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Experience Sharing on College Prep

On May 19, 2002 at AAPA's seminar on "Sharing Experiences on College Preparation" a panel of bright high school and college students shared their experiences and advice on how to effectively prepare for entering college and for the future. The discussions was especially targeted to high school juniors and seniors but was also be of great interest to other students and parents.  The following outlines were sent in from 3 of these panelists.

From a new immigrant's point of view: John Shen

  • PERSONAL BACKGROUND - Came from Taiwan 4 years ago - Started studying at Monta Vista since 9th grade - Going to UC Berkeley this fall
  • MY ADVISE IN IMPROVING ENGLISH ABILITY
    • Don't feel ashamed - Not being fluent in English is not something that you should be ashamed of, it's absolutely normal for a new immigrant.  Instead, you should be proud of your exceptional fluency in your mother language.
    • Work hard on your English assignments - I think that the most efficient way to improve your English skills as a new immigrant is to keep up with your school's English coursework. Work hard on assignments, try talking to English teachers to get help as much as possible (teachers actually appreciate if you talk to them more often, so they know how to help you). Try to expose yourselves to English speaking environments more.
    • Find a tutor - During the first couple of years, it may also be helpful if you can find an English tutor either through school or other means. A tutor can not only help you on homework assignments, but he or she can also help you understand the standards of American teachers and elaborate on text materials.
  • TIPS FOR BOOSTING YOUR SAT SCORE
    • Don't be scared - 
      • There's nothing to be feared. If you are from an Asian country like Taiwan, where excessive exams are what everything's based off of, then SAT is just like another one of those tests, plus you get more than one shot at it.
      • 90% of nation-wide colleges accept SAT score around 1200 points. Perfect examples are all CSUs and some UCs. (Refer to Kaplan/Newsweek annual survey)
    • Ace math first - 
      • Try to guarantee a high score on the math section of the SAT I by doing a lot of math practice problems. SAT I math isn't hard, it is, however, a bit trickier than most math questions you would see in text books (they want to test your ability to reason, not your ability to spit out what you learned in school).
      • My first math score was a 740 with minimal preparation; eventually, I raised it to a 790, which contributed a lot to my overall combined score.
      • The 10 Real SAT's book released by the College Board provides full SAT tests given in the past. The math section of it proves to be helpful to find a trend of the questions that ETS likes to ask you. Finish as many of the math sections as possible, so you have ample practice and will be well prepared on the test day.
    • Tackle the Verbal part -
      • Memorize vocabulary
        • Vocabulary is an essential part of the SAT I verbal section. The two sections that require you to have an abundant word bank in your head are the analogy section and the sentence completion section.
        • You can buy flash cards of vocabulary words at book stores, and memorize as many words as possible. Some test prep books such as Barrons or Arco offer word lists as well. They may also offer word roots, prefixes and postfixes, which are also very helpful in studying for vocabulary.
      • Attend SAT prep class -
        • SAT prep classes often teach you test-taking strategies such as the process of elimination, when to guess or when to not guess etc. Take a class before a test would be most practical.
      • Practice, practice and practice -
        • No matter how many prep classes you attend, no matter how many words you've memorized, it all comes down to practicing. If you don't practice, what you learned in classes will just go to waste.
        • Taking practice tests can not only familiarize you with the test, it can also help you manage your time during a real test. You will be so familiar with the test that you will have ample of time to complete each and every section of the test.
        • Time management is especially important for the reading comprehension. Even though prep classes may teach you to read the questions first before you read the reading selection due to time constraints, I personally think that you'll get a better idea of what the questions are asking if you have read the entire selection first, even if you just skim it. The more practice test you do, the faster you will read, thus increasing the time you have when answering those questions about the reading selection.
      • Strategize on SAT test dates and times -
        • Most of the time, the October, November and December tests are the hardest ones, and the March/April tests are the easiest ones. If time permissible, try to sign up for tests in the March/April time period.
        • However, do make sure that you allow some time to improve after one test before you take another. That is, don't take the November test and immediately sign up for the December test, because your score will not improve by one or two hundred points in mere one month.
        • DO NOT take the SAT I reasoning test more than THREE times. UC's, CSU's and most colleges around the nations will take the highest score out of the three. Anything more than three is not good.
      • SAT 2 (Subject SAT) -
        • Take Writing test as late as possible and practice a lot
          • Required by 99% of the colleges around the nation
          • The writing test consists of two sections: the multiple choice section, which tests to see if you can identify errors in a sentence, if you can correct an erroneous sentence to a correct form etc.; and a writing part, where you write freely on a given topic.
          • The multiple choice section you can do nothing but practice, and learn the grammar involved really well.
          • The writing section will improve as your general English skill improves
        • Take Math and the third subject tests right after finishing the subjects at school
          • Take the math and third subject test right after finishing the course at school, so your knowledge on the subject matter is still fresh.
          • Easier to get 800 on IIC than on IC
          • The best book I find is Barron's Math IIC book, because the practice tests it provides are the most difficult ones.
  • SUGGESTIONS ON APPLYING COLLEGES AS A NEW COMER
    • Keep a good GPA
      • Your GPA, particularly for 10th and 11th grade, is the basic information for every college. The first thing you want to assure is to maintain it at 3.0 and above. No matter your test scores are, not many schools are likely interested in students with very low GPA.
    • Take your mother language courses as your Second Language other than English
      • In order to fulfill your foreign language requirements, it is best to take your mother language at school as your foreign language if it is offered at your school. Better yet, take your language's SAT II subject test and do very well on it. UC's require a two-year minimum of a language other than English in your course work, SAT II or a foreign language waiver issued by the school will often do the trick if you are an immigrant.
    • Applying to UC's
      • There are two ways that you can apply to UC's: online and by hand. I did the online application, which is much faster and easier than the conventional hand-written application, because you don't have to worry too much about neatness-it IS neat. And everything is basically at the instant of your click.
      • One of the best advantages that I find is that the online application checks any missing information for you before you submit (it won't let you submit unless you have everything completed). Many great students can be screened out simply because their application forms aren't complete.
      • UC's have formulas to calculate the total "score" of a student, and based on this "score", they can then rank their applicants. The total score consists of only numbers-that is: SAT I, 3 SAT II's, and your GPA. If you have a high combined score, then depending on each UC's standard, you are most likely in the system. However, if your score is not as high, then your essays and extra curricular activities become essential.
    • Take TOEFL as a supplementary score to SAT (do not replace)
      • TOEFL takes on the format similar to that of SAT II writing test. Multiple choice questions which consists of identifying sentence errors, and free writing part on a given topic. Generally it is much easier than SAT II writing, and you can probably do quite well on it. Take it as a supplement, it may or may not help, but it will never hurt.
    • Consult experienced people
      • Application process is rather complicated for first timer. Therefore, it would be great if you have someone to consult with. You can either seek help through school Career Center, your relatives, neighbors and other the like connections, or find a College Prep company to assist you throughout the whole process. I personally had worked with one of them and found it was indeed helpful because no other resources are informative enough for new immigrant case.

