportunities to grow.
Hyo with fellow students at UCLA summer program
He spent a summer helping underserved populations through a UCLA School of Medicine program. He got a grant from Chaminade to attend a conference, where he met with members of the admissions committees from medical schools around the country. And he spent a summer studying zebrafish embryo at the University of Maryland, and then received a Chaminade travel grant to present his award-winning research at a conference.
In short, Park has accomplished some incredible things at Chaminade — thanks in large part, he says, to the connections and mentorships and support he’s gotten at the university.
But perhaps the most noteworthy part of Park’s journey at Chaminade isn’t his many successes, it’s his growing commitment to helping those around him.
“While at Chaminade,” he said, “I learned the importance of dedicating myself to something greater than my personal ambitions — through service.”
And that’s why, after Park graduates in May, he’ll be headed off to the George Washington University School of Medicine & Health Sciences, where he scored a seat after applying through Chaminade’s articulation agreement.
At George Washington, he said, Park wants to learn — and serve. He plans to volunteer at the university’s “healing clinic,” serving low-income populations who don’t have affordable access to health care.