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West Ranch's Michelle Kim: Wildcat sheds her shell

Posted: June 11, 2013 10:29 p.m.
Updated: June 11, 2013 10:29 p.m.
West Ranch senior Michelle Kim is attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. Dan Watson/The Signal West Ranch senior Michelle Kim is attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. Dan Watson/The Signal
West Ranch senior Michelle Kim is attending the University of California, Berkeley in the fall. Dan Watson/The Signal

Editor’s note: This is the sixth and final in a series of stories in which The Signal recognizes high school athletes whose greatest achievements go well beyond the playing field.

There are few traits as important as confidence in the difficult world of high school.

The bravery to stand up and take charge among your peers is often what sets students apart.

For West Ranch graduate Michelle Kim, it’s a trait she’s worked diligently at for four years, and that work has transformed her into the strong person she is today.

Kim, a golfer for the West Ranch varsity girls golf team, was so much more than that during her four years at the school.

She was an officer in both Key Club and National Honors Society, volunteer groups that require her to perform community service and organize student-run events.

She was also the editor-in-chief of West Ranch’s school newspaper her senior year after serving as lifestyle editor and copy editor during her junior and sophomore years, respectively.

The experiences were fun, sure. But more importantly, they shaped Kim into the young woman she is today.

“I realized a lot of who I’ve come to be today is from admiring some of these role models from these organizations,” she says.

“I had to give speeches in Key Club and giving speeches was not my forte at all. I would shiver up in front of the classroom and go to my seat and back before high school,” Kim adds. “But now, I’m able to lead meetings, and in a similar way I’ve become more comfortable with my writing and I guess I’m a little faster at it, too.”

The experiences have helped her set a path for success that will stretch to the University of California, Berkeley next year.

She held a GPA above 4.0 during her senior year and was named West Ranch High’s girls scholar athlete of the year.

“I have to be a little more cautious with my time at college because I know school will be the No. 1 thing,” Kim says. “I am definitely interested in getting involved, but I still have to see what I can get involved with and how many activities I can do.”

As a result, she expects golf to be on the back burner for a few years.

“I know I will keep playing for the rest of my life, but maybe it will take a brief hiatus,” she says.

During her four years as a Wildcat, though, golf was one of the most important things in her life.

She was never the Wildcats’ top golfer, but she played one of the team’s most important roles.

“She played mostly our Nos. 3 and 4 spots which helped us go back-to-back with our league championships,” says West Ranch head coach Jeff Holen. “You win championships with your Nos. 4,5,6 golfers and she definitely filled that up well.”

Her impact on the team, though, went far beyond the course.

“Michelle is one of those students that doesn’t look out for herself,” Holen says. “She looks out for other people first ... With that she had a humble spirit, no matter what she did everything was out of respect.”

Things were certainly difficult along the way — Kim was spread thin, and yet, managed to succeed at everything she tried her hand at.

“I have had some regrets about what I’ve done in the past few years,” Kim says. “I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of times with my friends, for example, and that’s the biggest thing I regret. But spending my time working for these activities and doing what I loved, I do not regret that at all. It really helped me to grow as a person. It helped me to recognize what I want to do.”

She intends to study environmental economics and policy — a subject that piqued her interest after taking human geography classes at West Ranch.

Through academics, volunteering and golf, Kim has grown from a shy youngster into a confident young woman — a formula that should help her be successful in the future.

“The increase in her maturity was pretty impressive,” says her father, Andrew Kim. “And it’s the way she handles the pressure of time and demands of her activities, including school work, that we were very happy to see.

“College and life is all about dealing with people and dealing with challenges,” he says. “She’s going to have the basic skills to go further.”

The once shy kid is certainly still quiet — someone who doesn’t speak before thinking — but don’t mistake that quietness for a lack of self-confidence.

Kim knows how to succeed. Four years of volunteering, leadership and athletics have taught her that.

And as she prepares to take the next step toward college, it would be foolish to bet against her.


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