Introduction to three types of schools (another student)

  1. UC Berkeley: the large public school
    • objective, yet holistic
    • appreciative to grades
    • appreciative to ambition, and a willingness to try
    • less appreciative to contemplation, abstract thinking
    • less appreciative to impressive teacher recommendations
    • Introducing the SAT-GPA curve
    • less appreciative to minorities
    • appreciative to "solid students"
  2. Stanford University: the well-rounded west coast private school
    • Sensitive to personality
    • appreciative to community service
    • appreciative to sports commitment
    • wants commitment overall, and a well-rounded student more than anything
    • teacher recommendations extremely important
    • loves leadership
    • sensitive to "transcript padding"
    • wants students to have a "how" other than a "why"
    • Introducing the A.I.
    • appreciative to minorities
  3. Princeton University: the prestigious Ivy League school
    • Sensitive to prestige
    • Wants to keep the "upper class"
    • Wants to keep highflautin students
    • Personal statement extremely important
    • prefers "well-lopsided" students
    • is subjective in terms of grades
    • will consider three aspects of personailty: grades/scores, extracurrics, statement
    • wants to build an abstract, sophisticated student body
    • interview important
    • Introducting the "trilateral review"

SECTION I: The Profile

  • Think about your profile. It must be cohesive.
  • Start filling in the weaknesses of your profile.

Type

 Strenghths

Weaknesses

What you should do

Academic
Intelligent, academically stellar
Dull, weak on interpersonal skills, not a leader, quiet and loner.
Participate in sports, community service, and try and get a few officer positions.Pay attention to your rec letters and personal statement.DO NOT create your own club or anything shady like that.

Jock
Dynamic, energetic, team player, strong interpersonal and leadership skills
Less intelligent and not focused on school 
Pay attention to grades, and have an impressive test record. Make sure your teacher recs talk about trying very hard. Also, diversify your activities to include academic clubs to show an interest (i.e. join the math team)

Disadvantaged
Strong work ethic, determination
Culturally unsophisticated, difficulty fitting in
Join clubs dealing with fine arts, and have an impressive, sophisticated personal statement.

Wealthy
Cultured, savvy, sophisticated
Arrogant, weak work ethic, not real-world
Community service, and an impressive personal statement that deals with experiencing a disadvantaged situation.

Artsy
Creative, cultural, savvy
Poor analytical skills, dreamer, not practical, uncertain potential for success
Pay attention to your grades and SAT scores, and make sure to do some "real-world" activities such as community service.

  • Think about the particular school.
  • Think about why you uniquely are suited/needed by the school.
  • Consider what the school is trying to build.
  • Try to fit into their "well-rounded," "well-lopsided," or "singular passion."

Choosing where to apply

  • Choose 3 reach schools, 3-4 good matches, and 3 safety schools. Be realistic.
  • Research the school. Your guidance counselor is probably a better resource than rankings.
  • Do not be blinded by prestige. Often it is not the right school for you.
  • Think about the area that it is in.
  • Think about the class atmosphere. Competitive or no? Snobby or no? Too many students, not enough teachers? Or vice versa?
  • Think about financial aid early.

Getting started early

  • Request applications during the summer of junior year. It is not too early.
  • Begin brainstorming for your essay during this time.
  • Send in the "Part I"'s early to secure an interview.
  • Research the school early. Don't waste 100 dollars on a school you won't go to anyway.

Set realistic goals.

SECTION II: The Essay

  1. The admissions officers want to know about YOU, as a person. Make sure your essay is a "slice of life."
  2. Stay away from "grand" themes that tend to get cheesy.
    • winning a competition
  3. Avoid the sob story, unless you can show that from it, you grow.
    • dog dying is probably not professional!
  4. Watch the conclusions. Sum everything up, but not with cheesy one-liners that sound very cliché.
  5. Avoid clichés in general.
  6. Avoid using long lists of SAT words. General guideline: try to use big words, but don't pull out the thesaurus.
  7. Remember to tell a story descriptively, with lots of detail. Remember the person reading this is probably reading through a lot of essays.
  8. Keep the scale of the essay manageable. Don't tell of too many things.
    • General guideline: one incident, or one central theme
  9. Ask for help.
    • Teachers: for grammar, etc.
    • Fellow students: lends the "peer voice"
  10. Proofread very carefully.
    • Spelling and grammar mistakes are most devastating.
    • Watch for transitions
    • Watch for flow
  11. Conciseness matters. Generally it's ok to go 1.5 times the limit, but don't overdo it. If you can write it in fewer words, write it in fewer words.
  12. Be original, but not TOO original.
  13. Stay away from the "liquid resume," unless specifically cited. Take into account the entire application.
  14. Careful of tone. Sound intelligent, thoughtful, but not haughty.
  15. Demonstrate that you think deeply, but at the same time, remember to have a personal feel.
  16. Strange as it sounds, HAVE FUN WRiTING this! It makes so much difference. If you write it with a smile, it will show through.

SECTION III: The Recommendation

  1. What the recommendation does
    • Completes the picture.
  2. Compensates for the "dishonesty" factor
    • Mr. Krieger as an example...
  3. Could be devastating if done wrong!!

How to secure the best recommendation in the seven seas!

  1. Choose a teacher that knows you well.
    • A recent teacher works better.
    • A teacher who seems to single your child out is probably the best. Try not to choose a teacher who is too "spread out."
  2. Good, but not necessarily 100% necessary advice: be a teacher aide for the teacher the year you are seeking the recommendation.
    • The teacher puts priority on these students.
    • Your child helps the teacher on a daily basis: this establishes trust and good will.
  3. Careful of teachers who take pride in being purposely honest.
  4. Generally, choose at least one literature teacher. They write very beautifully!
  5. Careful of teachers who are notorious for being late. A late letter is an insincere letter!
  6. Generally, choose a teacher in whose class it was apparent that your child enjoyed/worked hard in that subject matter.

Start early!

  1. Even if your child is a freshman or sophomore, begin "scouting out" possible choices.
  2. Establish a connection with a teacher, not necessarily purposely. Work hard in that class.
  3. Recommendation letters are not limited to teachers. Principals, community leaders, etc. can also write excellent recommendations.

Applying to a University of California College (another student)

Introduction

So you guys, or your sons or daughters are considering to apply to the University of California. Let me begin by talking a little about the system, their admission process, and then my personal experience in applying this past year.

University of California

The University of California has 8 different undergraduate campuses: Berkeley, Davis, Irvine, Los Angeles, Riverside, Santa Barbara, and Santa Cruz. 

There are certain minimum requirements that must be met to apply to the UC’s: 2 years of history or social science, 4 years of English, 3 years math, 2 years lab science, 2 years of foreign language, 1 year of college prep electives, and 1 year of visual and performing arts. These are the new requirements starting for the applicants for Fall of 2003. Also you must take the SAT I or ACT, and three SAT II tests: One math, one writing, and one subject of your choice. For engineering students, it is recommended to take Math 2C and the third SAT II in a physical science. You must take all your SAT test no later than the December exam date for the year in which you file your application. California residents also must have a GPA of 2.8 or above.

The application process is fairly simple. There is only one application form to fill out to apply to all of the University of California campuses. However there is a 40 dollar processing fee for each campus you apply to. The application can be completed either online or through the mail. You can pick up a printed application at your school’s Career/College Center. The application deadline for the University of California is earlier than most other schools, it needs to be postmarked on November 30. The application will be mailed to the undergrad application processing center, where they then send copies of your application to each campus that you chose to apply to. Your application will be considered separately by each of the campuses that you have selected.

