Two high school students take aim at helping others on a higher level

The Shining Stars feature in this issue of The Outlook can be described in one word: humanitarians. Hannah Kim and Alyssa Emerson both have lofty post-high school career goals that are daunting yet inspiring. From dentistry to pediatric oncology, Hannah and Alyssa’s resolve to bring their dreams to fruition undoubtedly will make the world a better place for all of us.KIM

Seventeen-year-old Hannah Kim recalls accompanying her mother and sister, as a child, on missions to serve the homeless in downtown Portland. The trio dished up meals at the Portland Rescue Mission, delivered water bottles during the summer and played Santa with wrapped socks and hats on Christmas Eve.

For Hannah, a Gresham High School senior, it was an example set by an extraordinary woman that has led to a life’s calling.

“My mom has rooted compassion in me since I was very young,” Hannah said. “She has such a kind heart. But it’s caused me to seek to serve others as a way to serve God.”

Hannah’s passion to help the homeless became an ongoing commitment. She continued to accompany her mother to shelters but began to branch out to help in her own way.

Last year, Hannah designed a logo, which she had printed on T-shirts she purchased herself, intent on raising money for hygiene kits for the homeless. Sale of her T-shirts, emblazoned with “Restoring Hope for Homelessness, Portland Bound,” exceeded her wildest ambitions.

“My original intent was to raise money to buy basic essentials and personal hygiene items for homeless men and women,” Hannah said. “I got 100 T-shirts that I sold to family and friends. Everyone was so supportive. With the T-shirts and additional donations, I raised $1,000.”

Born and raised in Gresham, Hannah had the opportunity to see the plight of those less fortunate on a global level while on a 10-day church mission to Las Brisas, Honduras, last summer. What she witnessed cemented her plans for her future.

“It was the most memorable experience of my life,” Hannah said. “It was so eye-opening to see how happy those people were, despite their living conditions and lack of basic health care. There is such a need for doctors and dentists in rural areas. Being in Honduras made me realize that ultimately, I want to provide oral health care to inner cities in the U.S. and in Third World countries.”

The daughter of Myong Eun and Byeong Soo Kim, Hannah is an International Baccalaureate candidate with a 4.0 grade point average. She is aiming for dental school, but her sights are set on making a global impact.

“Anything can become possible if you have passion and motivation,” she said.EMERSON

As the youngest of six children, Alyssa Emerson was never at a loss for teachers. She credits her older sisters with teaching her to count to 100 as a child, as well as examples of how one child can positively influence another.

But it also led Alyssa to recognize a variety of ways to say “thank you” through her actions.

“I like to give back because there are so many people who have done so much for me,” Alyssa said. “My school has given me an education, and my church has always supported me. There are so many people in the community who have been there for me.”

The daughter of Kammie and Scott Emerson, 17-year-old Alyssa is a senior and honors student at Sam Barlow High School. She is one of three captains on the varsity cheerleading squad and recently rallied her teammates to help feed two adopted families for Thanksgiving. She volunteers at Gordon Russell Middle School, frequently talking to students about the adjustments to middle and high school and how to make good decisions.

And weekly, Alyssa can be found behind a closed circuit camera at Mountain View Christian Church. She’s part of a crew that films church services for streaming through the church’s website for broadcast to shut-ins.

But Alyssa doesn’t wait for a call for volunteers. She’s the first to sign up for park cleanups and teaching children at her church’s Vacation Bible School, and once she reorganized a storage closet containing old trophies and posters from previous cheerleading teams.

“I feel like if I don’t do it, nobody will do it,” Alyssa said. “When I see something that needs to be done, I like knowing that I’m making someone’s life easier.”

Alyssa has been accepted at Western Washington University in Bellingham, Wash., where she plans to do her undergraduate work toward a degree in pediatric oncology. It’s a passion close to her heart, as she lost both a beloved uncle and a close friend to cancer. But it’s also her motivation to make a difference in the lives of others on a higher level.

“I’ve known so many people who have died from cancer and I couldn’t help them,” Alyssa said. “After I go through all my schooling, I’ll finally have the chance to help people.”

Hannah and Alyssa will be recognized as Great Young Citizens from their respective schools at the Tuesday, Dec. 4, Gresham City Council meeting. The council presents the award monthly to a local high school student who exemplifies volunteerism in his or her community. Hannah and Alyssa are the November and December recipients.

Shining Stars is a feature that recognizes local students quietly doing great things in the community. Outlook readers, parents and teachers are encouraged to tell us about a student of any age, whose talents outside the academic arena are making our world a better place. Do they volunteer regularly at a retirement center? Have they taught an artistic practice to a youth group? What are they doing in the community that makes us proud to call them our neighbor?

Tell us about a Shining Star you know by contacting Anne Endicott at 503-492-5118 or via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

And watch for the next Shining Star in the Tuesday, Jan. 8, issue of The Outlook.

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