World Traveler Kim Lonzo Lands at LaGuardia Community College as a Paralegal Studies Major
LONG ISLAND CITY, NY (JANUARY 30, 2023) — LaGuardia Community College/CUNY students are not only diverse in their ethnic demographic, but also in their ages. While at four-year colleges, students are typically between the ages of 18-22, at LaGuardia 42% are older than 22. Kim Lonzo, age 54, is among those older students. Kim brings his life experiences and worldliness to the classroom—gained from his travels beyond the Iron Curtain in Eastern Europe and to 47 of the 50 United States.
Kim was born and raised in New Orleans. When he graduated from high school in 1986, he considered going to college. Instead, he joined the U.S. Air Force, where his work in military intelligence took him to the U.S.S.R. However, after two years with the military he was asked to leave because his superiors had found out that he was gay. “This was a very different time, well before even ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.’ Nevertheless, it was upsetting,” said Kim.
After his discharge, he decided to go to college and enrolled at the University of New Orleans as a physics major with a minor in mathematics.
However, not long after his college career started, it would end. Tragedy struck his family—his younger brother Ken died unexpectedly as a result of gun violence in New Orleans. Kim could no longer find the will to attend his classes. “I would just show up to campus,” he said, “I had a lot of extracurriculars and would go to those, but I wouldn’t show up to class.”
He put his studies on hold, in favor of pursuing another goal: comedy. He started going to open mic nights in New Orleans. A favorite comedic topic was his mother. He regaled audiences with stories about her tendency to botch common sayings, often telling him before shows, “When you go out there I hope they break your legs.”
Eventually, Kim took his set on the road. “I did comedy shows throughout the United States—hitting all continental states except Florida,” Kim said. “As a New Orleans native, I refuse to work or visit Florida. There’s rivalry between Florida and Louisiana—stemming in part from our college teams. At this point, I’ve told my friends about my refusal to step foot in Florida for so long that if I ever went there they’d never let me live it down.”
In 1999, Kim, still working as a comedian, moved to New York City with an old flame. This relationship would eventually lead him to Germany, where Kim realized his love for New York. He moved back to New York City, on his own, this time to Jackson Heights, Queens. “I have always wanted to live in the world, and Queens feels like that.” he said.
Even though he was booking the occasional gig, his comedy career would not prove profitable enough to sustain him and fund his interest in traveling. To make ends meet, he found work as a club bouncer, in event planning and fashion merchandising.
Then in 2003, Kim found a job that merged his love for New York City with his skills as a performer; he was hired as a tour guide. His career as a tour guide sustained him until he was laid off in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “For me, the pandemic was a great time of reflection. I decided like I’d done everything I could to build a career without a college degree, and that now was the time to pivot.”
He decided to enroll at LaGuardia. “My partner Mathew Hyatt and I would go on rambling walks around Queens. When we’d pass LaGuardia, I’d think to myself, ‘that’s where I’m going to go.’”
In 2022, Kim applied to LaGuardia. For guidance through the application process he connected with LaGuardia’s Office of Veteran’s Services, led by Daryl Griffin. “Daryl held my hand and helped me through the application process.” Kim enrolled as a Paralegal Studies major, fueled by a fascination he’s had with the law for decades. He wants to become an attorney and feels that LaGuardia has prepared him well for the next phase of his academic and professional journey.
“Hector Fernandez, my professor for Introduction to Paralegal Studies, is a wonderful teacher. He taught me how to write a legal draft. Before my first draft, I was so nervous, but his feedback was helpful and encouraging,” said Kim. “I told him that I want to be an attorney and he gave me advice on where to go to law school and helped me decide that I want to be an attorney where I can help others, especially those with less means.”
Kim has found that classes outside his major have furthered his growth in his chosen field. “Legal writing can be dry and technical. My English professor, Dr. Tom Fink, taught me how to write succinctly and bring in storytelling to my legal briefs. I learned that the beginning of a brief, where the reason for the case is laid out, should read like a narrative. I can’t thank him enough.”
Right now, Kim is on track to graduate from LaGuardia in December 2023, something he credits to the advising support he’s received as an ASAP student for keeping on track to finish his degree within 18 months (helped in part by credits he brought from his time as a University of New Orleans student). “LaGuardia has amazing advisement. Really top notch,” Kim said. “I’m grateful for my ASAP advisor, Jenny Lugo. She helped me set up my degree path and create a plan to get to law school. She thinks proactively. She talks to me about my schedule and reminds me not to overextend myself. She helps keep me on track.”
After earning his associate degree, Kim plans to pursue a bachelor’s, most likely at a CUNY college. Then he hopes to attend the CUNY Law School where he wants to work in its pro-bono legal clinic. “There are a lot of people who cannot afford legal advice, and I want to help those people.”
Meanwhile, he’s grateful that his path in life led him to LaGuardia. “I’ve worn many hats—from serving my country as a member of the U.S Air Force, to being a comedian, to working as a tour guide,” Kim said. “I think the best hat I’ve worn is as a student at LaGuardia Community College.”
LaGuardia Community College (LAGCC), located in Long Island City, Queens, educates thousands of New Yorkers annually through degree, certificate, and continuing education programs. LaGuardia is a national voice on behalf of community colleges, where half of all U.S. college students study. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY), the College reflects the legacy of our namesake, Fiorello H. LaGuardia, the former NYC mayor beloved for his championing the underserved. Since our doors opened in 1971, our programs regularly become national models for pushing boundaries to give people of all backgrounds access to a high quality, affordable college education.