This past year, the UC’s have modified their admission process. The new admission process, called the “Comprehensive Review”, is expected to lead to a more thorough and complete review of the qualifications of a student, focusing on both academic and personal achievements. It replaced the previous "two-tiered" process in which each campus was required to admit 50-75 percent of its freshman students solely on the basis of certain academic factors.

My approach

So what does it take to get in? Well I can’t tell you that, as everyone is different, but this was my approach.

Just to tell you a little more about myself; I’m a senior at Monta Vista High. I had an unweighted GPA of 3.7, SAT of 1410, Math 2C 800, Physics 780, and Writing 680. I’ll be attending UC Berkeley with EECS as my major.

I’m one of the more fortunate types, in which I had a general idea of what I wanted to major in since my freshman year. Therefore I tried to tailor my courses to those related to my interested field of study, which was electronics. As a result, I took physics over chemistry, computer science over art classes, and finished calculus by junior year.

I’m personally very weak in foreign language and English, and strong in math and science. I chose Spanish as my foreign language during my freshman and sophomore year, which I have received three C’s. Continuing taking Spanish during my sophomore year was a mistake I made, as I then felt that I needed to continue onto Spanish 3 in order to be on par with everyone else. Instead, taking Spanish took not only my valuable time, but it also took my focus away from classes I was strong in. That year I could say was my most painful year, as I put a lot of effort into Spanish but not getting the results I wanted, which was very frustrating. Taking advance courses a year earlier, has left me with few appealing courses during my senior year. I didn’t want to give colleges the appearance of slacking off, so I chose to take four classes at Monta Vista, and an average of 2 courses at DeAnza per every quarter, which gave me the option to continue to pursue in course that interests me.

I knew I couldn’t compete into getting into college based on grades. My grades were descent, not very spectacular. Even my guidance councilor told me that if solely based on my grades and SAT scores, getting admitted to UCLA would have been a far reach. So instead I focused a lot on extra curricular. When I was a freshman at Monta Vista, I took advantage by joining the robotics team, where mentors from the real world industry would work with us in building a robot, which greatly appealed to my interests. Because of the great experience I had, I continued pursuing my interest in robotics by mentoring local jr. high students in a LEGO robotics competition, and enrolling in our school’s Engineering Tech class. However, I sort of felt lost among the members of this huge club, so I decided along with a friend to form a smaller robotics team, building an autonomous underwater vehicle. Even as a senior, I’m still actively involved with robotics, currently mentoring the Saratoga High Robotics Team, and still building the submarine.

So why do I think I got in to such a great school? Sometimes I even wonder about it myself, maybe they made a mistake or something! However looking back, I believe it was my strong extra curricular activities in my field of interest: robotics, or electrical engineering in general. I also believe that choosing advance courses related to my interest had some influence. I hope by telling you my experience will give you an example or hope where mediocre grades and average SAT scores can still get you accepted into a selective college.

Advice

As the first child in my family, I did not have an older sibling to ask for help or get advice in applying to college. My parents both from Taiwan, also were clueless in this process. By going through this experience, I have gained some valuable advice that I would like to share with you.

Although there is only one application to fill out, which is then submitted to the undergrad application processing service, SAT scores must be sent to each individual campus that you have applied to. Also when sending the application through the mail, be sure to get a certificate of mailing, and not certified mail as it will delay the processing of your application.

Even if you plan to do apply online, I strongly suggest you to pick up an actual copy of the application, as it has detailed instructions within. I would then fill out the paper application, and get your councilor to review it, checking for errors etc. However, by applying online, the web page catches most of the errors.

If submitting a paper application, make sure you print legibly. Another option, which I did, was the application was online as a PDF file. If you have Adobe Acrobat software, you can fill out the application on the computer, print it out, and mail that instead of the original application.

Take advantage of your school’s resources. Visit the Career center often, as they have various flyers containing tips or general information on how to apply to college. They can answer specific questions that you may have regarding the process. They also have a list of scholarship and summer internship opportunities.

Start on your personal statement early on, so that teachers will actually have time to correct and revise your essay. Your essay is a very important aspect of the application, and you do not want to procrastinate on that. I personally had both my English teacher, and my assistant principal read it, and help me revise it many times. I found that they were very willing to help, scheduling one on one time talking about my essay.

Regarding clubs and extra curricular activities, I would like to read this excerpt from USNews:
Don't be a joiner; do what you love. Diana Strong of Lake Geneva, Wis., wrote from the heart in her essay about how practicing the piano had helped her develop discipline, stamina, and confidence. Asked on her applications about community service, she described how she'd raised $1,600 for a missionary effort through her church by putting on two solo recitals. Her extracurricular activities included the school's jazz group, wind ensemble, and the orchestra for musicals. Strong's passion for music, along with her straight A's and high sat scores, made her irresistible to Northwestern, Marquette, Tufts, and the University of Chicago, where she starts this fall.

It used to be that colleges wanted well-rounded students. Now, faced with growing piles of applications padded with indiscriminate club memberships, most selective colleges aim toward a well-rounded freshman class instead. "The embodiment at age 17 of a Renaissance person is difficult to find," says David Gould, admissions dean at Brandeis University. "We realized we could accomplish the same thing with lots of different people." 

The take-home message? Show a commitment to one or two of your burning interests–don't simply build a résumé that ticks off every club in school. What impresses the folks who read applications is proof that an activity is a theme of your life. Recently, counselor Cohen urged one boy, a TV-sports addict, to get off the couch and get involved. He started writing a sports column for the high school paper, coaching basketball in a poor neighborhood, and interning at an all-sports television channel. Cohen is betting that he'll have several admissions offers to choose from next year. 

 

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AAPA Recognizes Asian Teachers
by Cheryl Lynn Cunanan, one of AAPA's scholarship recipient for 2000

For the past couple of years, AAPA has recognized the achievements of Asian students enrolled in Teacher Education programs. Due to the large population of minority students attending various schools in the South Bay, and to the small number of Asian-American teachers available, the AAPA has put full force into encouraging and supporting Asian students to pursue careers in education.

This year the AAPA had generously awarded four outstanding students with scholarships of $500 each. The criteria for scholarship consideration consisted of: Full-time (or part-time) enrollment in an accredited program in the College of Education; letters of recommendation; an essay stating why one is pursuing a career in education; copies of grades/transcripts; and lastly, applicants must be of Asian-American descent. The selected scholarship winners were presented at the annual AAPA Lunar New Year’s Luncheon which was held on March 3, 2001. Out of the many applicants who applied from San Jose State and Santa Clara University, and from which only four were selected, I was honored to be a scholarship recipient representing Filipino-Americans in the teaching profession. Moreover, I am happy to say that the AAPA has given me a strong sense of pride in choosing to shape the lives of all children.

As a united organization, the AAPA has linked relations with school district board members to work as a team in addressing the needs and concerns of Asian students in the Cupertino and Fremont Union School Districts. Together with teachers, parents, and educators, the AAPA has graciously put their efforts into enhancing the education and lives of the children in our Asian-American communities.

