It’s easy to forget how much it really takes to keep a school in shape. Between PV High’s well-kept campus and overall positive community, it’s important to keep in mind that these things don’t just happen. With an inspiring backstory, stellar work ethic, and beautiful view on life, custodian Shawn Kim is an incredibly valuable member of the Palos Verdes community.
Kim has come a long way to be where he is now.
“I left my country away from my parents when I was twelve years old, so I didn’t know what the outside world was like,” Kim said. “I escaped from Cambodia to Thailand and I came to the United States in 1990. Then in 2001 Palos Verdes High School reopened, and I’ve worked here to this day.”
The physical work of a janitor is demanding and often overlooked. English teacher and soccer coach, Derek Larkins, expresses how vital Kim’s work is to the school.
“Hopefully he’s given a little more visibility to some of my colleagues and some of the people I teach with who overlook what actually makes this school happen… which is what happens at night- otherwise it would just be chaos here,” Larkins said. “He’s cleaning the bathrooms, he’s getting stuff set up for the sporting events…he does a lot of what people don’t see.”
Even with all this work, Kim finds immense gratitude and joy in coming to school every day. The delightful environment and opportunity to help others fulfills him.
“Where I came from I never saw anything like this beautiful, beautiful school,” Kim said. “I get to see kids grow up every day and there’s a lot of PV sports so I really enjoy my job. School just makes me very happy. And It does not matter what my job is- I just try to do the best I can to help kids, staff, and parents.”
Outside of work Kim spends his time collecting coins, working around the house, and being with his family. He has a twenty-six year old daughter and a twenty-four year old son.
“If I have time I take my family shopping at the mall. Now I have my granddaughter and take care of her on the weekends,” Kim said.
Possibly Kim’s most admirable asset is his joyful energy and wise soul. Larkins expresses how wonderful it is to work with him.
“It’s uplifting. Seeing him makes my day because he’s always positive and he’s always excited; especially when it’s soccer season. Like he’s so excited right now, he comes to all of our games,” Larkins said. “But he really is a bright spot in anyone’s day or in anyone who’s lucky enough to know him. It’s inspiring, too. Working with him reminds me to be grateful.”
Kim carries a heartening perspective on life.
“I think if there’s one thing I could tell people it would be if you do good things, good things will come back to you. As we all grow up we all make mistakes… No one’s perfect you know, no one’s perfect. But if we recognize ourselves, we know that we did wrong, and then we correct ourselves- life is gonna be good.”