Scholarships fight poverty with opportunity
A Wells Fargo scholarship program gives Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders the opportunity to pursue higher education.
In 2010, Guohua Xie and his mom, dad, and two sisters emigrated from China in search of a better life.
“I came here with nothing,” said Xie. Now, he has dreams of a successful career in the tech industry — and a path to see it through. Xie is studying computer science at City College of San Francisco with hopes to join one of the Bay Area’s tech titans. “There are so many technology companies around us,” he said, “and I want to be part of that.”
Since 2006, Wells Fargo has provided more than $6.8 million to the Asian & Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund, helping 1,376 Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders attend 514 U.S. colleges and universities. Sixty-nine percent of scholarship recipients are first-generation college students.
On Feb. 11, Xie and two other APIASF/Wells Fargo Scholars will ride on a float in the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco, which Wells Fargo has sponsored for more than 20 years. As it honors the scholarship recipients and celebrates the Year of the Rooster, Wells Fargo will also announce another $50,000 contribution to the scholarship fund during the event.
“We believe education and our ongoing partnership with APIASF are among the many ways in which Wells Fargo invests in the growth of our communities,” said Shuyi Wang, who leads Wells Fargo’s efforts to meet the financial needs of Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. “We see our work with APIASF as part of our total commitment to building pathways to a brighter future and broadening economic opportunities and access for everyone.”
Paying it forward
Jacqueline Tran, a previous scholarship recipient who is now a graduate student, has made it her life’s mission to increase economic opportunities and access. A first-generation college student, Tran credits the same scholarship Xie has received with allowing her to chase her dreams and set a new educational standard for her family.
Tran’s parents moved to Salem, Oregon, as refugees from the Vietnam War, she said, but life in the U.S. had its challenges.
“Growing up as a low-income child in Salem wasn’t easy. The feeling of shame and stigma from welfare programs was prominent to me, even as a child,” she said. “Yet, the opportunity for me to attend college is not reflective of everyone that started in my position.”
With support from the scholarship, Tran earned an undergraduate degree in public policy analysis and biology from Pomona College in Claremont, California. She believes her experience aided her acceptance into the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore and allowed her to arrive nearly debt-free.
“I will continue to fight for marginalized populations and continue to work on destigmatizing and improving my community’s access to welfare to lift others out of poverty,” she said. “These personal experiences have led me on the trajectory towards public health and public policy so I can work at a macro level to help others like me break the cycle of poverty.”
Busting the ‘model minority’ myth
APIASF President and Executive Director Neil Horikoshi said political, academic, business, and other leaders founded the nonprofit in 2003 to counter the “model minority” myth that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders don’t need scholarship support or other assistance.
Scholarship recipients confirm this need exists: 71 percent (among the nearly 7,000 scholarships awarded to date, including 1,376 Wells Fargo Scholars) have families living at or below the poverty line.
By the year 2040, Horikoshi said the population of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is expected to grow from 17 million to more than 40 million, or 1 in 10 Americans. This demographic is the nation’s fastest-growing population in poverty — making Wells Fargo’s support critical.
Wells Fargo works with APIASF to provide college planning, leadership training, financial education, and professional development for students and parents through its Jump Start College Tour. It also supports APIASF’s mentoring program and higher education summit addressing community issues.
“Our work together with Wells Fargo has not only significantly enhanced the reach of our scholarship program, but also markedly improved our other efforts to enhance college access, improve graduation rates, and help students get the skills they need to enter and be successful in the workplace,” Horikoshi said. “Together, we’ve been able to serve and lift thousands of individuals and families out of poverty.”
Chase Lin, a Chinese American student raised by a single mother of two in New York City, said the scholarship “lifted a huge economic burden for my family. I could not afford my housing and other expenses without it.”
He credits the financial support, mentoring, and opportunities such as a Wells Fargo Wealth and Investment internship scheduled for this summer in San Francisco with advancing his goal to one day work for Wells Fargo in New York.
“I want to reward the company for its investment and become an asset myself for the company one day,” he said.
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