 

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The Importance of taking the PSAT
by Frank Geefay

PSAT stands for Preliminary SAT. The PSAT is co-sponsored by the College Board, which is responsible for the SAT tests, and the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).  The PSAT allows students to get a taste of what the real SAT is like and alleviate some of their apprehensions about it. It is highly recommended that students take the PSAT during their junior year in high school.  Taking it earlier is OK but most of the material given is at the junior level and only juniors are qualified for the National Merit Scholarship program. Students should register for the PSAT  at their high school.  Detailed information about the PSAT, including all the information given in this article, and information about where and when tests will be given can be found on the College Boards' Web site:

  http://www.collegeboard.org/psat/student/html/indx001.html

Purpose:

  1. The PSAT measures a students basic 3R's skills, Reading or Verbal proficiency and comprehension, Writing skills, and Math problem-solving abilities. It also prepares students for taking the SAT I and SAT II tests. [Please note that unlike the SAT I and SAT II, the PSAT is NOT needed for most college entrance requirements.]
  2. It also gives juniors the opportunity to be eligible for the prestigious National Merit Scholarship program which looks good on college resumes.

What the PSAT consist of:
There are three categories of multiple choice questions:-

  1. Verbal-
    1. 13 Sentence completion questions
    2. 13 Analogy questions
    3. 26 Critical reading questions
  2. Math- basic grasp of arithmetic, algebra and some geometry concepts
    1. 20 General math questions
    2. 12 Quantitative comparison questions
    3. 8 Student produced responses or grid-in questions
  3. Writing Skills-
    1. 19 Identifying sentence error questions
    2. 14 Improving sentences by expressing ideas effectively questions
    3. 6 Improving paragraph with sensitivity to meaning questions

Scores:
Scores for each of the three sections are on a scale of 20 to 80, 50 being the midpoint. Historically the mean score has fallen within a few points of 50 in all three categories. The scores are also represented in percentiles allowing students to compare how well they did compare to others who have taken the test. If you would like to convert the score to a compatible SAT I score just multiply the score by 10.

College and Career planning:
The scores indicate which of the three categories (Verbal, Math, Writing) you are strongest at. This can be used to determine which career path you might be most suitable for, what to major at in college, and which college or university you might think about attending. However the PSAT does not measure many if not most of a students' special interest, unique talents, creative abilities, or personal goals which must also be heavily weighed in such decisions.

College and Scholarship referral:
If a student elects the Student Search Service, the range of the students scores will be sent to a list of colleges, universities, and scholarship organizations for consideration. Qualified students will then be contacted by these organizations.

National Merit Scholarship Program:
The National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC) at website URL http://www.nationalmerit.org is a non-profit organization and is independent of government assistance. Students must be U.S. citizens or permanent residence and enrolled full time in an accredited high school. They must take the PSAT test during the junior year in high school and be college bound in order to be eligible. The NMSC takes the total PSAT scores of all three categories and selects the top 50,000 scoring students (out of approximately 1.2 million) as pre-qualifying candidates. On the following April these students are asked to name two colleges or universities to which they would like the NMSC to act as a referral. In September their high schools will inform students that they have qualified to be possible Commended Students or Semifinalist for the scholarship. In late September two-thirds of these students will receive Letters of Commendations and one third or about 16,000 students will go on to become Semifinalist for the scholarship on a state representational basis. In February the Finalists will be chosen. Beginning in March, approximately 7,900 Finalist will be notified of their Merit Scholarship awards which fall into three categories:

  • National Merit $2500 Scholarships
  • Corporate sponsored Merit Scholarships
  • College-sponsored Merit Scholarships

Sponsors consist of some 600 private businesses, foundations, professional associations, universities, and the NMSC. This accounts for about 1700 scholarships each year.

The National Merit Scholarship is a nationally recognized award and is honored by most colleges and universities. The money received is far less important than the recognition and prestige is brings to its recipients.

 

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Exactly what does it take to get into Stanford and other commonly asked college admissions questions
by Jennifer Wang

College admissions can be one of the most mysterious, confusing, and downright frightening processes that many students will ever have to go through. It is filled with those tough questions that no one can ever seem to give a concrete answer to: How can I get a 1550 on my SAT I? Is my life over if I have a few "B’s" on my record? Exactly what does it take to get into Stanford? Sometimes the most difficult fact to accept is that there are no black and white answers. When I look back on my high school years, I realize that the secret to my success was partly a lot of luck and partly a certain kind of attitude. I was curious, persistent, optimistic, and very, very hard-working. Perhaps most importantly, I was the kind of person who was always looking for something to do.

I entered Monta Vista High School in the fall of 1991, at a time when SAT prep was just becoming popular, but college counseling was virtually nonexistent. To be honest, I felt like a very average student during my freshman and sophomore years. I did all my homework, tried to listen when my teachers lectured, but the first AP class I took was in my junior year and I actually did not have an unweighted 4.0 after the first semester of high school. It was always my dream to go to Stanford, but I never felt like part of that elite few at Monta Vista whose names were broadcast every week for having won this math competition or that college scholarship.

Fortunately for me, I was extremely self-motivated and driven to keep busy, not just in school, but outside of school. All throughout high school, I tried to get involved in activities that would allow me to explore my interests. I have always been crazy about dogs and sophomore year, I began working for the Humane Society even though it meant catching three different buses to get to Santa Clara. I took two English classes junior year just to learn more about drafting poetry and short stories. My teacher made an announcement about the California Chaparral Poet’s Competition in the spring, and on a whim, I decided to enter. Two months later I discovered I had won two prizes: a second place in humorous verse and an honorable mention in imagery.

I was a stick-figure drawer in elementary school and junior high, a young artist that soon learned that I had to label everything in my pictures so people would understand. I took Art I my freshman year to fulfill my UC fine arts requirement, met Mr. Sackman, who unlike my generous elementary teachers, did not believe in giving "A"s for effort, and ended up with my first "B" in high school. Ironically enough, though I was never an exceptional student, I soon developed a real love of drawing and painting. I chose not to give up the art classes, and three years later, the same Mr. Sackman selected one of my works to be hung at the Euphrat Gallery in DeAnza College, where it was awarded an Honorable Mention. By then, I was the President of the Art Club, dedicated to raising money for the under-funded Monta Vista Art Department.

When I walked home that memorable day on March 31st, 1995, and opened the mailbox to see the "big" envelope, my first thought after the initial excitement subsided was that it had to be a mistake. Why would Stanford want me? I did not have a 1550 on my SAT. I did not take every single AP class that Monta Vista offered. I was never popular or outgoing enough to be part of student government. In fact, I could think of so many other students who had better grades than me that I thought it must be a mix-up.

Fours of college and two years of working with high school students later, I think I have figured out that there was never any mistake. What I might have lacked in numbers, I made up in my proactive approach to life. I was an extremely passionate and idealistic teenager that always tried to take actions, to stand up and do something, to sprint instead of jog.

