By Ari Pak, MD High School Program Coordinator
Imagine this: You are a high school student and it’s been a long week of tests, classes, and extra-curriculars. As good as that extra hour of sleep sounds, you pull yourself out of bed at an unreasonably early hour, and come into the AALEAD office on a chilly Saturday morning. You sit down to a computer, a ticking clock, and the following prompt:
“Between 1865 and 1869, more than 15,000 Chinese migrants worked towards the construction of America’s First Transcontinental Railroad. The Chinese workers played a central role in building the infrastructure that linked the nation’s coasts and ultimately shaped the physical and social landscape of the American West.
2015 commemorates the 150th anniversary of the Chinese Railroad Workers’ first arrival in this country. In addition to the construction of the railroad, what do you think are the most significant contributions of the Chinese to American society?”
You have ninety minutes to complete a thorough and original essay. The stakes? Up to a $1,000 academic scholarship. What would you say?
Two weeks ago, AALEAD youth from Virginia, Maryland, and Washington D.C. high schools gathered at the DC AALEAD office to compete in a the Chinese American Citizens Alliance 2015 National Essay Contest answering this question. This is their dedication to their educational success: waking up on a day where they could sleep in, and spending hours in a timed writing exercise for a chance to win a national scholarship. The academic scholarships would go toward supporting students’ academic expenses such as taking the SATs, college applications, or AP/IB test fees.
I am proud to work alongside such dedicated young people who take their education into their own hands. Seeing them work with such focus and determination through the last moments of the contest, it was clear that each of them are driven to succeed. I see an unending dedication in the AALEADers to go for their dreams, and it inspires me each day as I see them constantly strive to do more–for themselves, their families, and their community.
AALEAD would like to extend a special thank you to Ted Gong, President of the Chinese American Citizen Association – DC Lodge, for the partnership opportunity; and to the Harrison and Anna Lee Memorial Scholarship Fund for making the awards possible.