CHESHIRE — While many high school freshmen are preoccupied with what classes might look like next year, worried about the problems high school comes with, and trying to come to grips with newfound independence, Eunsuh Park has had one very specific thing on her mind lately — saving money for college.
Last month, Park was announced as one of the Connecticut Higher Education Trust Advance Scholarship recipients. She received $2,023 towards her college career.
“I wasn’t expecting to receive this at all,” Park said. “It came as a huge shock to me, especially since I almost didn’t apply at all.”
The scholarship, a special program created by the CHET 529 College Savings Program, asks high school freshmen to conduct a “civic engagement interview.”
Students interview someone in their community whom they admire and they feel is making a difference.
“I chose to interview my high school French teacher, Madame Ocone, because everyone loves her and she has made a huge impact on my life already,” Park said. “It was a little weird to interview my teacher, to be honest, but once it got started we got into the groove of it.”
Recipients also had to answer a series of questions about what civic engagement means to them.
For Park, the application almost slipped by her due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I vaguely remembered seeing a virtual flier sometime after we had to move school online, but I had nearly forgotten about it entirely until my mother encouraged me to apply,” she explained.
When Park isn’t looking for scholarships, she spends a lot of her time with her dog, Jinny, outside and loves the musical “Hamilton.” Park is also one of four siblings, with whom she spends most of her time with.
Koonam Park, Eunsuh’s mother, believes the scholarship opportunity did much more for her daughter than provide funds for college, and she speaks fondly about the lessons her daughter has learned about civic engagement.
“What I am most proud of about Eunsuh is her caring mind. She cares deeply about the people around her and is always sharing with them,” she said. “She just recently reached out to a student who she heard was being bullied and made a beautiful friendship with them. She is always caring about others, and my husband and I are so proud of her and what she has accomplished.”
While Park has no idea what college may look like for her right now, she knows that what she is doing now will have a big impact on her later on.
“School is expensive,” she said. “I am so lucky to have had this opportunity, but there are always more opportunities to apply to and look for.”