There are really two important messages that I have for all students and parents who will be going through the college admissions process:

The first is that preparing for college admissions is primarily about developing a certain kind of attitude. Parents and students alike are often too focused on numbers: SAT scores, GPA, class rank. Of course, these concrete factors are important, but what is far more important is that a student learns to be proactive, self-confident, and driven. In my experience with counseling, it is always those students who develop a take-charge, "can-do" attitude that succeed—succeed not necessarily in the sense of getting into Stanford or Harvard, but in the sense of doing the best that they can. It is these students who are always setting goals and striving to attain them, who are resilient enough to overcome inevitable setbacks and failures, and who end up leading happy, self-satisfied, productive lives.

After helping so many students prepare for the college admissions process, what has become clear to me is that no student should have the attitude that they are working hard "for the purpose of getting into Stanford." They should be working hard for themselves. They should be working hard because twenty years later, they want to be able to look back and say, "I have absolutely no regrets about the way that I lived my life. I did everything to the best of my ability. I gave my work and my extracurricular pursuits my very best effort, and at the end of the day, that is all that anyone can ask of me."

The second important message is that college planning should begin early. The sooner that a student develops the right kind of attitude, and learns to be aggressive, confident, and self-motivated, the sooner students can set goals and meet them. Students who begin to think seriously about their true passions early on and take actions to pursue them are the kinds of students who will attract attention in the admissions process. The great danger in high school is for a student to become branded as an underachiever or an "average" performer. The spiral of low confidence and motivation can be self-perpetuating, and once a reputation has been set, it is difficult to change.

Of course, it is a fact that students do need strong grades and SAT scores to be considered for most highly selective colleges. However, to focus solely on numbers would be an extremely inaccurate perception of the way the admissions process works. Ultimately, the lesson that I myself was taught and that I now try to impart to all my students is to live your life with a certain kind of philosophy—to stand up and be counted, to push your own limits, to believe in yourself, to hear your own voice and know that it rings true

[Jennifer Wang graduated from Monta Vista High School in 1995. She went on to complete a Bachelor’s degree in English and Economics at Stanford University, and now works at Insight College Prep Centers (www.insightcollege.com) with high school students in preparing for the college admissions process. She can be reached at 408-252-5050 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting 408-252-5050 FREE  end_of_the_skype_highlighting]

 

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Parent Involvement
by Karin Costa

What does parent involvement mean to you?

Are you involved in your child’s school such as PTA, home and school clubs, music boosters, athletic activities, volunteering in the classroom as a teacher’s aid or working in fund-raisers?

And if not, why? Is it because meetings are boring or you don’t feel that your needs as parents are being addressed?

You do not understand the jargon. Guess what; neither do I.

Do you feel that there are cliques that exclude newcomers who do not fit the so-called mold of being white middle class?

Are there language barriers (can we help with that? Can you volunteer to translate newsletters or translate the minutes of the meetings)?

We talk about cultural differences politely. Instead of being so focused on what we look like, we need to be focused on who we are… we need to share and be sensitive to each other’s cultures, values, attitudes, manners and views of the school system. If we do not, we will never have full parent involvement. Because neither culture will understand what is expected of them as parents in the school community.

Often frustration builds because we do not talk about what is really at issue. It is not race. It is a "lack of parent support". It is the same volunteers year after year supporting the programs that all of our children participate in.

A great number of newcomers to this area have settled in Cupertino and adjacent cities because of our excellent test scores and schools. If we do not get more of our diverse population involved the schools and their programs that you moved here for will not exist in five years due to a lack of parental involvement.

The current volunteer pool in this community is shrinking. You will see parent groups starting to disband due to a lack of leadership; you will see sports and music programs cutting back because of a lack of parent support - it really has nothing to do with our cultural differences.

The simple fact is that parents need to donate their time and talents to our students, which also benefits our schools. If parents do not start becoming involved or reaching out and encouraging our friends, family and neighbors to become a part of our children’s future, their futures will not be as bright as we hoped. When you touch a child’s life, they know you care.

PTA has a saying: all children are our children. I believe that. If I did not, I would not have committed fifteen years of my life to make sure that our kids have a strong parent community that has supported them for many years. I can tell you from my own experience as a parent in both school districts that there is a lack of parental support at sporting, music and drama events at the middle school and high school levels.

We still do not have even representation on various committees, advisory boards, and PTA boards. This is not because parents have not been asked to help… volunteer forms go home in every newsletter at every level of education and very few are returned.

Parents are advocates and co-decision makers in our schools and community. There are many ways in which you as parents can be a part of the larger picture such as serving on district wide advisory boards. Some of those boards may be: budget, discipline, attendance, school site council, and school based management committees. Most of these groups are often responsible for setting school goals, developing school policies (on homework and discipline), choosing curriculum and textbooks, and deciding on assessment methods.

There are problem-solving committees (building and ground usage, vandalism on school grounds, block schedules, whether to have a closed or open campus at the high school. Some of these committees are one time only, some are for the duration of the school year.

You can help with small projects like collating the monthly newsletter, helping to stuff information packets, working in the office by just answering the phone, helping to catalog books in the school library, and working at football games and other events.

As a parent you have control over how much time you can donate to your child’s school.

Remember that you can make a difference in not only your student’s life but in many other students’ lives as well.

 

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Parenting Young Adults
by Frank Geefay

As any parent knows, raising teenagers is an extremely challenge and sometimes trying job. There always exist that classic conflict between the parent treating their teenager as a child and the teenager wanting to be respected as an adult. To further compound the situation contemporary social behavior is very rapidly changing because of the infusion of diverse ideas and the influence of mass media and technology. We can not depend upon the lessons of past generations to show us the proper ways of parenting. I am personally no expert on raising teenagers, having a couple of my own. However I think I have gained some simple insights along the rocky road of parenthood that I would like to pass on to anyone willing to listen. Please keep in mind that I am only a parent and no "expert" in this subject. These observations are only my personal opinions.

I feel that parents should be aware of at least two facts: 1) their teenagers are no longer children but young adults, though somewhat inexperienced in life; 2) their young adults are far more influenced by their friends whom they speak with daily than by their parents. What parents must remember is that their influence upon these young adults is very limited so when they want them to listen to them they must be extremely efficient in the way they communicate their thoughts and intentions. I have come up with 9 simple guidelines which might be helpful.

  1. Communicating Points of View

    One way that might help when you are trying to tell them something is to visualize yourself speaking to one of your best adult friends. You need to speak with them in a conversational style, which is neither threatening nor condescending. After making your point you need to get positive acknowledgment from them that they at least understand what you've said. Have them repeat it to make sure. It is also extremely important to be a very good listener. Don't interrupt except for questions of clarification when they are trying to make their point. Let them express their thoughts completely and try to understand their point of view from their vantage. You should restate their opinion when they finish so that it is clear to them that you understand. If they respect you they will be more willing to accept your point than not. If they do not buy into your idea, it is better that you at least know where they stand on the issue rather than impose your ideas which may later be ignored.

