One step at a time, Radford University Business Major James Cho has extended the power of “servant leadership” amongst his peers.
“My life philosophy is if there’s an issue that can be solved, then I want to solve it. Someone needs to be the catalyst for everything,” Cho said.
He described one of the most precious things in life as the ability to find beauty in others.
“I want to be the catalyst to inspire [everyone in] the world to not only make themselves better, but also make their neighbors happier and better. I just want to spread my idea of what servant leadership is, and leaving the world better than you found it.”
So, what exactly does the phrase “making the world better” mean?
Refer to professional speaker and author Scott Sorrell’s saying: “You make the world a better place by making yourself a better person.”
In other words, an individual’s positive, inner-changes would circulate through others; accelerating betterment to a global status. And in Cho’s understandings, such betterment in a person may encompass the potential to see perfection in others.
“We’re all connected. We’re all citizens of a city, citizens of a country, of a state, of a nation, of a government, of a religion… We’re all connected in one way or another, so why not appreciate that relationship?” Cho said.
Cho’s philosophy blossomed at Frank W. Cox High School, where he became an active and influential figure. He joined the German Club his sophomore year of high school, and attained presidency his junior and senior year. In 2006, Cho expanded his avid identity by becoming a member of the National Honor Society and the Class of 2007 Executive Board. He became founder of the Guitar Club, as well as Cox Live, an open-mike night for students to showcase their talents. He represented two leadership programs, both inside and outside of school as co-chairman for the Frank W. Cox Leadership Workshop and as a prime advocate for the Virginia Beach Leadership Workshop. Cho concluded his senior year as vice president for the German Honor Society and as a loyal member to the Key Club and as vice president of the SCA (Student Council Association). He was awarded the Falcon Medallion by faculty and administration, which exemplifies overall excellence in school performance (only eight students receive this each graduation).
In 2007, Radford University opened a new playground of opportunities into Cho’s life. His first plan of action was to join the SGA (Student Government Association), but he found himself wanting more. Cho acted on his next challenge: Greek Life.
“I just needed a sense of community; a sense of a place where I could make a difference, and I could take my philosophy into a new aspect,” he said.
Theta Chi-Iota Zeta Chapter was the perfect solution.
The fraternity’s motto, “extend the helping hand,” closely relates to Cho’s service mentality. The brothers aim to set
individual, ethical standards to serve the community. As a whole, they are able to accomplish much more than Cho was ever able to do on his own. He explored this advantage first hand.
Cho stepped up as president of Theta Chi in the fall 2010. His fraternity exceeded expectations, such as going to finals with the Radford University basketball team in intramurals, giving back more service hours than any other traditional organization on campus, having the highest GPA across the board in all Greek Life, and most recently, winning the President’s Cup (the highest award received by a fraternity for the most outstanding, overall achievement). Following his term as director of programming of Inter-Fraternity Council (IFC) in 2010, he was elected president of IFC. This position enabled him to organize and communicate his ideas at a larger scale. He was, and still is, responsible for overseeing all of Greek Life at Radford University, as well as arranging retreats, leadership conferences, campus speakers, philanthropy events, community service efforts, and any other project pertaining to Greek Life. He is currently a peer instructor for New Student Programs and Community Liaison. Accordingly, Cho has been recognized as “Greek Man of the Year”. His peers are very supportive.
“Cho is an awesome person,” said Criminal Justice Major and Theta Chi Brother Jared Fraser. “He works really hard for what he believes in, and I feel like he shows that every day. He’s always working towards being better. He’s always striving to make other people feel good and make other people happy. He’s just a very influential person.”
Frank W. Cox High School classmate and Theta Chi Brother Da’mon Brown met Cho while rushing for Greek life.
“I didn’t know him personally, but Cho was like that guy in school who was always the head of something, always doing some kind of extracurricular activity, and always helping people.”
Cho further empowered Brown’s decision to take on the position as president of Theta Chi Chapter last year.
“I wasn’t even going to run for president, but Cho was like, ‘No. You would be a really good president,’ and he pushed me to run for it,” Brown said.
Today, Brown appreciates the strength of their relationship.
“Besides being fraternity brothers, I see him as like my best friend and mentor because ever since we’ve known each other, he’s been the one there for me; the one always pushing me to do more. I’ve realized that Cho is one of the good people in my life.”
Nonetheless, Cho hasn’t always been the same person he is today. Growing up in Virginia Beach, he lived day-to-day; setting aside concerns for when the time came, and living in the moment with not a care in the world.
“Life was simple. Life was easy, because I didn’t have to worry about a past. I didn’t have to worry about a future. I just had to worry about what’s going on now, and I just had to worry about future me worrying about future me,” Cho said.
On Feb. 29, 2004, a close friend’s passing channeled his “simple” lifestyle into a meaningful quest.
“She saw the light in everyone,” he said. “I took her philosophy for granted. She appreciated everyone, and that made me think, ‘What was I doing? Why couldn’t I see people in that aspect, and how could I make that a reality?’”
Cho promised himself that he would do everything it took to bring her philosophy to life, even if it meant changing himself. That’s where Catherine McCallum Bowles came in.
Bowles is a teacher and faculty advisor at Frank W. Cox High School.
“She says that I came to her, but honestly, I think she came to me. She found this random, little Asian kid that had potential. She saw so much potential in me that she said, ‘You can do this,’” he said. “She taught me so much about the philosophy of servant leadership. I see her as a leader. I see her as my role model. I see her as the kind of person that I want to be.”
Through Bowles, Cho was able to identify his own strengths and establish his objectives.
“I try to keep a smile on my face at all times,” said Cho. “I try to show none of my weaknesses, and at times of anger and at times of frustrations I’ll be stoic just so people won’t know that I’m angry; just so people won’t know that I’m sad, because I’m here for them.”
William Taylor Hall, a Communications Major at Auburn University, recalled how Cho “extended his helping hand” to him at Frank W. Cox High School.
“Everything that I’ve done in my leadership career he has inspired me to do,” Hall said.
Hall, who is four years behind Cho, met Cho through a friend his freshman year of high school. He has since become an active member in the SGA, as well as in the student leadership workshops at Virginia Beach. He earned the honor of Student Body President his senior year, and works closely with his church. Cho was one of the reasons why he is a student at Auburn University today.
“He told me every time I see him that he looks up to me, and every time he told me that I kind of took it upon myself to be his mentor,” Cho said. “He told me he chose Auburn University because of me… Hearing from someone that I was a mentor makes me so satisfied because that’s exactly what I want in life: To allow everyone to live their lives in a positive way.”
When asked if he saw himself as a leader, Cho thought otherwise. He said he saw himself as more of a guide who showed each individual his or her true potential. And, perhaps, this role is just as important. Much like how Bowles did for him, guides tend to be the navigator behind a leader’s success.
Still, Fraser saw Cho in a different light.
“He’s definitely a leader. Other people just kind of listen to him,” he said. “He’s very level-headed when he needs to be, and he can look at situations from an outside view without having his personal feelings involved. He’s very good at putting himself into other people’s shoes and being able to delegate things through that.”
Leader or no leader, Cho stands out from the crowd. He continues to put his needs aside to work toward a better world.
“Collectively, if we’re all on the same page, and we’re all on the page of bettering the world, then there are no boundaries or shackles where we can say, ‘Let’s make a better world today. Let’s make tomorrow better than today. Let’s make a month better than the day before that month,’ because if we’re on that mind set, we’re continually, progressively getting better.”