Tuesday, January 8, 2002

HPU student Jason Kim, who has dealt with a learning disability and Crohn's disease in his life, will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in entrepreneurial studies tomorrow.

HPU student leaps
hurdles to graduation

Determination helps Jason Kim
overcome illness and disability

By Treena Shapiro

Jason Forrest Kim doesn't let obstacles stop him.

Take age, for instance.

At 13, Kim wanted a job, but all he could find were paper routes: first the now-defunct Sun Press weekly, then the daily Star-Bulletin.

That wasn't enough for the entrepreneurial teen, so he started two businesses while he was a sophomore at Kaiser High School: a pet care business and JFK Photography, where he took pictures for an insurance company, the television show "Hawaii Stars" and private events.

When he was old enough, he added a job at Foodland. After two years he had $15,000 in the bank.

Nor did a learning disability slow him.

Kim was diagnosed as dyslexic in the second grade and spent the next three years at Variety School, learning how to cope. He re-entered the public education system in the sixth grade and consistently made the honor roll during intermediate and high school.

Now 24, Kim will be among almost 650 students receiving bachelor's and master's degrees at Hawaii Pacific University's winter commencement ceremony at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the Waikiki Shell. Kim will receive a Bachelor of Science degree in entrepreneurial studies.

Perhaps the biggest obstacle Kim has faced is Crohn's disease, a chronic inflammation of the digestive tract that he was diagnosed with during high school.

"When you're sick, you're pretty down and hopeless and depressed," Kim said.

Instead of going straight off to college after high school, Kim went to Los Angeles where he was treated at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

For a while he took 44 pills a day. "I was like on everything," Kim said: steroids, medicines to suppress his immune system, and other drugs to reduce the inflammation.

When it became apparent that the medications were not doing their job, Kim had three feet of his lower intestines removed, and has been able to manage the disease by watching his diet and avoiding alcohol.

"Since last year I've been feeling very good, I've been happy," he said.

He still participated in extracurricular activities, starting HPU's Entrepreneurship Club and leading the Students in Free Enterprise to the final round of a national competition.

Kim, who was president of the free enterprise club last year, considers the national competition one of his greatest accomplishments.

For years the club had been unable to win the regional competition, but under his leadership they taught sixth-graders at Queen Liliuokalani Elementary School how to run a friendship bracelet business, including marketing, production, manufacturing and finances.

In March, Kim will move to Chicago to take a job with Natural Golf, where he developed the company's eBay store during a summer internship.

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