‘There Is No Glass Ceiling': This USD Alum is Now a Navy SEAL, Harvard Doc, and NASA Astronaut

A University of San Diego alum is shooting for the moon and beyond and overcame an awkward childhood to accomplish his goals

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When NASA astronaut Dr. Jonny Kim was a child he had no idea what he wanted to be when he grew up. High school was one of the worst, most awkward times of his life and he was looking for direction.

"I didn't have much confidence in high school. I felt in between a couple of worlds. Like, I had my Asian American roots -- I felt like I was in between worlds -- my parents were South Korean immigrants. On top of that, there were just a lot of things that didn't make me feel confident as a person," Kim told NBC 7.

Kim said he remembers "what it's like to be scared to talk to people, to be seen eating a lunch without any friends to hang out with."

He was 16 years old when he first heard about the U.S. Navy SEALS and decided to enlist instead of going straight to college, like his mother had hoped he'd do.

Childhood photo of Jonny Kim

"I remember what it's like to be scared to talk to people, to be seen eating lunch without any friends."

Jonny Kim , NASA astronaut

"She (mother) cried...she didn't like it very much. I think a lot of Asian Americans at least 20 years ago when I was going through this process just didn't really, weren't really comfortable with it," Kim said. "It was foreign to them. You know, the tried and true path to becoming physicians are going to law school or public service."

Enlistment did not guarantee a place on the Navy SEAL team but Kim persevered.

"I didn't have the backing of everyone but when you want something bad enough and it's important enough to you and you're willing to risk everything for it; there wasn't anything that was going to change my mind, " Kim said.

Jonny Kim
Jonny Kim with his brother and mother at enlistment.

But that iron-clad determination paid off.

Kim became an elite Navy SEAL team member after completing his training at Naval Special Warfare at Coronado and was assigned to SEAL Team 3.

Jonny Kim remains on active duty as a Navy Lieutenant.

He completed 100 combat operations.

He served as a Special Operations Combat Medic, sniper, navigator and point man spanning two deployments.

Kim is also the recipient of a Silver and Bronze Star with valor

And although he may have taken a detour to college by enlisting after high school, Kim then went on to earn his bachelor's degree in Mathematics at the University of San Diego in 2012.

Navy SEAL training in Coronado.

But his experience as a Navy SEAL is what steered him to his next goal.

Kim has talked, in other published interviews, about another life-changing experience, which was the feeling of helplessness when he saw his comrades killed in action.

So he wanted to be able to help heal others.

He then became determined to become a doctor.

In 2016, he graduated from Harvard Medical School.

And then Kim, still compelled "to want to serve humanity," decided to reach for the stars.

He applied for astronaut candidacy and was selected by NASA.

He reported for duty in August 2017 and became the first Korean-American NASA astronaut.

He's since been named to NASA's ARTEMIS team of astronauts, eligible for the next missions to the moon beginning in 2024.

Jonny Kim
Jonny Kim with his mother at Harvard Medical School graduation.

ARTEMIS will use the information from the moon landings and sustainable exploration for the next giant leap to Mars.

Kim's accomplishments are beyond mind boggling.

The once lonely high school teenager searching for his mission in life eventually found it a few times over.

From Navy SEAL to Harvard-educated physician, and now NASA astronaut, it seems so astounding.

Jonny Kim was selected for the NASA ARTEMIS team of astronauts preparing for missions to the moon starting in 2024.

But Kim always circles back to that initial decision to enlist in the Navy.

"We are all a lot stronger and more capable than we really know," he said. "And that's what the SEAL teams taught me. And the war taught me a lot about how to be a human and having a singular focus to want to make an impact, to do public service."

Today, Kim is married with three kids, ages 4 to 10. His dream for them is to just be happy.

"We are a lot stronger and more capable than we know."

Jonny Kim, NASA Astronaut

He said his kids are "very mindful of the fact that they may feel like they live in the shadow" if they compare themselves to others.

"But I think comparison is, you know, comparison is the thief of happiness," Kim added. "And it's important to me and their mother that they are happy and passionate about what they do regardless of what it is."

Given Kim's story of such amazing high achievements, what in the world would be next?

"I'm a big proponent of focusing on the moment on what you're doing. I think it's perfectly OK to plan, but it's been important for me to really be singularly focused on a single mission," he told NBC 7. "NASA, supporting this great organization, contributing to space exploration, to have an impact on the next generation to go to space."

He points again to that inner compass that directed him to enlist when he was 16, that compass that, in his words, "has always pointed me towards being impactful and public service, and that opens a lot of opportunities."

"So I don't know what it's gonna be specifically, but I know it's going to be following that same compass," he said.

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