LOHS senior Jenny Kwon coaches special needs students and raises funds for nonprofits
Jenny Kwon is one tough cookie — a hard-working baker who’s always giving of her time.
The Lake Oswego High School senior finds the time to serve as co-editor-in-chief of the student newspaper Lake Views, Associated Student Body’s clubs and committees director and president of her school’s chapter of National Honor Society. For three months this past summer, she served as a project management intern at Bonneville Power Administration in Portland.
And when she’s not interning somewhere, taking on an ASB project or leading her school paper or NHS chapter, she can be found volunteering to offer food and services to the homeless, volunteering to coach special needs children on the swim and cross country teams — or baking for her own nonprofit organization, Tough Cookies.
“Rooting from ‘Let Your Light Shine Before Others’ (Matthew 5:16), Tough Cookies values leadership and global awareness in young adults and families,” Kwon says on her website. “This student- and female-run business is a reminder that anyone of any age is capable of changing the community, nation, and world one cookie at a time.”
Kwon donates 60 percent of her profits every two months to a different charity. Through the end of this month, the beneficiary will be Operation Nightwatch in Portland, which offers food, clothing and medical care to the homeless.
For Lake Oswegans, shipping is included and deliveries are guaranteed within three days of purchase. It’s $10 for a dozen cookies, and they come in six flavors: The OG (chocolate chip), OG 3.0 (chocolate with white chocolate chips), Nutty Fellas (peanut butter), Funny Cookies (snickerdoodles), Golden Classy Suga Suga (brown sugar cookies) and Choco Heaven (brownie cookies).
An unexpected coach
The story of Kwon’s cookie nonprofit aligns with her faith, and she says she mostly follows her interests when getting involved in other activities. But although she’s an athlete, she never expected to become a coach.
Kwon ran varsity cross-country in her sophomore and junior years, and she was on the varsity swim team from freshman to junior year. But she didn’t know the joy she’d derive from supporting students with special needs until she befriended a special needs student in P.E. class who needed guidance in activities and someone to talk to. So far, she says it’s all matched up well.
“It’s been really rewarding,” she says.
Kwon says senior year’s been full of a lot of activities, but this is one of the best for her.
She’s learned patience and “more about herself and other people,” she notes. She also says special needs students are different in terms of how they express emotions.
“They’re so sweet, and they open up their hearts, and it’s such a treat,” she says softly. “Even if it’s a long day, I always leave with a smile on my face.”
They’re more than just her students, though.
“I see them as my friends,” she says.
Those feelings of respect and warmth are mutual for the students Kwon supports and their parents.
“It’s so amazing for us to have someone who respects our kids and treats them well,” says Tammy Pebley. Pebley says that Kwon always makes sure the special needs swim team students get on the bus for games, and she walks them to the on-campus pool after school for practices.
Pebley’s daughter, Hannah, is one of the students Kwon peer-coaches. She recently wrote Kwon a note that reads, “Thank you for helping me with swim team! I really like hanging out with you! Love, Hannah P.”
George Wadell is another of Hannah’s students, and his mom, Grace Wadell, is the one who reached out to The Review to sing Kwon’s praises. She says her son enjoys time with Kwon — and he’s also become a better swimmer.
“Jenny’s a rock star,” Wadell says. “We’re so lucky.”
George used to have a kind of hitch in his form, but not anymore.
“She really helped him,” Wadell says.
George is also involved in cross-country. Along with LOHS junior Kenna Sandblast, Kwon helped him to train for a 5K in a district meet, something his mom’s been trying to convince him to do for years. He did it in 30 minutes.
Wadell also feels as though her child is safe with Kwon. She says Kwon has a knack for determining what students’ goals are, and helping them meet them.
Parent Lauren Brase, whose daughter Courtney also is one of Kwon’s students on the LOHS swim team, says Kwon is “a very good motivator.”
Pebley says that Kwon expects results from her students, and she pushes them. She says many people treat her daughter like anything she does is amazing, just because she has special needs, but Kwon reserves praise for achievements and doesn’t give in to just any request.
“It takes a special person to say, ‘no,'” she says.
Just one more reason Jenny Kwon is a tough cookie.
Contact Lake Oswego Review reporter Jillian Daley at 503-636-1281 ext. 109 or firstname.lastname@example.org.