  2. Having a Trusting Rapport
    Having a good rapport with your teenager is essential. Don't assume that you have a good rapport with them… ask them to make sure. Establishing that rapport is often difficult, especially if you have not had a close relationship. There will be much initial distrust on their part and lack of confidence on yours. They are very smart and observant. They pick up on everything; our inconsistencies; our weaknesses; our every flaws. You must walk the walk and talk the talk to gain their trust. Young adults also lack the trust of their parents. Parents feel that they are too young and immature and will mess up their lives. The fact is that they are probably going to do whatever they want to do anyway, especially if they don't respect you. You can only influence their behavior if they are willing to listen. You must give them the feeling that you care about what they think and have to say. You cannot force yourself upon them. You must provide an atmosphere whereby they are willingly receptive to your ideas and suggestions and by being a good role model.
  3. Mutual Relationship
    In conversations with them you must sometime show them that you are also not perfect but have had failures and struggles in your life especially as a young adult. They are more likely to reveal their personal feelings and problems if they know that they are speaking to someone that can relate. You've got to reflect back to when you were a young struggling teenager and tell them of the times you messed up or disappointed your parents. However don't overdue it or they may think that you were a bungling idiot. You should also tell them of the good times you had with your family and friends and why you enjoyed those times. Share yourself with them and they will start sharing with you. It isn't as difficult as you might think but it does take some practice, patience, and time to overcome the barriers of distrust to establish a closer relationship.
  4. Limiting Rules
    I've heard it said that rules are made to be broken. That is especially true about young adults. The fewer rules there are the fewer will be broken. This is where I messed up big time. I made so many rules that I eventually lost track. When making rules keep them to a minimum and make sure that they are important, reasonable, and enforceable. They must be consistently enforced or else they loose their effectiveness. Any more than ten rules are probably too many. A rule such as "Don't cheat on your tests" is a poor rule because it is difficult to determine and harder to enforce. However something like "You cannot stay out beyond 11:30 p.m. without our permission" is OK because it can be easily observed and is enforceable. Rules should also serve a reasonable purpose.
  5. Passing on Values
    You must definitely set boundaries to their general behavior, which are values that they will practice for life as opposed to short-term rules. Teaching values should actually start at a fairly earl age. Values are a set of moral beliefs on how one should properly conduct life. They are most frequently based upon ones personal religious or philosophical beliefs as well as socially accepted behaviors on such subjects as sex, drugs, violence, stealing, deceit, breaking the law, etc. The best way of teaching values to young adults is by first earning their trust and respect in order to have creditability. It is also important that you demonstrate these values in you everyday life. Telling them not to do something when you yourself are occasionally caught at it is not consistent with what you say and your young adults will immediately pick up on that. You must walk the walk and talk the talk to be creditable. Communications is always two ways so there is the risk that they may express disagreement with your values. However if they do not agree, let them give their reasons. You need to respect their reasons if you cannot dissuade them because they are probably going to do things their way behind your back regardless of what you say and it is better to know what they may do rather than not. There may be those rare instances when they're belief is diametrically opposed to yours. As long as no laws are broken it is best to keep the communication links open since there is probably little that you can do and over time they may come to see things your way. There may be those rare instances when what they do is illegal or harmful to them. If you are not able to resolve the conflict, professional help is often the best solution. You must use your best judgment in these instances.
  6. Dealing with Unpleasant News
    Parents must sometimes hold back their emotions when a young adult tells them some unpleasant news. Otherwise that person may never divulge anything unpleasant again. It is always better to know than not to know, so parents must control their emotions and their impulse to be judgmental or condescending. If you must speak further to them about the subject don't do it while emotions run high or you'll probably say things that you will later regret. Wait for the right time.
  7. Good Timing
    Timing is everything. To have a meaningful dialog all parties must be in a receptive frame of mind. Choose a time and place when all parties are not busy or easily distracted. None of the earlier suggestions may work effectively if you try to communicate at the wrong time or place.
  8. Having Reasonable Expectations
    Many parents are born with this hereditary dysfunction that compels them to expect their offspring to be perfect. If they fall short of their parent's high expectation parents get very upset and lecture or scold them incessantly about it. This is probably one of my worst vices. These one-way talks go in one ear and out the other. They only serves to release the frustrations of a disappointed parent. It's a form of putting a person down and no adult young or old likes to listen to put-downs. If the parent has earned the respect of their young adult, a short two-way conversation about the subject will go a long way towards getting the message through. Setting expectations is good but they should be reasonable, agreeable, and most of all achievable.
  9. Letting go

I have a tendency to limit the responsibility I would permit my young adults to take for their own lives. I am sometimes not willing to let go for fear that they would do something stupid possibly endangering their lives. As they grow older young adults should be given the opportunity to mature and make more decisions on their own. Otherwise they will be unprepared when they leave our protective control for college or a career. Parents must be willing to let go more and more as their young adults get older and let them be more responsibility for their lives, especially towards the latter years of high school. However parents also need to communicate the consequences of responsibility and make clear that they have full ownership of the outcome of their decisions.

In conclusion I must admit that I am much better at giving advice than taking it. Like many of you I am still struggling to bridge the gap between myself and my young adults. It's so easy to forget my own simple guidelines when emotions or expectations run high.

 

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Write for Our Children
by Julia Song

Whenever I have spare time, I will grab a book about Asian Americans and read it. There are many books on this subject these days including fiction and non-fiction. If I go to a local library in the Bay Area, I can easily pull out 20 books on Asian Americans at any time. The books may be bestsellers such as Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston and The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan. Or they may be short stories like American Dragons, Asian American Literature, and Growing Up Asian American written by many relatively unknown writers. There are a great number of non-fiction books that dictated generations’ unique experiences in America or explored ethnical issues with historical and cultural perspectives. They include Asian American Dreams by Helen Zia, The Chinese Experience in America by Shih-Shan Henry Tsai, Margins and Mainstreams: Asians in American History and Culture by Gary Y. Okihiro. The list can go on for miles.

I love to read this kind of books because I can relate my own experiences to the stories or opinions. I would laugh with a joy when reading funny dialogues or have my tears from my heart for a tragic ending. Those stories enriched my experiences, lifted my spirits, and brought peace to my mind. But somehow I felt less satisfied lately.

Most of the authors are from a generation who were born and/or grew up here. Immigrant writers are rare. Understandably, we immigrants come to this country in our adulthood and we have so much to adjust and adapt on this new land. Survival is a far cry more critical than writing about ourselves. Plus, English is not our mother tongue. We would never feel comfortable in writing unless we consciously keep improving our writing skills. So we cannot write or don’t write. Naturally, our daughters and sons will write about us (Yes, it is a very good thing). They observe and judge their moms and dads in daily life. They describe and comment their growing up experiences in their books. Very often I felt that when they wrote about their own experiences, the authors were sharp and the section was the best. When coming to a story about their parents, it was less vivid and contained less substance. I am an immigrant and also a parent. I always feel that I am connected to immigrant parents in the books no matter how old the mother was and how close my age was to the daughter. I cheered when I learned that our children gained much understanding of the culture where parents came from. And I frowned if I came across comments that were judgmental with no respect to parents’ values and experiences.

In his book "The Accidental Asian: Notes of a Native Speaker", Eric Liu told that after his father died, he tried to read his father’s memoir that was written in Chinese. Liu spent hours to look up into a dictionary trying to understand what his father wrote about. But he could not because he was "functionally illiterate on written Chinese". I felt sad when I read this part. I cannot say that it could not happen to me. My daughter is competent in English and I am good in my native language. The question is: In what language can we express our deep thoughts and feelings to each other? Communication is hard when there is a generation gap to cross. It is even harder when there also exist cultural gaps and a language barrier. But we have to overcome these hurdles, don’t we? If even our children could not understand us, then who else could we expect?

