Jayne Park knew from a young age that her career would involve helping people. Growing up in a home that was both rich in Korean culture and experiences and in Christian faith, values and teachings, she was raised to think about putting others first. "My father, a United Methodist pastor, came to the United States from Korea as a student and studied theology at Boston University during the civil rights period," she says.
Jayne went on to law school where she planned to help the disadvantaged and the poor. She never imagined, however, that she would end up leading a nonprofit organization. Yet, the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center (APALRC) was the perfect place for Park to pull together her professional and personal identifies. APALRC, whose mission is to advance the legal and civil rights of Asian Americans in Greater Washington through direct legal services, education, and advocacy, was an all-volunteer organization where Jayne worked as an attorney before becoming its first executive director in 2001.
The challenges were obvious. "We have people in Maryland, Virginia, and the District who are struggling on limited incomes, working two or three low-wage jobs to feed their families, and unable to speak English and navigate mainstream systems," says Parks. She and her staff had to work to establish common ground among Asian and non-Asian groups from different cultures and different generations to improve the community and address mutual concerns.
Park demonstrated early on that listening to the community was a critical part of the work and that she was well attuned to community needs. She's a coalition builder, whether it is in the Asian American community or the broader nonprofit legal services community. "Jane is often seen as the voice of the Asian immigrant community. But she is always one to defer to others and get other people's voices heard," says Esther Limb, a former employee who came to APALRC right after graduating law school and helped establish their domestic violence project in Northern Virginia.
In the five years since Jayne took over the leadership of APALRC, many in the Asian immigrant community have been helped. In 2005, APALRC provided legal assistance to nearly 800 individuals from over 10 different Asian countries and translation services to nearly 100 clients. Its legal referral hotline, staffed by 35 volunteer law students who speak up to 10 Asian languages, is used as a model by groups in other cities.
Through all of the challenges and the successes she has experienced, all roads lead back to her parents and the path they helped pave. "What I learned from my parents is that I needed to use my talents to promote justice in the world, and that it was important to start within my own community...I feel that God placed me here, at this time, for this purpose."