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Placer senior traveled long way in just two short years

By: Colin Berr, Journal Staff Writer
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As Chi Soo Song laughs and smiles with his friends in class, it’s unthinkable to fathom that just over two years ago there was no trace of the graduating senior at Placer High School. At that time, he was still in South Korea, preparing for the journey of his life. “Moving to the United States was the biggest risk I ever took,” recalled Song. Barely able to speak English and attempting to acclimate in the midst of a bad economy, Song and his family struggled both economically and emotionally. At one point, they even considered moving from Auburn to Korea Town in Los Angeles. “But I didn’t like the idea,” Song said. “I thought the reason we moved to America was to challenge us in difficult conditions, to achieve more and enrich our experiences. Eventually we decided to take another risk, not to go to Korea Town.” It was in Song’s high school ceramics class where those risks began to pay off. The laid-back, music-laden atmosphere gave him the freedom to explore the language with the students around him. “We don’t hold kids back from talking in this class, and Chi Soo wasn’t afraid to attempt the language,” said ceramics teacher Toby Covich. “Once he got comfortable, his talent shone as a student and artist.” Spurred on by his newfound success, Song tried to get more involved on campus. He volunteered his time through the Interact Club for community service projects and joined the school’s tennis team. In addition, he began to excel in his classes, where students and teachers took notice. “I remember hearing his name called at the awards ceremony and watching his fellow classmates erupt with applause,” said Christy Dyer, Song’s English as Second Language (ESL) teacher. “He’s just taken off. The students here love him.” Once shy and self-conscious of his accent, Song practiced his senior speech in front of the whole ESL class, said Dyer. “Typical for Chi Soo, he wanted to have it just perfect,” she said. “He’s one of those memorable students you have as a teacher.” Having conquered high school, Song is ready to move on to college. Next fall he will attend UC Davis with an intended major in microbiology. His recently won Gold Mine Scholarship will help him fund his education. Looking back on his accomplishments, Song was asked what advice he might have for other immigrants. “When I was 16, I read a quote that went something like, ‘The reason for failure is not lack of skills, but lack of will.’ It made an impression on me, and since then, I’ve reflected on what I can do to improve myself. Push yourself, don’t be afraid to take risks,” Song said. Song feels the students at Placer High School also helped him adjust. “The other students treated me well and made me feel welcome when I first arrived,” Song said. “I have to admit I was a little worried after seeing the stereotypes in American movies.” His fellow students will graduate along with him on Saturday at the LeFebvre Stadium.