This is the most direct motivation for me to write in English. I want to write our lives in America. We have schooled and received degrees. We have seen differences in education in our home country and the States. We have raised our children here without first-hand experiences of how a kid grows up in America. We have worked and juggled between family, jobs, and the community. There is so much to write: the joys, hardships, sacrifices, and our learning experiences. I cannot worry too much whether my English is perfect. I have no fear of being a laughing stock if someone thinks that I am not fully assimilated. I just know that I will write with my heart. I hope that one day my daughter would say: Mom, I feel I understand much more about your generation after reading your writings. Then I would feel satisfied.

 

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Summer Student Speech Program
by Jill Lin

Do you want to help your children develop the confidence to speak in front of an audience? Do you want to help them to communicate clearly and effectively? Then come and sign up for the AAPA annual summer student speech program. This program is designed for students from 6th grade and up in our local community. Classes are small, the ratio is 1:10 between instructor and students. The instructors are certified members of the Toastmasters club. Toastmasters is a worldwide club that specializes in improving its members’ communication skills through weekly meetings and other activities.

When they first started their sessions, students were shy and timid. During the first session of the program, the instructor requested each of the students to give a short speech. This is a typical picture of what was happening: the students were either looking up at the ceiling or staring at the floor. Their voices were so low that they looked like they were whispering to themselves. They rushed to finish their sentences so that they could quickly go back to their seats.

In the second session, the instructor coached the students about ways of improving presentations. For instance, she/he guided them to change their gestures and raise their voices when appropriate. In addition, the students were required to add more details to their speeches to make a richer content as sessions progressed. Their presentations were video taped each time so that they could compare their own performances before and after each session. The kids also had an opportunity to evaluate one another by reviewing the videotape. It was amazing to see that after the four-week training sessions, the students were able to clearly present themselves with easy gestures and eye contact with the audience.

Are you looking forward to the program of year 2001 for your kids? We will be posting our notice for applications in our newsletter or on the web site http://aapa.net. You are also welcome to write us at P. O. Box 2275, Cupertino, CA 95015, Attn: Jill Lin.

 

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Seminar "Road to College"
By Om Talajia

The preparation for college of your child should ideally start before they enter high school. Not only students but parents also need to be aware about some minimum overall guidelines which help children to prepare for college admissions.

This was exactly the purpose of AAPA’s last two seminars on "Road to College" presented by Vicki Kleinman. These seminars were free and were open for the entire community to take full benefit. The community parents had felt such a need for a long time. When the first seminar was held in January 2000, the venue was jam-packed and many parents (over 75) had to be turned away due to limited capacity of the Saratoga Library hall. Because of the heavy demand and AAPA’s promise, the seminar was presented again on September 30, 2000 in the Cupertino Library hall. The hall was full and there were still many people who could not get into the room due to limited space.

The seminar proved to be very informative for the parents and students equally. They learned about various key issues pertaining to the preparation for college such as:

  • Creating a year and date-wise planning calendar
  • Importance of developing an impressive student resume
  • Writing a good college essay
  • What to look for in college visits
  • What qualities admission officers look for

As the competition for admissions in prime colleges is increasing, Vicki advised parents to start from 7th or 8th grade by taking challenging math and language classes. Talent search programs and summer learning opportunities go a long way in making a good start. In freshman year and onwards, good time management and strong academics are important.

Apart from advising on every aspect from academics to volunteer activities, Vicki Kleinman, in her hand-out, gave a very workable outline for a student resume. Her seminar comprehensively covered all major aspects for the college-bounds. In her hand-out, Vicki also listed selected useful resources for college aspirants. While considering various options, a student should carefully select a college suited to his academic and locational advantages.

AAPA is thankful to Vicki Kleinman for her enthusiastic cooperation and for providing her valuable professional advice to the community.

Vicki Kleinman has 12 years experience in this field. She is currently

the Regional Parent Representative to the California Association of the Gifted.

For the coming years, AAPA has plans of hosting more seminars in the area of parenting and education to meet the needs of our community.

 

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Trip to Taos
By Jeff Moe

On November 10, 2000, our family left on a pilgrimage to Mission San Francisco de Asis in Rancho de Taos, New Mexico.

A pilgrimage is a celebration of one's faith. For Christians, a pilgrimage provides a special opportunity to listen to the Word of God and reminds Christians of their mission in the world, as witnesses of salvation and builders of peace. Pilgrimages are common in most faith expressions.

Our first stop was the Palace of the Governor’s museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. We went on a tour of the Museum and learned of the region’s fascinating history.

Santa Fe was one of the first European settlements in what is now the United States. The Spaniards made this their northernmost American outpost in 1598. This predates the East Coast settlements of Plymouth Rock and Jamestown (though not covered in my Anglo-influenced elementary school history books).

The Spanish settlers were greeted by friendly and hospitable Pueblo Indians, and welcomed them into their community. The horses, cattle and sheep that the Spanish brought fascinated the Pueblo Indians. Likewise, the Spanish were grateful to learn of the corn, beans, and squash that this farming community grew, and which they too became dependent upon for survival.

The two cultures thrived together in one community, respecting each other’s traditions. For five years the community grew and prospered. But then sadly the King of Spain, wanting to maintain Spanish "cultural purity", ordered the Spaniards out of the community. They moved a few miles away and built what became the Palace of the Governor (hardly a palace – more like a fort).

Over time the tensions between the two cultures grew. The Spaniards banned Indian cultural/religious practices, torturing and executing some who violated the ban. Finally in 1680, the Pueblo Indians revolted and drove the Spaniards back to Mexico.

Although the Pueblo Indians were rid of their persecutors, they also lost their protection from the marauding Indian tribes from the north. After 13 years the Spaniards returned. Some historians say that some of the Pueblo Indians welcomed the Spanish re-invasion because of the protection that came with the Spaniards' guns.

This uneasy alliance continued for about 120 years, with a long line of Spanish governors ruling the area. Then in 1820, Mexico won their independence from Spain. Because the Catholic Church was viewed as an ally of Spain, Mexico also evicted the church hierarchy. Several local priests continued to practice the faith, though disconnected from Rome, their religious practices became influenced by the culture and traditions of the Pueblo Indians.

In 1848, the Americans invaded from the north, and quickly established an American system of governance. In 1851, the Pope sent Archbishop Lamy from France to re-establish the connection with the Catholic Church in the Santa Fe region. Immediately Archbishop Lamy conflicted with the local priests, whose religious expression embraced the Pueblo culture. Eventually the Archbishop excommunicated his opponents (excommunication means any communication with other Catholics is prohibited) and the Catholic expression was once again "purified."

So how are the cultures surviving today? Well, I happened upon a wedding when I visited the beautiful Saint Francis cathedral in Santa Fe, the cathedral that Archbishop Lamy built. The blond groom and the Pueblo Indian bride were wrapped together in a traditional Indian garment. Many of the attendees, including the bride’s mother wore colorful and elaborate Indian attire. The principal sponsors (witnesses) of the wedding signed the official wedding documents on the altar (which is a Spanish tradition). But most notable and most noteworthy was the love and joy that emanated from the church; the smiles and tears of the newly married couple, their families, their friends, and at least one accidental observer in the back of church, me.

