Written By: Kirsten Milloy
Edited by: Lani Wray Allen
Meet your neighbor, Windy Hill resident, John Kwon. In 2023, John Kwon graduated cum laude from Shenandoah University (SHU) with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Follow along as John reflects on his experience being part of the Windy Hill community, volunteering with Windy Hill, navigating the COVID-19 pandemic, and more.
The Kwon Family moved to The Plains when John was in 8th grade. John and his two brothers attended Kettle Run High School in Warrenton, VA. Fast forward to 2023, John works at Kettle Run High School as an Instructional Assistant. He spends his days floating between classrooms working with special education students, predominantly in the freshman and sophomore levels, where they need extra help adjusting to high school responsibilities. “I am their support system” John explains, “learning comes with repetition, and sometimes hearing things in a different way is helpful.”
As a child, John struggled with Math and English, so he relates to his students and is happy to be there to offer support to those who need it most. He describes working in a classroom setting, as opposed to being a student. “Being on the instructional side allows me to better understand the concepts I used to struggle with and use that understanding to help the students who struggle as well.”
Prior to finding his career path, John applied to a handful of universities and chose to attend Shenandoah University. “I chose Shenandoah because it had a very nice feel to it. I loved the view on campus and found that I wasn’t overwhelmed by the size of the campus.” The college application process can be overwhelming. Although it was scary at first, with the help of family and friends, John was able to apply for financial aid to fund his education and select a school that he was excited to attend.
“I was and still am very thankful that I was able to receive a partial scholarship and tuition assistance from Windy Hill Foundation.” In 2019, as part of the financial aid scholarship agreement with Windy Hill, John started volunteering with the Foundation’s Summer Camp. “I was grateful for that experience because it gave me the opportunity to be in a leadership position. We took many trips and had many fun adventures that summer in The Plains.”
During the early stages of the pandemic, John continued to volunteer with Windy Hill through the Meals on Wheels program. Meals on Wheels provided Windy Hill residents with food assistance while adhering to social distancing and CDC guidelines. Throughout 2020, John worked alongside the Foundation to deliver boxes of canned foods, fresh vegetables, and prepackaged meals to Windy Hill residents in Middleburg, Marshall, and The Plains. When John reflects on this time in his life, he shares “I got to see how much Windy Hill Foundation impacts the lives of others in the area. Through Meals on Wheels, I was able to see all the different neighborhoods and communities that the Foundation serves.”
“Volunteering with Windy Hill [during the COVID-19 pandemic] kept me grounded, knowing that there is still a world out there and I could serve those in need. It was humbling to see that I wasn’t the only one going through that experience.”
Despite being quarantined at home for the majority of his college years, John was able to stay in touch with his friends virtually. “As an introvert, college was intimidating at first but when I met my roommate freshman year, he introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons, and we ended up building our own group of friends that played D&D. Even though it was tough to be apart, we would use Skype and Discord to stay connected and hangout virtually.”
Towards the end of his junior year and throughout senior year, John joined several clubs at SHU, including the Diverse games club and the Psychology club. As a member of the Psychology club, John participated in fundraising events such as the “Out of the Darkness Walk.” The club would organize a walk around campus to raise funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and to help bring awareness to suicide prevention. John’s advice to others who may be considering going to college is “I highly recommend seeking out clubs that you are interested in and finding community through that. I think it’s worth getting out there and getting to know new people, making friends and memories that will last a lifetime.”
As John looks back on the past four years, he highlights the importance of self-reflection. “Volunteering at Windy Hill really had an impact on figuring out what I really want to do. It gave me time to do a lot of self-reflection and see where the trajectory of my future was going.” I had to ask myself: what can I study, and what can I do to make a positive impact toward the lives of the people around me, but also how can I give back to the community? I have received so many services, whether it was tutoring or after school programs, and I just knew I wanted the opportunity to take what I’ve learned and use it to give back to those in need in my community.”
Many of us can relate to the feeling of fear of the unknown. John’s story is a real-life example of the positive change you can make in your own life by stepping out of your comfort zone. As a self-described introvert, John was faced with many challenges throughout his college experience. John was able to use the life experiences he gained along the way to overcome those challenges and build a life that makes him proud.
Many others like John want to take their lives into their own hands, but do not have the resources to do it. This is where we, as a community, come into play. When you donate to Windy Hill Foundation, you are helping the Foundation provide resources like tuition assistance, career coaching, and more. Donate today and help your Windy Hill neighbors grow personally, professionally, and financially.