By Shahana Jackson
State Assemblyman Ron Kim (D-Flushing) awarded two LaGuardia Community College students $250 each for winning the Grit Essay Contest.
The contest is part of a project to honor people in the community who show grit and determination in striving for long-term goals.
Kat Lam, of Flushing, and Nancy Li Xiuqin, of Elmhurst, were the LaGuardia students who won the contest. The Flushing law offices of Gary S. Park sponsored the competition.
“This initiative is centered around and geared towards assisting individuals who are resilient, passionate and determined,” said Kim. “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.”
Lam, a native of China, came to the United States with her mother in 2011. Her family immediately felt financial pressures and had no choice but to rent a single room in Flushing. Lam and her mother were forced to share a bed.
Kat focused on saving money for college and worked at a local grocery and shoe store to make ends meet. In her spare time she went to the library to improve her English.
Lam had enough money to cover the costs for her tuition and enrolled at LaGuardia in spring 2012 as a biology major with hopes of becoming an oncologist. She endured a grueling schedule that included work during the day and classes at night.
Unfortunately, Lam had further setbacks when doctors found a tumor and had to perform surgery to remove it. The operation did not stop her and she eventually went on to do medical research on a project presented to the National Collegiate Honors Council, a national association of honors programs at four-year and two-year colleges. She took first place in the science presentation competition.
Lam will be graduating in February and hopes to be enrolled in a molecular and cellular biology program at Johns Hopkins or Cornell this fall. Her goal is to become a scientist so she can research and develop cancer vaccines.
Xiuqin was also born in China to parents in the restaurant business, but she always aspired to a where she could help people. She enrolled in LaGuardia’s GED Bridge to College and Career’s program in hopes of becoming a physical therapy assistant. She worked in a restaurant but struggled to balance school and work. Although Xiuqin often thought about dropping out of school, she persevered.
Xiuqin improved her English, maintained a high GPA and qualified for acceptance into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honors Society. She will earn her associate degree next month and hopes to transfer to Columbia University to pursue her education.
The assemblyman was particularly impressed by the diligence of the contest winners. Parks praised the winners for their perseverance and thanked Kim for his participation and support. Researchers have found that grit, spirit and perseverance were more important to success than IQ and talent.
“When you walk down any part of my district in Flushing, you will see grit every single day,” Kim said. “Whether it’s a working-class mother juggling two jobs or an immigrant student staying after school for several hours to learn English.”
He added, “I see my role as a public servant to help these gritty individuals find a platform to showcase the strength of our community.”