I guess in the end, this is a story of hope. It’s never easy to bring two or more cultures together. How strongly do we hold onto our culture of origin and push back the influence of another culture? There’s not an easy answer. I think we all struggle with this question.

Perhaps part of the answer came from that wedding ceremony in Saint Francis Cathedral; what’s most important is that we love our family, friends and community. With that love, we can together work through the challenges that inevitably arise. It took the community of Santa Fe 400 years to learn that lesson. Let’s make sure that we in Cupertino don’t take that long.

 

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Ask AAPA
By Julia Song

Q: I’m interested in becoming a member of AAPA. What kind of benefits could I get?
A: You will receive current issues of the AAPA newsletter that will be mailed to your home if you become a member. The newsletter reports what AAPA has recently accomplished and what we plan to do in the future. It also contains articles from people in the community. Articles may cover a wide range of topics related to parenting and education. Besides the newsletter, you will be welcome to participate in AAPA’s all-year-long activities and events. They include, but not all, seminars (see the seminar reporting in this issue), monthly AAPA board members meetings, quarterly meetings with the superintendents of the Cupertino Union School District and the Fremont Union High School District, Lunar New Year Luncheon, and annual social gatherings. By participating in these activities, you may become a much better informed person about what is going on in your kids’ schools, school district, and other places in the community. Best of all, your membership will be a big support to AAPA. Our strength and growth are always dependent on people in our community like you and I who make contributions. We are looking forward to seeing you on board soon!

Q: I’ve started looking for information on summer camps for my kids. Where can I find it?
A: There are several ways to find it. One is from the Bay Area Parent magazine. It usually lists summer camps around the Bay Area on its early Spring issues like March or April. This is a free magazine. You can find copies of a current issue in the local libraries around the Bay Area. Their collection of summer camps is quite complete from day camps near your house to residential ones deep down in the mountains. However, be aware that not all the camps on the list are accredited by the American Camping Association (ACA). You may want to call the camp you are interested in for details to make sure that a camp you select for your kids has good quality and high safety standards. Another way to find information on summer camps is to directly go to the ACA Web site: www.acacamps.org It has a database of 2,000 accredited summer camps all over the country for you to search. ACA has very rigid standards including regular inspections on a camp site. A camp with ACA accreditation is more likely with high standards. The Web site also provides advice for parents with regards to summer camp selection. Hope this helps. Good luck and have fun!

 

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Tips to Parents
Compiled by Jill Lin from Parent Meeting

  1. When receiving the report card from school, talk to the student privately in the room instead of at the dinner table.  Each kid in the family is different, and the child may not want the siblings to know their progress.
  2. The students have their own way of studying.  If they say that they have studied for the tests, they probably have.  Parents don't have to say "I did not see you study" or "Go study more".  Parents must have confidence on their children.  When the students come home from a test day, let them relax a little by watching TV or play 30 minutes with their favorite computer or video game.
  3. If students wants to take the advanced classes (AP or Honors), ask them the reason and ask them how they will prepare for the subject.  Some students take these classes because their peers are taking it.  Teachers give descriptions of the next level of classes such as Chemistry Honor/AP, Spanish 2/3, Physics Honor/AP when it's time to plan for classes for the upcoming year.  They should tell students what the content is about, how much will be covered, and how much time the student will spend each day on home work.  Parents should make sure that their students clearly know what they are getting into.

 

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Unity in Diversity
By Lakshmi Sukumar

Diversity is the very essence of nature. All things and beings in the universe have their uniqueness in their forms, names and functions. Life on the planet Earth would be impossible, but for these differences. All beings on earth are dependent on each other for their existence. This is the master plan devised by the Creator himself. The members of the mineral kingdom, plant kingdom and animal kingdom coexist in the diverse environment harmoniously. Diversity is not a choice, but a reality.

Let us consider our human body. The many different organs perform different functions and maintain themselves and the total human body. The five fingers in each of our hands are of different sizes and shapes. Together they accomplish what each finger by itself could not. There is unity in diversity. "United we stand, divided we fall."

Human beings, however, in the name of civilization, have drifted away from Nature. Man's awareness about the natural order of things has diminished. Consequently the natural and ecological balance has been disturbed. A self-centered individual thus acts to fulfil his own desires to the detriment of his environment. He wants to be independent in an interdependent world.

How does this man deal with other human beings?

He is comfortable with people and customs that are familiar to him, and not so with the unfamiliar ones and those that are "different". "Birds of the same feather flock together." Ignorance of the unknown leads to fear. A barrier is then created between him and the rest of the world. How then do we overcome this barrier?

 

It's All In The Mind
When we focus only on the myriad differences in the way people act in the world, we tend to remain superficial in our understanding. As we explore and understand the basic principles and values that govern the conduct of a person or community, we begin to discover that we are more alike than different.

The waves of the ocean are many, ever in a state of flux. The surface of the ocean is extremely restless. As we go towards the depth of the ocean, we find that there is less and less movement until we reach the bottom of the ocean, which is ever so still. The differences that we see in the world are superimposed on a constant consciousness.

The variety of foods consumed by the people of the world falls under one of four categories: carbohydrate, fat, protein and others. Further when we look at the breakdown of these foods, only one remains - glucose, and ultimately it is energy to sustain. The deeper we examine, the differences diminish until they ultimately vanish.

Inquiring into our place and identity in the world, and our relationship with the things and beings of the world, leads to the understanding that we are a part of a whole and not a separate entity. But it takes persistence and patience on the part of an individual to discover this truth. Cultivating the mind by examining our inner prejudices and weaknesses, and facing them with courage and determination alone leads to an openness of vision. The individual who has thus attained maturity is no more afraid, and is able to acknowledge, value and revere the differences as a vital part of our existence.

Accept diversity and the whole world is your field for the game of life. Fight it (refuse to accept it) and life becomes an endless war. The choice is yours.

To control and develop the mind and bring it within our hold is the secret of all personality development. He who is a master of his mind is a master of the world. Mastery over the situations in life without the mastery over the mind would be a mere vain dream.

All religions in the world prescribe for every aspirant a complete scientific process by which his shattered human mind can be cured and nursed back into a healthy and vital existence.

The relationship between the microcosm and the macrocosm varies according to the individual personality. A person with a huge load of "psychological hang-ups" imagines a big gulf between the microcosm (himself) and the macrocosm (the world or the universe). To him, the individual and the cosmos are poles apart. But as the individual cleanses himself of these limitations, he finds his individuality blending harmoniously with the world around him. In the final stages of evolution, the person recognizes a perfect oneness between the individual and the cosmos. Only the one Reality remains.

Diversity In Our Schools

The CUSD is perhaps one of a few schools in the nation with such a diverse population of students. As a result, the CUSD staff faces a tremendous challenge in including teaching materials to represent the geographical, cultural and religious backgrounds of all their students. As the social studies' curriculum includes more and more of the globe, the children will become familiar with the greatness and uniqueness of the different countries, their people and their culture. Such enrichment can only make open-minded, well-informed students who will be better prepared to deal with fellow citizens of the world as adults. It is the diversity of this district that is also its strength. The effort put forth by the district staff is commendable.

 

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