In April, the Massachusetts Promise Fellowship had the fortunate opportunity to honor one of our current Fellows, Jeeyoon Kim, and one of her youth participants, Tayler Nunez. When Jeeyoon started at ZUMIX, a youth arts nonprofit in East Boston, she remarked “there wasn’t really a get to know you phase with Tayler, from the moment we met we were close.”
From the beginning, it was clear that Tayler and Jeeyoon would forge a special friendship. In Jeeyoon’s words, “Tayler was good at everything she put her mind to, academically and artistically but didn’t know where to go to next.” During their time together, Jeeyoon helped Tayler navigate the college selection process, still unsure of whether she was making an impact.
From Tayler’s perspective, her journey with ZUMIX began with the help of guidance counselors who suggested that she and her sisters get involved with after school activities as a form of recovery. What began as an artistic outlet quickly became a community of support, encouragement, and life-long learning:
“I was enrolled in my very first Zumix program called HiDef. In HiDef we learned how to write lyrics, work in a band, record the music and shoot music videos. When I started recording my very first written song in the studio, I went home in tears because I thought I was not good enough. I skipped class for an entire week because I was too embarrassed to go back. However, Corey, the program coordinator for HiDef eventually walked all the way to my house, knocked on my door and told me that I was not allowed to bail and that I was going to finish strong. Since that day, I have been involved at Zumix for almost 5 years.”
Tayler was involved in hiring Jeeyoon and quickly felt drawn to her during the process. As a mentor and friend, Jeeyoon has spent hours working with ZUMIX seniors one-on-one preparing them for high school graduation and the college process. As the Pathways Coordinator at ZUMIX, Jeeyoon has coached seniors applying to school and offered life-advice whenever needed. In this process, Jeeyoon nominated Tayler for the Torch Scholarship at Northeastern University and, with her support, was able to successfully meet the criteria and was selected as a finalist. With the support of Jeeyoon and through Tayler’s exceptional academic skill and determination, she will be attending Northeastern as a full tuition Torch Scholar in the fall.
Yet, the impact of Tayler’s friendship is felt just as acutely for Jeeyoon. At this point in her service year, Jeeyoon as noted that if anything has “marked this year for me it’s been risk; risk that pushes you to learn new things about yourself.” After Tayler successfully performed in a school-wide assembly and ran to programming to tell Jeeyoon about her success,
“There was something in that moment that told me, I am in the right place and I do belong in youth work. I have become an impactful support system for these young people and I’ve never come home from program feeling more than wholly satisfied. As someone, who just like Tayler, has spent a lot of time unsure of which path to go down, I’ve found solid footing in this one.”
Today, MPF could not be more proud of Jeeyoon and Tayler as they follow their respective paths. Thank you for your service Jeeyoon and, thank you, Tayler, for inspiring us every day by your hard work and creativity!