UPDATED:  March 3, 2009 10:48 PM
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Lawmakers Praise APIASF Scholarship Programs

By: Jennie L. Ilustre

WASHINGTON –“Education is extremely important in becoming a success in life,” said US Congressman Joseph Cao (R, New Orleans), adding he was a college professor before becoming a legislator.

The first Vietnamese American congressman urged the college scholars in the audience to make a difference in society. He looked forward to their success, saying, “Maybe in five, ten years, you would be standing here giving a speech,” inspiring the country’s future leaders.

Congressman Cao gave his remarks at the annual Community Reception Asian and Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), held Feb. 10 at the District’s DLA Piper law firm, an event co-sponsor.

Lawmakers and APIASF board members, some flying in from across the country, joined APIASF scholars and major supporters of the organization and higher education.

APIASF manages the freshman scholarship program, and since 2006, the Gates Millennium Scholars/Asian Pacific Islander Americans (GMS/APIA), funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

US Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (D, Guam) also stressed the importance of education. She said she was “proud to stand here” and join the others in honoring APIASF and its work. “You know that our own Robert Underwood is one of the founders,” she said, adding the former congressman from Guam always put primacy on the role of education in life’s success.

Congressman Cao also recalled his father’s advice to him when he was age nine, “to work hard, study hard and give back to the community. He said, “That is my message, for you to give back to the community, and to this country.”


APIASF’s unique role

In an interview, APIASF Executive Director Neil Horikoshi underscored the organization’s unique mission and role. “National scholarship organizations for Latinos and African Americans have existed for more than 30 and 60 years respectively,” he said, “but there was no comparable organization for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans until APIASF was founded in 2003.”

He debunked the myth that all Asian Americans are college-educated and financially successful, citing studies that show students from low-income families can be “marginalized and overlooked in leadership development programs on college campuses.”

He told those gathered, “Thirteen percent of Asian Americans and 17 percent of Pacific Islanders live in poverty, compared to 12 percent of the general population.” APIASF aims to insure all Asian and Pacific Islander Americans have access to higher education and resources to help them to succeed and “contribute to a stronger America.”

Julie Koo, representing D.C. Schools Chancellor Michelle Rhee, read her message to the scholars. “Education is a cornerstone of life’s success,” read Rhee’s brief message, concluding with, “I look forward to hearing about your great success in the years to come.”

Frances Nam, vice president at Sodexo, the event’s major co-sponsor with DLA Piper, stressed her company’s “partnership with APIASF,” noting it was a multi-year program. She said Sodexo Foundation is involved in education and other major issues, including addressing “hunger needs and its root causes.”

APIASF scholar Margaret Cho, originally from L.A. and a sophomore at Georgetown University here, said the scholarship meant a lot to her because “My mom never attended college and my dad never graduated.” She said being in the US capital has also led to “amazing experiences, like witnessing the inauguration of President Obama.”

Margaret is active as a board member in the university’s Asian American organization.

Scholarship applications for this year have been filled. But Executive Director Horikoshi urged those present to tell other communities about it. He also reminded companies that donations are always welcome. APIASF Assistant Director of Communications and Marketing Katie Tran-Lam said more information about scholarships, donations and the goals of the organization are available at www.apiasf.org



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