Gamer uses Instructional Technology and Media degree to help underpriveleged children

Aeloch KimAnother gunshot and ambulance siren after a few minutes – such familiar signs meant that I was going to attend another funeral for a friend’s family. Growing up as a foreigner in the worst neighborhood in Kazakhstan, I saw lives of the underprivileged. I was ten when my closest friend’s brother died from gang violence. At the funeral, I asked my mom, “wasn’t he a good guy, like Sonic the Hedgehog?”

As a child, the only escape from such gang violence was playing video games. Since I was the only one who had a game console, the whole class strolled in to my house to play Sonic. My parents had one rule: only students from class could come and play. Because of the rule, my friends never missed a class. As result, our class had the lowest dropouts and stayed away from the streets.

My passion in games grew while I started to question education. Statistics show that children ages 8 to 18 spend over seven hours a day using technology for entertainment including gaming. That adds up to almost four months per year. I often asked, “why do children are so motivated to play games but lack motivation at school?” With my childhood experience and my desire to tackle such questions, I decided to pursue my study at Instructional Technology and Media at Teachers College, Columbia University.

Coming from an underprivileged family, attending a private school means facing many obstacles. The first and foremost obstacle is finance. To support myself, I work as a teacher, waiter and researcher. Although I receive invitations to present at education conferences, I do not have money to attend them. I struggled with malnutrition for few years but that did not stop me from achieving my goal. Another main obstacle is not seeing my family. People question me saying “why haven’t you visited your family for more than 10 years?” I hesitate to answer. I do not want to visit the worst neighborhood and pretend that I am not part of that neighborhood. I want to go back and change my neighborhood. I do not want to visit, but return and make changes.

Graduating from Teachers College, Columbia University means that I am close to building an engaging learning environment that will keep students away from the streets and lead to success. Currently, I work closely with Games Research Lab at Columbia University developing the Gamification Toolkit, a website for teachers that provide instructional kits which supports pedagogy, student behavioral management, and Common Core curriculum. It provides the theory and research for the game principles utilized in the toolkit.

Just like my technological interest kept me away from the worst activities the streets had to offer, I want to draw children to school and away from other dangers. As I graduate a Masters of Arts in Instructional Technology and Media at the Teachers College, Columbia University, I will become closer to becoming a teacher that can help the underprivileged.

We are proud to announce Aeloch Kim is one of the current JustJobs Scholarship finalists. Vote for his essay (Facebook ‘Like’ and other social media sharing options in left column), click the ‘star’ just above comments section below, and/or leave comments of support to help us with the selection process.

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  • Shivani

    Absolutely incredible. Good luck to you!

  • Kat

    Amazing. I feel privileged to hear your story and you inspire me. You’re going to make real changes, and I’m sure in many ways you already have.

  • Sara

    This is so beautiful. You’re so inspirational, I can’t wait to see you do great things 🙂

  • Annie

    so inspirational, overcoming adversity to fulfill your dreams and goals!! good luck on everything!

  • Jeanny

    Truly inspirational! Keep up the great work!

  • Claire

    Congratulations! This is great!!

  • Kyle

    Such a remarkable story, I wish you all the best. If anyone could do it, you’re the guy!

  • Sasha

    Go Enok!!

  • Henry

    This is a really inspirational story. You’re gonna change so many lives. Keep striving!

  • Candice

    We’ve been friends since my 2nd year of college when I first met you through Yoorim. I always thought you had the chillest style and had such spunky spirit for travel and adventure. I also thought you were pretty darn awesome too for almost always bringing us korean food at the apartment when we’d be starving. Haha.

    I don’t think I’ve ever had the chance to hear much of your story until reading this. I mean, I knew you were passionate about teaching but I didn’t know why. I have great respect for you man. Your heart. Your passion. Continue reaching for it no matter the circumstance. People who are brave enough to follow their dreams inspire me so much. I wish you the best man. And hope to see you again soon!!!

  • maia manchester

    What a vision! Continue pursuing this passion and mission. Great Job.

  • BV

    Whoa inspiring.

  • Kathleah

    Thank you for sharing your story and passion!

  • Ken

    Keep it up Aeloch, great things will happen to people like you!

  • 파이팅!

  • Victor Liu

    well done. congrats!

  • Aaron

    =] Interesting

  • jenny

    great work!!

  • Baul

    Nice work брата́н!

  • skyphl0828

    “I do not want to visit, but return and make changes.” I surely believe that you will do so. Awesome bro!

  • Kenny

    proud of you, only sometimes 😉 press on, brother!

  • Elaine

    I am so proud of what you are doing now:) I fully support your goal, and you are just so close!