49 Voices: Nina Lee of Anchorage

Nina Lee of Anchorage. Lee is UAA’s Spring 2017 Commencement Speaker (Photo by Wesley Early, Alaska Public Media – Anchorage)

This week we’re hearing from Nina Lee in Anchorage. On Sunday, Lee will serve as UAA’s Spring 2017 Commencement Speaker.

Listen now

LEE: My parents are from South Korea. They work at a restaurant, so they work really, really hard. They work with their hands. They always make fun of me because, you know, my nails are usually always done, when I ask my mom to get a manicure with me or something, she will always make a comment like, “Nina. I can’t do things like that. Like, I actually have to work with my hands.” So it’s kind of a running joke.

My commencement speech is a tribute to my parents. They really supported throughout my entire life and throughout my college journey.¬†When I graduated high school, I moved to San Diego. I tried going to school there – did not do so hot. Came back home in 2010. I tried going to UAA… didn’t work out. I did that a couple times.

One summer, one of my coworkers – she’s a fourth grade teacher – and, you know, I really look for things to do during the winter time, so I said, “Can I visit your classroom?” I had always kinda toyed around with the idea of being a teacher, but I didn’t know what that meant. And I started working there, and it just snowballed after that. Teachers there were very encouraging. They told me I should apply for UAA again, re-enroll.

So I started in the Spring of 2015. I went spring, summer, fall, spring, summer, fall and now I’m graduating this spring.

My favorite part about being in elementary school is how funny the kids are. There’s no one who will be honest with you except for a kid. (laughs) A six-year-old kid will give it to you straight. They’re really honest. They don’t know how to lie. They’re just amazing. And they’re really funny. I mean, I could tell you stories for days about how I’m just crying laughing over the things they say.