This story is part of a series of profiles the Ventura County Office of Education is presenting about outstanding graduating seniors in the Class of 2019.
Sowon Lee's lucky number came up four years ago when she was selected to attend Foothill Technology High School in Ventura. Admission to Foothill is through a random lottery and there are always more students who want to attend than spots available. Established in 2000, Foothill is a nationally-recognized public magnet school that offers specialized programs in bioscience and technology. It has a smaller student population than traditional high schools and longer periods to allow subjects to be explored in-depth.
"Foothill is a very diverse place and I think the student body is unique compared to our surrounding schools," Sowon says. "It has so many opportunities to offer to its students and the teachers care so much. We're beyond lucky to have a school like Foothill in Ventura."
Many successful students have that one teacher or mentor who helped them achieve their goals. For Sowon, that's Foothill history teacher Dan Fitz-Patrick. "He's just an incredible human being," she says. "He's so passionate about what he teaches, and he's there for all of his students beyond just academics."
Sowon's family moved to Ventura from South Korea after her father survived a battle with cancer and decided to work for her uncle's LA-based construction company. "My parents were debating between moving to LA or Ventura," she says. "My dad asked my older sister and she picked Ventura and I so greatly appreciate her decision. I like to call Ventura the hidden gem of California."
Sowon arrived as a kindergartener speaking no English. Today she is graduating with a 4.85 grade point average and headed to the Ivy League. She took advantage of Foothill's Bioscience Academy to pursue her interest in medicine. But along the way, she discovered that business is her true passion. She'll be majoring in economics at Princeton University with the goal of starting her own business.
Sowon says her parents weren't thrilled when she shifted gears. "Once you go to medical school it's kind of a guarantee that you'll get a job, and business can be seen as really risky," she says. "They were hesitant at first to encourage me to go in that direction, but they're easing up a little bit."
As she embarks on the next stage of her educational journey, Sowon has nothing but gratitude for her mom and dad. "Because of their decision to move to Ventura, we have had a lot of opportunities," she says. "They spend so much of their time and resources getting us to the places we need to be. I'm eternally indebted to my parents."
More Stories about the Ventura County Class of 2019