It’s hard to believe, but somehow I’ve been in Seattle for a week already!

Let me introduce myself! My name’s Kevin Ma, I am a rising junior at Duke University, majoring in Mechanical Engineering, and intending to minor in Energy Engineering (fingers crossed). I enjoy cooking, eating, sleeping, and taking walks in good weather. I dislike cats, making decisions, and hearing things twice.

Oh, and people tend to say I am tactless.


Here in Seattle, I am partnered with the YMCA organization at both Bellevue and East Madison with Daniel Li (cool dude, funny guy, fellow LoL-er), and we are focusing on how to better make the YMCA a community-based health provider. We will do this by talking to local hospitals and healthcare providers in one-on-one interviews as well as focus groups. It’s pretty much the bees knees.

I have two community partners, one based at MMEM YMCA, and the other at Bellevue YMCA:

Chip Byrne is based in MMEM, and is incredibly intelligent, yet impressively laid back. Also, he took us to Barrios, which is a delicious Mexican restaurant. Thus, he is metagod status.

Tana Graedel is based in Bellevue, and she is a force-of-nature. She’s already got us working hard, and I know in my eight weeks here, I can always look to her for a good pep-talk or necessary butt-whuppin (FEEDBACK LOOPS).

I can’t say much because I’ve only been here a week, but I can say that I have changed the way I view “service”, and that it has made an indelible impression on me.

Firstly, I think this country is damn great because of its community service culture. I believe that the inherent impulse to give that has been fostered by my upbringing is one of my greatest assets. It makes me a better person and adds fulfillment to my life.

However, I originally viewed service and giving to be an aspect of one’s personally, a supplement to a complete individual, but by entering the nonprofit world, I have met numerous individuals who make service a central trait. To put it succinctly, it is not something they do, it is who they are. Service defines them, and all their actions follow as a consequence.

Why is this important to me? Though I love service, my career path will most likely take me into the private sector. But I can still give by adopting a service mindset. I can promote awareness and giving in my work environment, and also allow my morals to influence the business and finance decisions I will make. This is really comforting to me, because I reallyyyyyy want to just get a job at BMW and make cars or at Boeing and make jets.


BUT BACK TO SEATTLE. This place is one word: DOPE! Seriously, it’s a fascinating place and I have to admit that though the urban hipster culture is foreign to me, it’s a nice contrast to my home state of NJ. I also love the geography of this place. So many bodies of water to look at, Mt. Rainier in the distance, and trees everywhere! Plus the weather is moderate, which makes a day trip downtown be a nice walk rather than a heat wave death trap. I’m excited to go to all the festivals and concerts here, as well as go hiking and other outings where I’ll get to enjoy Mother Nature. Here’s to a great eight weeks!

Kevin Ma
Duke Student '15


06/30/2013 9:20pm

Great intro to Seattle! I really the idea of adopting a service mindset, and that it can be taken into any line of work. What we learn here - skills and ways of thinking - applies to much more than nonprofit work. Service becomes part of who you are. We all want to live a life that matters, and a life that matters is a life that leaves a positive impact on other people. What you will leave is not what you build for yourself, but what you built for others. This service mindset is a call to put others first.

07/03/2013 4:17pm

I liked the "free-flowing" structure of your entry. And it seems like you're loving your placement! Thanks for sharing :)

07/04/2013 9:42am

I liked that your entry had a distinctive voice, and I could hear your personality in what you wrote. The point you made about eventually entering the private sector, but still gleaning a lot and making a difference with your nonprofit I thought was valid and something that we can all relate to. Although most of us will probably end up in the private sector, our experiences here will definitely be valuable to us in the future and valuable to the community partners that we are working with now.

07/04/2013 11:19am

This is awesome- love how you described Chip. Can't wait to start using the membership deal that he so generously let us have!


Leave a Reply.