4. Personal Profile Essay

bio1.4 From My List to Personal Profile

So far we’ve brainstormed personal thoughts and experiences with one another that have ranged from words, sentences, to a paragraph in length, while also editing our work according to grammar and style. Next, let’s put everything together into a personal profile, the basic building block for many other kinds of autobiographical introductions you might do for social media, a cover letter for a job search, or a personal statement when applying for a scholarship, internship, medical school, law school, or graduate program. Your content and organization will vary depending on the audience and purpose of your personal profile.

Reading and Analyzing Kerry’s personal profile. One way to help both the writer and reader of a personal profile is by organizing into subsections. Brainstorming subsections helps writers develop and draft their ideas. For readers, the resulting subheadings for each section provide helpful signposts to guide their understanding of the paper.  To practice how this works, get to together into a pair or group of three and do the following while reading Kerry’s paper: 1) Do a quick reading of the first subheading and paragraph(s).  2) Then in your notebook write down key topics or unique words and expressions that Kerry has used to illustrate her ideas in that section of her paper.  3) Next, talk about what you noticed with each other.


Kerry B. McKeown


Basic Background Information

My parents sold everything, so I became Hawaiian. I have four older sisters, all born in Ireland. My father, Kenneth Brethouwer, immigrated from the Netherlands to Kerry, Ireland where he met my mother, Mary McKeown. My father was quite the builder, and he also was one of the main growers supplying oats for a famous brand of steel cut Irish oatmeal. But my parents decided to leave everything to become Assembly of God missionaries in Hawaii where I became their fifth, “new-Zion” daughter. My musical mother nicknamed me her “little songbird,” and I’ve always loved the unique beauty of a Hawaiian sunrise greeted by morning songbirds,coconut trees, and boats floating in Kaneohe Bay. My real name is Kerry, again given me by my mother,after her beloved birthplace in County Kerry, Ireland.

Interests and Hobbies

I’ve always loved sports. As a child, I was a real tomboy, helping my dad with his many church, home, and other building projects. I also played baseball and could even outrun boys in my elementary school. I suppose, in part, I was wanting to connect with and impress my dad, so maybe I became the son he never had. On the other hand, my mother got me into music, speaking, writing, and Spanish. She is an ordained Pentecostal preacher filling up notebook after notebook of her sermons, songs, thoughts, and experiences. Touring the islands, she plays her Martin guitar as she jams with her band of long-time girlfriends who play steel guitar, ukulele, and the accordion. My mother wrote a song which is still popular in some Hawaiian circles called “Aloha, The Wall Breaker is Our Peace.”

At my Kaneohe high school, English was my favorite class, and I wrote articles for the school newspaper and produced the annual yearbook. I played both classical music on the piano and jazzy saxophone for school dances and football games. I owe so much to special mentors in my life: my parents, family friends, and a high school principal who pushed me to follow my dreams, even when I wasn’t so certain what they might be. Next I’d like to share what happened when I had the opportunity to study abroad.

Study Abroad

My name Kerry means “dark princess.” I was born with very dark hair. My mother was fascinated by stories of the “Black Irish,” shipwrecked sailors from Spain who were said to have washed up on the west coast of Ireland and intermarried. All her life she has studied Spanish, but not very successfully. Among her many friends was a Bolivian couple that she met at one of her singing/preaching gigs, Marcelino and Liliana Mistral. Liliana was directing the Bolivian Fulbright Program, matching Americans of many university majors and careers to projects throughout the country, and my mother arranged for me to live with them and their three children, so I could really learn Spanish while also attending a Bolivian middle school.

My dad helped me to raise money for my adventure by investing in 500 little GAM 6-IN-1 Hammers with two Phillips head and 2 flathead screwdrivers fitting ingeniously inside the handle. I sold them everywhere, at church, school, and all over Kaneohe, so I was able to pay back my dad and have money left over for my year in Bolivia.

In Bolivia, I learned so much Spanish that when I returned to Kaneohe, my high school principal, Mr. Ardema, put me into early-college Spanish classes from the University of Hawaii. As I look back, I can see I learned Spanish in three ways: from my everyday experiences with my new family and friends, from going to middle school with Bolivian kids, and from a formal daily afternoon Spanish class which Liliana set up for me with a Fulbright volunteer. I transferred my piano skills to the accordion, a more popular instrument there and something I could more easily carry around with me.

I enjoyed going with Liliana into the campo or countryside, volunteering my own little classes called “Hour of Happiness.” I played my accordion to raise an audience of children, then we sang lots of songs, played games, and I would read stories Liliana gave me about Bolivian heroes, culture, and famous places and events. On one side of a poster was a picture focusing on a certain Bolivian topic and on the other side was my “lesson,” so I could simply read it in Spanish—I suppose a fourth way my Spanish language skills improved. I also wrote my first book, 300 pages of emails that I wrote in the evenings or early mornings on the Mistral family computer to my family and friends in Hawaii about my daily experiences in Bolivia. I saved them in a special file, printed them out, and bound them into a book, decorated with photos and little pockets containing dried flowers, plants, and little gifts children and friends gave me, including a birthday card that somehow arrived all the way to my new campo home directly on my birthday from a long-time family friend, Leona.

My Next Step

FulbrightI will graduate next year from the University of Hawaii with a dual certification in elementary and secondary education in English, focusing on linguistics and TESOL: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages. I’ve always loved the study of language, and I’m trilingual in English, Spanish, and Hawaiian Pidgin, a beautiful language all its own based on many languages including native Hawaiian, Portuguese, Cantonese, and American English, including loan words acquired over its history from Japanese, Korean, and Filipino. I’ve decided to work on a fourth language: Bosnian. My Bolivian parents, Marcelino and Liliana, told me about the Fulbright U.S. Student Program through which students with an undergraduate degree can get paid teaching jobs while being cultural representatives of the United States: https://us.fulbrightonline.org/fulbright-us-student-program.

I chose teaching high school English in Bosnia because the program does not require fluency in Bosnian. But I’ve already started studying my new language on my own, and I’m also excited about visiting nearby Spain, the country and language that has always fascinated my mother.