Going into his senior year of high school, Paul Kwak hopes to graduate with a stellar academic record and high scores on his AP exams, and he’s already on his way — he has a 4.0 GPA with eight AP classes under his belt, and he’s taking five AP courses this year. He is an AP Scholar with Distinction, an honor granted to students who receive an average score of at least 3.5 on all AP exams and scores of 3 or higher on five or more exams.
The son of Dong Hoon Kwak and Mee Jung Kim, Paul has two siblings, Peter and Marianna Kwak. The family resides in Buford.
In addition to his academic achievements, Paul has been heavily involved in extracurricular activities throughout his high school career, including marching band, Quiz Bowl, Book Club, Beta Club, National Honor Society and Buford Student Council/Leadership. He also volunteers at his church’s Korean School.
Paul said his favorite teacher at Buford High School is Jeff Gills, who teaches English/language arts.
“… he is a wonderful teacher and is very knowledgeable about literature and art, and he is also a genuine and fun person who knows when to relax and joke around with students,” Paul said. “Some of my most memorable moments in high school have been in his classroom, whether during an actual class or after school at Quiz Bowl practices.”
Paul’s athletic achievements include competing in the 2015 USA Taekwondo National Championships. He participated in Taekwondo from 2008 to 2016, as well as tennis from 2016 to 2018.
Paul was a Governor’s Honors Program finalist and spent four weeks at Berry College over the summer studying music and trumpet. He said the most influential person in his life is his trumpet teacher, Vince Bingham.
“He taught me so many valuable lessons over the years, including to push myself far beyond my limits to continuously get better and how to deal with stress and failure in such a way that it does not become overwhelming,” Paul said. “He and I have been through our fair share of ups and downs, but he has always supported me in my musical endeavors and has been one of the main reasons I found such success through the trumpet.”
Participating in band has also had a significant influence on Paul.
“Being in band taught me so much more than how to make music well,” he said. “It made me a better person, strengthened my interpersonal skills and taught me to persevere through failure. Band and the experiences I had in it are definitely a major factor, if not the greatest factor, in my personal growth during my middle- and high-school years.”
One interesting fact about Paul is that he wears his sunglasses upside down at band practices.
“I did it as a joke in my freshman year,” he said, “and it stuck as a tradition.”
After graduation, Paul plans to attend college to become a filmmaker. If he changes his mind about that career path, he would like to go into medicine and possibly become a surgeon.
“I hope I leave high school with as few regrets as possible and be well-prepared for college and post-secondary life while being happy with what I have done and not feeling too stressed or overwhelmed by anything,” Paul said.