Joe and Helyne Victor Memorial Scholarship Recipient
University of Toronto
Stephanie Hong’s family had emigrated from South Korea to America before she was born. While growing up in Akron, Ohio, Stephanie had important responsibilities like translating legal documents for her parents and taking care of the house while her mom and dad worked 10 hours a day.
“That’s what leadership is to me,” Stephanie said. “Taking the daily responsibilities and obligations you are willed to have and pouring every ounce of love and care you can into them.”
Stephanie also contributed in another simple but impactful way: being positive. “I put the role on myself of leading forth in joy,” she said. “I wanted to be my family’s light in difficult times. That really built who I am today. I don’t want to be strong, explicitly – just joyful.”
Leading with joy went beyond her home life. Stephanie started a Liberty in North Korea Rescue Team at her school. Part of a larger national organization, rescue teams raise funds to assist North Korean refugees while breaking down stereotypes. “The news focuses so much on the country’s politics. You don’t always hear about the people themselves and their experiences,” Stephanie said. “I was educating anyone who would listen to me.”
Stephanie led fundraisers and worked hard to raise money. By the time she graduated from high school, she and the team raised $3,000 to help refugees.
Stephanie explains that she also found the inspiration to lead by her family’s examples. When they experienced hard times, they stayed optimistic. Her mother started an Amway business and found personal strength, motivation and community. And her sister encouraged Stephanie to go beyond her comfort zone and leave Ohio for college. “She told me, ‘This place is all you know.’ She wanted me to have opportunities and see new things. So I did!”
At the University of Toronto, Stephanie joined Agape Impact, a Christian organization that helps Korean students build community and come together in their faith. She later led the organization as president. “I didn’t have any friends or family around when I started my first year in college,” said Stephanie. “After I found Agape Impact, I made it my personal mission to pay it forward and help other students like me feel welcome.”
Having recently graduated, Stephanie is still helping others. She’s currently an English as a Second Language teacher in an inner-city Tennessee community through Teach For America. As for what’s next? That depends.
“I will go where I think I am most efficient in serving people,” Stephanie said. “I want to be useful in any way I can. If that means being in the classroom – great. If it means being an attorney, that’s what I’ll do next. I believe you can serve people in any position, so I want to go where life takes me.”
She said receiving a Founders Memorial Scholarship helps make that possible. “It’s so meaningful because I don’t find myself too extraordinary,” she explains. “It’s always a wonderful experience to be affirmed.”
Founding Family | Joe & Helyne Victor
We are proud to award this scholarship to Stephanie. She has displayed the same leadership fundamentals that led IBO founders Joe & Helyne to their success in this great business. We are certain we will hear great things about Stephanie in the future and are very proud of her and her accomplishments.
– Jody and Kathy Victor
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