Feb 24, 2020
DAvorn Sisavath, PhD, Assistant Professor, Anthropology and Asian Studies, speaks to high students during the Journey to Success event at Fresno State on April 24. (Megan Trinidad/The Collegian)

Students seek inspiration at a young age

More than 500 Central Valley Asian-American and Pacific Islander students visited Fresno State’s North Gym to hear from community leaders to inspire a “journey to success.”

The CSU Asian-American and Pacific Islander Initiative brought the third-annual “Journey to Success” conference on Monday and students from Fresno Unified, Sanger Unified and Clovis Unified came to prepare for college.

The initiative is “meant to do outreach to bring Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders awareness about the importance of higher education, particularly going to college,” said Dr. Brian Tsukimura, professor at the college of science and mathematics and initiative representative.

The event itself, said Joy Goto, interim chair and associate professor of the university’s chemistry department and an initiative representative, “is meant to introduce high school students to what life is like as a college student at Fresno State or any other college or university.”

Goto said the conference encouraged students to begin thinking about college, student leadership and what both aspects entail.

“I think education is important for all students in the Central Valley, and I think most of our students who come to Fresno State are from the Central Valley,” Goto said. “So it’s important that we introduce them to what life is like at college.”

Ton Cha, McLane High School teacher of Hmong as a world language and a Fresno State alum said, “A lot of my students, they are probably one of the first person in their family to have an opportunity to go to college.”

Cha said he is hoping the conference will open their eyes to see, “Ok, this is what is out there for me after high school.”

Just being at the conference, Cha said, will hopefully give that atmosphere and inspiration to them.

Cha said the keynote speaker, James Vang, provided inspiration because he, too, was in their shoes approximately 20 years ago.

Vang is a co-founder of Hmong Roots and operational excellence manager with Genentech Pharmaceutical Company.

Before the event, Cha said his students have positively accepted the idea of attending college after high school.

“They are very positive about it. They know that they have to pursue with their education after high school – they know that’s probably not the end,” he said.

Cha said his students were excited to know what they would learn. “What are we going to walk away with?”

“We went last year, and what we walked away with was a new outlook on ‘this is what needs to be done and this is what we need to expect,’” Cha said he told the students.

Professor Tsukimura said it’s important to not feed into the “model minority” myth.

“The myth is that Asian-Americans are doing fine and that all of them are doctors, lawyers or dentists,” he said.

Tsukimura said more myths are that Asians are good at math, that they study hard and are quiet. However, he said that most of the community do not fall under the model minority myth, although he said there are a percentage who do.

“We’re moving forward to actually bring in groups with particularly low graduation rates from college or low entry rates into college,” Tsukimura said.

He said Lao has a graduation rate of nine percent, Hmong males have a graduation rate of 14 percent, he said.

He added that by the time a young person is a senior in high school, it’s maybe too late to decide whether to go to college. The conference is geared toward targeting students who are about to make the choice of a higher education for their future.

“Working in the fields is really hard and noncollege graduates don’t make nearly as much money as college graduates,” Tsukimura said. “In order to do that, here are things you need to know.”

Tsukimura said he hopes next year’s conference is bigger and will help enrich more lives of the students of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community.

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