SOUTH PORTLAND — Kim Lim, a 2010 South Portland High School graduate and University of Southern Maine junior, died April 28 in a hiking accident in the Philippines.
In a news release, USM President Theodora Kalikow said Lim, 20, was studying at Sogang University in South Korea. He went with friends to hike near Tappiya Falls on the island of Luzon when the accident occurred.
By his own account, written in his sophomore year at USM for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Lim, 20, “arrived in the U.S. (in 2008) with minimal English reading and writing abilities.”
Lim said his family emigrated to South Portland “not for the scenic coastline or the abundance of lobsters, but on the testimony of family members who were already there.”
Allison Brown, an English as a Second Language teacher at the high school, said Lim’s language skills were better than minimal, but what really stood out was his ambition.
“He was an amazing young man,” she said. “He took every opportunity that was presented to him.”
Brown said Lim was still learning English when he enrolled in an advanced placement world history course and refused to take it on an ungraded, audited basis.
She also recalled he was also invited to King Middle School in Portland to discuss his immigration experiences, and stood out as the youngest panelist.
“He was the kind of student teachers dream about,” Brown said.
Lim became a fixture on school honor rolls, graduated in the top 10 percent of his class, and earned the Mitchell Institute’s 2010 Morton K. and Jane Blaustein Pioneer Scholar Award, which recognizes achievements of first-generation college students from families that recently emigrated to the U.S.
As a high school senior, Lim was also awarded one of four $5,000 Creating Maine’s Future Presidential Scholarships from USM.
Brown said Lim’s devotion to his family played a role in his decision to attend USM. She suggested he apply to the University of Maine Orono, but he decided USM was a better fit because he could stay closer to home and his mother.
As a student, Brown said Lim reached out into the world around him with a group of close friends who would take bus trips to Boston on school holidays.
At USM, Lim studied double majors of marketing and general management, with a minor in economics. Still, his own words reflected a need to embrace a new culture and be more assertive as a student.
“At USM, I find myself adjusting to a culture that is simultaneously challenging and compelling,” he wrote. “In Cambodia, students rarely expressed their opinions in the classroom. … But at USM, students are encouraged to express their opinions and critical thoughts.”
Lim invited Brown to be his guest at the Presidential Scholar dinner, and she said his interest in her husband’s art was also touching.
“He was just a lovely boy, I can’t say enough good things about him,” she said.
Kim is survived by his parents, David Doung and Siem Mouy, and his brother, Khoung Lim. His burial will be in Cambodia. A memorial service was held Wednesday at the USM Woodbury Campus Center in Portland. A celebration of his life will be held at the Mitchell Institute 22 Monument Square, Portland, on Friday, May 17, from 4-7 p.m.