South Korean native SeungChan, who now resides in East Newark, graduates from HCCC with a perfect 4.0 GPA.

Posted: 5/20/2015
Jennifer Christopher
May 18, 2015, Jersey City, NJ – Years ago SeungChan An decided he would do what was necessary to pursue his dream of obtaining a college education in the United States ... even if it meant dropping out of high school.

This Thursday evening, Mr. An will deliver the valedictory speech at the Hudson County Community College (HCCC) 37th Annual Commencement ceremonies. He is graduating with a perfect 4.0 grade point average, and will be awarded his Associate of Science degree in Accounting. Because he completed his HCCC classes at the end of the 2014 Fall semester, he is already pursuing his Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting and Economics at Rutgers University - Newark.

SeungChan An was born in South Korea 22 years ago. His mother is the pastor of a church there, and his father works in a local company, as does his sister (who is one year older). Mr. An says he wasn’t particularly good at his studies in South Korea, and the prospect of attaining a college education – especially completing one in the United States – seemed an even more distant possibility because of the expense it would cost his family.

So he came to the conclusion that he would quit high school and work in South Korea to earn the money necessary for pursuing an American higher education. For two years, he worked ... and he studied for and earned his G.E.D.

Two-and-one-half years ago, Mr. An arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport, and because his English was so limited, the immigration officer threatened to send him back to South Korea. Mr. An produced the paperwork which demonstrated that he came to the U.S. with the intention of studying English at a New Jersey university. After deciding that the university might not be a good fit for him, he performed a Google search for area colleges that offered English as a Second Language (ESL) programs, and decided to attend Hudson County Community College.

“When I first started my ESL studies at Hudson County Community College, I had problems reading and writing English,” Mr. An said. He determined that he was going to work harder because he was afraid to fail, and visited the HCCC Center for Academic & Student Success Tutorial Services Offices for assistance every day. After completing the ESL and additional basic skills classes with passing grades, he went on to complete all of his college-level courses with a perfect 4.0 grade point average.

“I received really great help from the HCCC Tutoring Center. I always went there to have them check my writing and essay assignments,” Mr. An stated. “Hudson County Community College made me work harder than I ever had at my academic pursuits. They built my confidence.”

Mr. An has his own place to live in East Newark, as he had not wanted to burden his uncle’s family in Montclair. He has also been working at the HCCC Tutoring Center, assisting students with accounting and math.

Mr. An said that in his speech on Thursday evening, he wants to talk about his HCCC classmates and not himself. “I really look up to them. They work, take care of their families, go to school. I am kind of blessed. I never imagined I would be the valedictorian,” he said.

Mr. An’s family will not be coming from South Korea for his graduation. When he told his mother that he had been named valedictorian, she gave him the kind of advice that made his dream a reality: “Work harder; don’t be satisfied.”

The HCCC Commencement ceremonies will be held at 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, May 21 at New Jersey Performing Arts Center’s Prudential Hall in Newark, NJ. Approximately 907 students are expected to graduate.