Rising Costs of College Education
As the cost of going to college keeps rising, Asian Pacific Fund scholarships are even more important. The Fund and its donors support students pursuing their college degrees, and our scholarships get them one step closer to their dreams.
One of the common traits we have found among many of our donors as well as our board members is their desire to give back in a way that truly makes a real difference. Starting a scholarship program through the Asian Pacific Fund is one way our donors are making that personal and meaningful connection. This year alone, our Fund has helped award more than $200,000 in scholarship through scholarship programs customized by the donors who fund them.
Simply put, we provide the expertise to (set up and) help administer the programs, but the donors are very involved and get to decide on the scholarship criteria. For example, one family of donors wanted to honor their parents who were farm workers, so they give two annual scholarships to farm workers or children of farm workers pursuing a college education at the University of California. Another family of donors chose to honor their parents by giving scholarships to Asian restaurant workers or their children.
Through these scholarship programs, the Asian Pacific Fund has helped our donors give out about 150 scholarships over the last six years, enabling many bright young people to go to college and pursue dreams they thought were out of reach.
He [Alex Tan] received a scholarship from the Banatao Filipino American Education Fund, a program set up by the Asian Pacific Fund for Dado and Maria Banatao.
Having experienced, in his words, “the shame and anxiety that comes with poverty,” Alex says he hopes to help improve circumstances for his family by putting his “gift of intelligence” to good use. He is well on his way to fulfilling that mission.
Alex Tan grew up on the coastal plains of Cebu province in the Philippines. Alex and his older brother and sister spent their early childhood years under the watchful care of their parents. Alex describes his father as being very strict, making them do homework before anything else. “Homework before games” was the constant reminder. But Alex also recalls his father’s loving and playful side and how he would tickle Alex’s feet, take him jogging, cook fried rice or pick him up from school.
But his father became sick with pharyngeal cancer, requiring trips and treatments that drained the family’s finances and put them in debt.
One night, when Alex was nine, the family house burned down. There had been a blackout and a neighbor had left a candle unattended. The only family possession that survived was an encyclopedia set that Alex’s mother managed to save, but even that was nearly ruined by the days of rain that followed. The pages had to be laid out in the sun to dry.
A year later, when Alex was 10, his father died. Unable to support three children with her job in the Philippines, Alex’s mother moved the family to the U.S. where she hoped to fare better. They moved in with Alex’s aunt (his mother’s sister) in Union City and as Alex recalls, the transition was stressful. His mother couldn’t get a job right away and Alex felt shy around the house because nothing belonged to him and he needed to rely on his cousins for hand-me-downs.
But determination is a Tan family trait, and eventually, Alex’s mother got a job at a semiconductor company that she holds to this day. As for Alex, he graduated in the top 2 percent of his class at James Logan High in Union City, was a National Merit Scholarship Finalist and a forensics state champion, earned a First Degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and became an Eagle Scout. He is now attending Stanford where last spring, he earned a GPA of 3.9. I’d like to ask Alex Tan to come up on stage now and tell you how what his scholarship from the Banatao Filipino American Education Fund has meant for him.
At different times in my life I have been certain of many different things. I’ve always been certain that no matter what happened, my family and I would be ok as long as we had each other. In high school, I was certain that I didn’t want to grow up to do anything involved with math. And in college, I was absolutely certain that in my four years at Stanford I would never get to say the words: we beat USC. I was wrong on the latter two, but the first certainty has held true. No matter how bad things got, we made it through alright. And I think an important reason why this is, is that in the toughest times there were always other people who were willing to open their hearts to us. When our house burned down my uncle took us in. When we immigrated to a new country an aunt opened her home to us. And when I thought I wouldn’t be able to go to Stanford, a complete stranger offered to give me money to help defray the costs.
It is because of these people, people like Dado Banatao who was willing to help a total stranger that I am where I am today. Without their support, I might not be going to Stanford, where I am now a junior studying Materials Science and Engineering.
The Banatao Scholarship is truly a great program. I feel lucky to be a part of it. I’ve applied to other scholarships and they are not at all like this one. None of them have the depth that this one has. None of them care so much for the scholars like this one does. Maria cooks for us at the retreats, for example and there are about 30 of us. The retreats are actually my favorite part of the program, where I get to spend time with Dado and Maria and their other scholarship recipients, hang out with such amazing people (despite the fact that about half of them go to Cal) and listen as speakers like professors, professionals, and Dado himself give us advice. This program has truly become a part of my life, and has helped shape my years in college.
It has also allowed me to make my dad proud. In my application essay for the Banatao Scholarship, I wrote, “Coming to terms with my father’s death was one of the hardest things I have ever done. In some ways, I am still coming to terms with it today. Going to college is an opportunity for me to honor him. In doing so, I will be achieving his dreams for me, and taking the first step in achieving my own.”
There might be people out there who have overcome adversity by themselves. I am not one of them. I have come this far because of people like Dado who believed in me and supported me, and who have held me up when all I wanted to do was fall. And I’ll say it again – it really is a great program.
excerpt from the 2009 annual gala presentation by Emerald Yeh, Board Member and Journalist