Mindy Kordash-Shim was born in Seoul, South Korea, then moved to Southern California, then to Portland, Oregon, and then attended college on the East Coast at the University of Pennsylvania. She then found herself back in California where she taught for seven years in Los Angeles and served on the Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council. Currently, she is the Communications Director in the Office of the Los Angeles Unified School Board District 2.
Mindy shares with us her journey in fighting for equity and how her experience of running for office has helped fulfill her vision.
What led you to care deeply about educational equity?
My parents left everything behind their home country of South Korea to give us a new life in the United States. So when they put value on education, I naturally felt that I owed it to them to make them proud. I remember attending college at the University of Pennsylvania where, just blocks away, there were run-down schools and homes. I didn’t understand at the time, but I quickly realized that people are either born into wealth or born into poverty. That didn’t seem fair and since then I’ve been in the education world, still desperately trying to figure out if there is an answer to this type of injustice.
Share a little bit about your role in the Office of the Los Angeles Unified School Board District 2.
The Board of Education of Los Angeles comprises seven elected officials. I am the Director of Communications in one of the board districts and work directly under one of the elected officials. The sub-district stretches from Koreatown to East Los Angeles from west to east, and Dodgers Stadium to USC from north to south. We serve over 81,000 students and their families, 98% of whom are students of color. We often think of the 1968 Walkouts in East LA and how what we do now is shaped by the promises made to the students of ‘68. We have made progress, but there is much to be done. Sometimes the things that really change a system are intangible. We hold tight to the belief and mindset that “all students can” everything else that we do stems from that.
What was your experience like running for office?
Running for office was an exciting experience! Though it was a short term of two years, I learned a lot about legislating, the political process and the challenges. Representing my neighbors and community was fulfilling. I cared about the place that I lived in and wanted a seat at the table. I was able to work with schools within the boundaries of my neighborhood to help make connections and provide support for schools, whether through in-kind donations, volunteers or monetary. I value the experience that I gained, but also learned how difficult it is to navigate the bureaucracy.
What do you see as your role in fighting for equity?
Sharing access and opportunity with others is how I hope to create change. If I have a seat at the table, then I want to make room for others to join me. There is space for everyone to thrive and everyone deserves a chance to thrive and find their happiness. My daughter will turn one this August, so when she graduates high school in 2038, I hope to be proud of the work we have done collectively to rebuild a more just and liberated world.
How has LEE helped you in your mission to end educational inequity?
LEE is like the life coach you never thought you needed. While I was in my seventh year of teaching, I was given the opportunity to apply for a Policy and Advocacy Summer Fellowship. Little did I know that experience would propel me into the work that I do for the Los Angeles Unified School District! LEE always had relevant workshops and speaker events that were engaging and helpful for me. In a city like Los Angeles, we can’t quite address educational inequity without learning about the system, what we need to keep doing, and what we need to dismantle. LEE also helped me to get more civically engaged, supporting me during my Downtown Los Angeles Neighborhood Council campaign in 2018 and thereafter once I got elected.
*This interview has been transcribed and edited for clarity and brevity.