Thursday, January 07, 2010

Asian American Student Scholarships

In many ways, it's time for high school seniors to start preparing for college and applying for scholarships.

For Laotian Americans and other refugees from Southeast Asia rebuilding our lives in the US, this is particularly important for the long-term success of our communities.
For the ethnic Lao, for example, Census 2000 figures suggest that while many in our community successfully graduated high school, few attended or graduated college.

In a 2006 study by the Asian American Justice Center, research indicates that in education, Lao in Minnesota lag behind at least seven other Twin City Asian American groups: Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Korean, Asian Indian, Filipino and the Japanese.

Compared to all Twin City adults, only 17% of Lao adults have a 2-year college degree or better compared to 43% of all Twin City adults. Further, 42% of Lao adults have less than a high school education. Compare this to just 9% of all Twin City adults. There are many factors that go into this.
No matter how you read it, the point is: we need to do what we can to encourage one another to reach for something better. Reports from California indicate similar figures, and in other states where there are large Lao and Southeast Asian populations, there's evidence to suggest our efforts must continue.

Most Lao applying to college will be the first in their family to do so. Many lack role models who can discuss what to expect or how to make the most of their time there. Because of this, those who have successfully graduated from college would help the community greatly in assisting emerging Southeast Asian American college students as mentors and advisors.

Helping these students to maintain their grades, find financing and more importantly, to stay in college effectively, with both a short-term and long-term strategy for success should matter to our community. While it is possible to succeed in life without a college degree, it's not a particularly easier route.

The University of Maryland Asian American Studies department, JACL, OCA and State Farm Insurance worked together recently to put together a director of scholarship opportunities across the US that are particularly good for Asian American students to apply to:

Some of these scholarships have deadlines as soon as February, so it's important to start writing those applications now. If you know students who are interested in applying for college this is an important time to start looking at the scholarships available to them. Good luck!

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