GBHS Alumni Del. Mark S. Chang Urges Students to Stay Strong

Hard work and community support opens opportunities

Eliana Amoh, Minority Beat Reporter

Seniors’ emotions can range from relief to worry, especially in this pandemic year, since many may not know their post-graduation career or college.

According to a survey done by the California Education Lab at the University of California, Davis, nearly 90% of California High School Seniors in the Spring of 2020 reported some level of worry about their personal health and well-being.

Credit GBHS Wall of Honor

By learning from the stories of successful alumni, seniors — and all GBHS students — may feel encouraged during this challenging time. One notable alumnus is Delegate Mark S. Chang, who began his term in January 2015 in the Maryland House of Delegates and vice-chair on the Appropriations Committee. Chang’s journey was filled with uncertainty and several challenges along the way before his graduation in 1994.

Glen Burnie-born and raised, Chang’s parents, immigrated from South Korea in the 1970s with only a few hundred dollars and who didn’t speak English very well. Chang grew up with a mother who worked for the University of Maryland Medical System and a father who was a small business owner on Crain Highway. He recalls his family trying to live up to the American Dream which intervened when his mom unexpectedly died when he was 11 years old. This left his dad dealing with barriers: financial barriers, cultural barriers, and language barriers. He recalls specific difficulties like not having lunch money causing him to feel embarrassed and struggling to get funds to participate in school activities. Chang had to work multiple jobs in order to pay for various school activities such as: delivering newspapers for the Maryland Gazette, working at the old Harundale Mall, and helping at a small sub shop. These activities, family problems, and having to keep his grades up caused him to deal with stress.

Chang cited how the support of the GBHS community helped him get through his trials. He states, “There were teachers there who cared and students who cared. I still keep in touch with a lot of those students and classmates I went to school with whether they were in the same class or grade as me or grades before/after me.” He highlights his french teacher, Yolanda Perry. He describes how Perry became his mentor. While taking her French class for four years, she mentored him, guided him, and got him involved in student government, in being a class officer, and being a community volunteer. They also connected through stories about French class and student government projects. He added that he still keeps in touch with her. Even with the bullying and ridicule coming from a different culture and economic status, he believed getting involved with the GBHS community helped him get through it.

Chang then goes on to describe how he has seen the Glen Burnie area grow. Chang states, “I’ve lived here for the past four decades and I’ve seen a lot of good changes over the years. It’s becoming more diverse, economically and culturally, and I think that that really helps to create the new fabric of Glen Burnie and the Glen Burnie community.”

When he was growing up, there were the Harundale Mall and Marley Station Mall. While the Harundale Mall has been revitalized and turned into a shopping center, Marley Station Mall is still around and he emphasizes his enthusiasm for its future.

Chang elaborated by saying, “There wasn’t that much diversity and multiculturalism in the city but now if you go down Ritchie Highway you see a lot of these different ethnicities whether it be Latino or Hispanic business owners who have opened up a business, and also with the Asian American community and African American community, there’s a lot of different business owners from different cultural backgrounds who have opened up a business.”

Chang believes that the current diversity of [Glen Burnie] promotes the city’s strength. He describes that since Glen Burnie is located near Washington and Fort Meade, there are job opportunities and economic growth. Chang claimed that the diversity and economy of Glen Burnie attract people of different cultures to come to the city.

Today’s study body is much more diverse than when Chang attended in the early 90s. Chang states, “When I was going to Glen Burnie High School, as far as diversity with the student body, it was not what we see now and we see a lot more diversity in the faculty, staff, population, and community groups that support the grade school.”

He said all the clubs he participated in helped him grow and become a holistic person. His involvement also allowed him to make numerous friends with the students. He recalled talking about funny moments in physics class with them and just having fun in the cafeteria. While they had fun times, he describes how he grew his communication skills through discussing vulnerable and hard topics with them and them helping each other.

He got involved in the former Key Club and various informal activities to be able to serve and helped the homeless members of the community. He emphasized that he tried to talk himself out of participating in many activities, but he endured.

He states, “I am human and a person just like they are and I would say that there were a lot of insecurities with me at the time because again, not having the latest tennis shoes or the coolest type of clothing that was available, and so there were insecurities but again I think I grew through those insecurities that I had and I think that the Glen Burnie community helped me with that.”

Funding college became his next mission. Chang states, “I think a big barrier was how I was going to pay for college and it was scary because at that time; it was $5,000-$10,000 to pay for school and when you have zero, it’s like where do I come up with the money and that was a challenge for me.” He remembers doing calculations to determine how many hours he would have to work in order to just pay for the college applications, standardized tests, and college visits.

Seeing his peers having the financial resources able to get into college programs caused him embarrassment. He had even more stress put on him with having to balance school, extracurricular commitments, work, college decisions, and family needs. Chang believes that a lot has changed since his days at GBHS and believes that there are more resources for students from all different demographics.

As a guest speaker for the students in Public Service Explorations 1, Chang will share his wisdom and motivations to serve his community as a public official during May 3 and 4 class periods. Part 2 of Delegate Chang’s profile will be published following those visits.