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The 18-year-old prosecutor

A young man takes an oath while facing an older man in front of the flags of California and the United States.
Tulare County District Attorney's Office
Peter Park, right, is sworn in by District Attorney Tim Ward on December 6, 2023.

The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office swore in their youngest prosecutor ever this week: Peter Park is just 18 years old.

He passed the California bar exam at 17 years old, which makes him the youngest person to do so in state history, according to the DA’s office.

Park spoke to KVPR Host Elizabeth Arakelian, describing his childhood and the habits that shaped his motivation to succeed.

Listen to the interview in the player on this page and read the transcript below.

PARK: I didn't think I was that much smarter than my peers. In elementary school, when all my friends would do sports or or like go hang out, my parents would have me do Khan Academy, which is a free online school. So, I would supplement my math one or two years ahead of what grade I was in. So, in third grade, I was in fourth grade math. I was in fourth grade doing fifth, sixth grade math. So, I think that helped me develop my brain at a young age. And, my parents did this thing where if I wanted to play games, I'd have to study the same amount of time. So I had to earn that sort of free time and I think that developed my discipline at a young age.

ARAKELIAN: There's a lot of people that are maybe gifted, but when they're not stimulated enough they can get lazy and distracted and get into trouble. What do you think it was that kept you so focused even though you were excelling at such a rate?

PARK: I was really interested in certain things and my dad and my parents would notice that and really push me towards achieving more than like the average person. For example, in third grade our school had a Rubik's Cube math team demonstration. There were like eight people solving 11 Rubik's cubes in like two minutes and I was super impressed. I told my dad I wanted to learn the Rubik's Cube, but he didn't know how to solve the Rubik's Cubes. So he searched up a guide and printed it out for me and then I would look at the guide. So I learned how to solve Rubik's Cube then. And, in fifth grade, I had a collection of about 30 Rubik's Cubes and I could solve a Rubik's Cuban in about 30 seconds.

PARK: I would practice for hours every day and my dad looked at that and you know, he was impressed but he kind of noticed that he I'm wasting a lot of time so he proposed to me an idea. What if I wrote a book on teaching how to solve a Rubik's Cube? I was up for the idea because my hands were starting to hurt from turning the Rubik’s Cubes for too long. So, I wrote up a picture guide as a book and it's published on Amazon right now. I wouldn't actually recommend people buy that book because YouTube videos have gotten more advanced and they're way better to learn from, but I think something like that just shows like my dad recognized that I had a passion for this and he made me do something meaningful out of it because solving a Rubik's Cube is impressive but it isn't meaningful in and of itself.

ARAKELIAN: So there was a real emphasis on advancing intellectually trying new things.

PARK: Yes.

ARAKELIAN: So, you get through High School, you get through college… why law?

PARK: Let me correct you for a second. I started ninth grade and started law school at about the same time. And in the third year of law school. I did a semester in at WGU, or Western Governors University, and I was able to complete a bachelor's degree in the span of one month

ARAKELIAN: At what point did you develop an interest in this field and know you want to practice law?

PARK: At first I was intimidated by the prospect of going to law school at my age, but I really wanted to help people and I didn't want to be a doctor because I don't like seeing blood and human parts. Like, I don't vibe with that. So, I think law really was the best option and also there's like so many fields within the law. If you don't like tax law, then you could go into criminal law or contracts law. It's not very constrained. It has a lot of freedom within this field to explore my interests as well.

ARAKELIAN: What's your favorite part about the job?

PARK: I think my favorite part is just the work that I do has a meaningful impact in the city that we live in, in the county that we live in, the state that we live in. Like, it's like I'm doing work and I'm never burned out. I never think that the work that I do is meaningless or doesn't have any impact because I know that it's a really important job and it's for the safety of the community and that's what really keeps me going.

A Valley native, Elizabeth earned her bachelor's degree in English Language Literatures from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her master's degree in journalism from New York University. She has covered a range of beats. Her agriculture reporting for the Turlock Journal earned her a first place award from the California Newspaper Publishers Association. While in graduate school she covered the New Hampshire Primary for NBC Owned Television Stations and subsequently worked as a television ratings analyst for the company's business news network, CNBC. Upon returning to California, her role as a higher education public relations professional reconnected her to the Valley's media scene. She is happy to be back to her journalism roots as a local host at KVPR.