Federal Way Public Schools Alumni of Note
Reality Television Star
Thomas Jefferson High School
Graduate, Class of 1995
When James Sun was a child, his family immigrated to Federal Way from Korea with nothing but $35 and their deeply ingrained values of hard work, discipline and persistence.
Sun, a 1995 Thomas Jefferson High School graduate, took those values along with the opportunities offered to him in Federal Way schools and used them to become a multi-millionaire, internet entrepreneur and a television star.
"We literally had nothing growing up and now one could say from a worldly perspective I've achieved everything I've wanted to achieve," Sun said.
Sun was a one of the top two finalists on the sixth season of the NBC TV series "The Apprentice." He has also made a variety of additional television and public speaking appearances worldwide. His most recent project will be an appearance on the BBC reality television show "Sun-Tzu: War on Business." The show will appear in 30 different countries beginning in 2010.
Currently, Sun sits on the Board of the Washington Technology Industry Association where he works on legislative issues for the technology industry. The board also works to increase the Washington state talent pool for technology engineers. Sun prides himself on his work with nonprofit organizations including United Way and the King County Scoutreach Program, which supports Boy Scout opportunities for underprivileged inner city youth. He continues to manage his Web site, Zoodango.com.
Sun attended Camelot Elementary, Kilo Middle School and Thomas Jefferson High School. He graduated from Thomas Jefferson with a 4.0 grade point average and a scholarship to the University of Washington. Fresh from high school, Sun started a technology investment company with $5,000. He went on to graduate Cum Laude from the University of Washington with a Business Degree and computer information systems concentration. At the time of his college graduation, Sun's investment had grown to more than $2 million.
Today Sun is married and has two daughters. He attributes his success to hard work. "Whether you're from a high income family or a low income family, we're all given two arms and two legs," he said. "I had a work ethic."
A variety of extracurricular activities at Thomas Jefferson helped prepare Sun for his future academic and career challenges, he said. He participated in student government and the math team, took Advanced Placement courses and played basketball.
"I think that's something the Federal Way School District offered is you've got a broad range of activities and you've got a broad range of students," Sun said. "The world is not just black or white, it's a melting pot and I think Federal Way represented that very well."
When he first began playing basketball in seventh grade at Kilo, Sun recalls that he wasn't very skilled. "Everyone was much better than me," he said. But Sun was determined. He began waking up at 5:30 every morning to shoot baskets and practice drills by himself. "Most of my friends thought it was a little weird that I would do that so early in the morning but it paid off," he said. Sun went on to play point guard for the varsity team at Thomas Jefferson. "I think that taught me a lot about what it was to marry the hard work with the academics," he said.
Looking back, Sun recalls math teacher Tom Norris as being among his most influential teachers in high school. "He really cared for the students. He never looked down upon the students. He really respected the students but he wasn't a pushover. He was very well-rounded," Sun said. "He was very persistent. He didn't give up on students."
Sun said he hopes his experience shows students in Federal Way that it is possible to succeed even when faced with challenges. His advice to students is to work hard in high school to get the best grades possible. "A lot of students, they forget how important the ninth grade through twelfth grades are," Sun said. "If you don't start doing the right things early, your next success is going to be harder to achieve. It's a domino effect."