Making Educational Changes for a More Perfect World

Mary Xu, 3rd Place
12th Grade
San Francisco

The world is a place filled with amazing people, places, and things. Yet it is also growing with social, economic, and political problems. Growing up Asian American, I feel like my experience in this world is different from other Asians around the world and even within the nation. I am a first generation Chinese living in America, with immigrant parents struggling to keep up a small business in the economic recession. There are many other Asian Americans like me who have immigrant parents, but the difference is that I grew up with different elements in my life which have influenced my individual thoughts about the larger world. If I were able to make the world a better place, I would make education (especially higher education) available to all people—not just children, but even adults who were never given the opportunity to read or write.

I grew up in a household where education is highly valued, as both of my grandparents were educators in China. They taught during the Cultural Revolution and were imprisoned for being “threats” to the government due to being capable in influencing students’ beliefs. For a year, my father and his three siblings had to take care of themselves while their education was also interrupted. The education in China during that time was rather limited. My father consistently placed at the top of his class every year in high school, but suddenly the Communist regime cut his path towards higher academic success short. He could not pursue his dream to major in Business in college because the Communist government mandated that a high school education was enough for him. It is because of these kinds of injustices that my parents decided to come to America and start a small restaurant which they have owned for over twenty years now. These injustices drive me to make education more available to everyone. It is upsetting and unbelievable that anyone would say that it is fair to confine an aspiring student to a limited education. Understanding the background my parents and grandparents come from is the greatest influence on my goal of implementing equal and functional educational systems worldwide.

Education is the foundation which propels an individual towards success. The definition of success is different for everyone, but I believe that learning in general is essential in helping one define success for oneself. There are countless areas in the world where literacy levels are very low—especially West African countries—and it hurts women the most due to gender disparities. As a woman myself, I do not think it is just to limit women from their own dreams, but cultural upbringing has a huge influence on gender roles. Even though my culture also reserves more rights to males, that only furthers my interest in advocating women’s educational rights. As I stated before, it is upsetting that some people believe that certain individuals deserve an education more than others. I believe it is my responsibility as a student to spread knowledge to other parts of the world with people who need it most.

Low literacy levels are associated with poverty and numerous social, economic, and political problems. Fixing this serious problem will open up many more options for children and adults who want to pursue their dreams. The most important thing in making the world a better place is making sure there is a unified happiness, which may seem unattainable, but it is not impossible. Even making a small change would be a step closer to achieving worldwide change. Change is an act that develops—it does not happen instantly. By being a part of buildOn, a non-profit organization with students dedicated to volunteering in the community, educating others about global issues, and sponsoring the construction of schools in developing countries, I am empowered to make changes in my community that affect the world as a whole. I have committed a lot of my time to cleaning up parks, sorting packages at food pantries, and serving those in need within San Francisco. In buildOn, I have helped raise money to build a school in Mali, West Africa. Slowly, but surely, I wish to instill hope in potential students that it is still possible for them to achieve their personal dreams.

As an Asian American woman, my experiences are important because they are the mechanisms that power my heart, mind and soul to bring educational justice in developing countries. Knowledge of my family’s educational background produced questioning about the accessibility of education in our world today. Being a part of an organization that provides insightful information about literacy levels in the world draws my attention to developing countries. I do not plan to fix unjust educational systems alone; successful change is developed by a collective community. The future ahead will be a bright one for everyone if we all work together to make the privilege of an education a universal human right.