College-bound graduate seeks help for buying an assistance van

November 26, 2013

By Peter Clark

Local volunteers hope to make a college transition easy for one student.

Jae Kim graduated from Issaquah High School this year and is excited about starting Bellevue College in January. She has cerebral palsy, and while Issaquah High School provided assistance in transportation, she will need to find her own way to future education.

By Peter Clark Jae Kim (center) hopes to have transportation for her power wheelchair and communication device as she starts taking classes at Bellevue College. Her mother Ji Yang (left), and friends Jody Mull and Lisa Gaan are working to make that a reality by raising money from the community.

By Peter Clark
Jae Kim (center) hopes to have transportation for her power wheelchair and communication device as she starts taking classes at Bellevue College. Her mother Ji Yang (left), and friends Jody Mull and Lisa Gaan are working to make that a reality by raising money from the community.

In response, a group of local residents have started a campaign to raise $50,000 to buy Kim and her family a gently used van, complete with lift assistance. They hope to find help from the community to take this large worry off Kim’s entry into college.

“Yeah, I’m pretty excited to start my new life at Bellevue College, even though it’s a little bit scary,” Kim said with the help of her communicator.

She uses a joystick with her left hand in order to meticulously enter words into a monitor, which then speaks for her.

“It is scary, because at high school, people helped me a lot,” she said. “During my high school years, my teachers and aids supported me with my personal care or schoolwork. They also helped deciding what classes I should take, although now my favorite part of college is controlling my schedule.”

Without the use of a van, Kim has had to leave behind her independently operated wheelchair and rely on others.

“I used a stroller that someone needed to push me,” Kim said. “It wasn’t really fun for me, since I couldn’t go anywhere that I wanted to go and had to wait for somebody to push my stroller. I couldn’t use my communication device, which was attached to my power wheelchair.”

The lack of mobility impacted her social life until the school district stepped in with assistance.

On the Web

Learn more about Jae Kim and how to help at

www.facebook.com/VanForJaeKim.

“I lost time with my friends, since I couldn’t go to any school activity, like prom or dances,” she said. “Issaquah School District thankfully provided me with a wheelchair school bus every day, so I was able to attend school in my power wheelchair.”

Jody Mull and Lisa Gaan are volunteering their time to raise money for a van. Mull said they hope to raise $50,000 and are now over halfway there.

“Three people have donated $5,000 and we have raised an additional $10,000,” Mull said, adding that she’s hoping to gather the full amount by the time Kim start’s classes Jan. 6. “We would like to have the van by the end of December.”

Gaan has started talking with Absolute Mobility, a dealership in Woodinville, that has begun putting together a package of options that would best serve Kim. In the meantime, she hopes to raise the funds from the community.

“This is a group effort,” Gaan said. “That’s why I think we’re kind of a unique cause, because there is a connection to a greater group of people.”

She also added that donations are tax-deductible.

Kim’s mother Ji Yang moved the family to Issaquah from Seoul, South Korea, 11 years ago. She hoped to find better opportunities for Kim’s education.

“My friend lives in Seattle and when I was moved in, I found a job in Issaquah,” Yang said, adding that she’s thankful the move has proven beneficial. “Now is better than we faced 11 years ago.”

Once Kim begins five-day classes in January, Yang plans to accompany her for support in her future career aspirations.

“My goals are to go to earn my Associates in Arts degree at Bellevue College and then to transfer to the University of Washington to become an assistive technology specialist,” Kim said. “Of course, I miss Issaquah High School. I earned a lot of things such as friends and my dream that I found while I was there. Every moment at IHS was a gift to me, and I wouldn’t exchange it with anything.”

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