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APIDA event offers in-depth view of college for Asian Pacific Islander Desi American students

Engaging with high school students, such as these attending APIDA College Day in 2019, and providing insight about the college experience is one of the main goals of the annual event. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

Speakers at Sacramento State’s third annual Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) College Day urged students to chase their dreams through higher education and stand up to end discrimination and encourage equity for all people.

The event on Friday, March 5, came at a sensitive time for certain ethnic communities.

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has disproportionately hit people of color, and Asians and Asian Americans have faced increased incidents of racism and discrimination during the past year, research shows. Several speakers addressed those issues during the event, attended by students from school districts across California and beyond.

The University’s commitment to APIDA students and their families is highly important in the current social environment, said Chao Vang of the University’s Student Academic Success and Educational Equity Programs.

apida-college-day-classsroom
This presentation about leadership was part of the 2019 edition of APIDA College Day. (Sacramento State/Jessica Vernone)

“We hope the event affirms our collective support,” Vang said. “We also recognize the significant educational disparities that continue to exist in these communities, especially among Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. This is one way to help APIDA students to feel welcomed when they transition from high school to college.”

The event offered information and resources designed to encourage students to pursue higher education and help them succeed in college and beyond. Participants learned about grants and scholarships, the application process, college readiness skills, mentors, career choices and other important information.

The keynote speaker was Wenda Fong, a Sacramento native, prominent producer and director, and a member of the CSU Board of Trustees. Fong also is a founder of the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment, the most influential professional organization for Asian Pacific Islanders in the entertainment industry.

Fong, the granddaughter of Chinese immigrants, discussed her academic and career paths, the prejudices that she and her family have faced, and how she overcame obstacles to achieve success.

“It saddens me” that racism and discrimination persist “today in 2021,” she said. “It is simply heartbreaking.”

She urged participants to “use your voice and passion,” as she has, to evoke change. “Engage and empower yourself and others,” Fong said.

Among other speakers was Pat Fong Kushida, president and CEO of the Sacramento Asian-Pacific Chamber of Commerce, and Ching-Hua Wang, president of Samuel Merritt University in Oakland and former Sac State provost.

Sac State, designated by the U.S. Department of Education as an Asian American Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institution, is home to more than 6,400 APIDA scholars, or about 22% of its student population. About 30% of the University’s APIDA scholars identify as first-generation college students, and nearly 45% are eligible for federal Pell grants.

“Here at Sac State, you have a home,” President Robert S. Nelsen said at Friday’s event. “We truly believe in each and every one of you.”

The University boasts an APIDA cultural center, designed to foster academic and personal success for students whose heritages represent more than 40 countries and hundreds of languages. The center builds on the mission of the Full Circle Project, which has successfully worked to improve graduation rates for traditionally underserved students.

“We hope the event affirms our collective support. We also recognize the significant educational disparities that continue to exist in these communities, especially among Southeast Asians and Pacific Islanders. This is one way to help APIDA students to feel welcomed when they transition from high school to college.”

For these and other reasons, Sac State is a perfect choice for APIDA students, said Adam Xiong, a sophomore of Hmong heritage. Xiong attended the University’s first APIDA College Day in 2019, and it helped reinforce his plans to pursue a higher education.

While Xiong attended Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, some of his cousins and friends studied at Sac State. He said they assured him that “knowledge is power” and that a college education would lead him to a brighter future.

Attending APIDA College Day helped convince him that “Sac State was the place for me,” Xiong said. “I thought it would be the best option, and I have not regretted my decision.”

From his first days as a Hornet, his professors and fellow students made him feel welcome and comfortable, he said. Xiong now is president of a student club that supports Hmong students and promotes the culture.

“I would definitely recommend going to Sac State because so many opportunities are given to us here,” Xiong said, also lauding what he considers the University’s affordability.

Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, Sac State’s associate vice president for Student Retention and Academic Success, said APIDA College Day is an attempt to give participating students and their families “a comprehensive glimpse into the Hornet experience” with support from area leaders, K-12 schools and community colleges.

“We are proud of the strong commitment that has been made by the campus leadership, and the many programs that help guide all APIDA students in securing a path to a college degree and realizing their goals,” she said.

The University boasts an APIDA cultural center, designed to foster academic and personal success for students whose heritages represent more than 40 countries and hundreds of languages. The center builds on the mission of the Full Circle Project, which has successfully worked to improve graduation rates for traditionally underserved students.

For these and other reasons, Sac State is a perfect choice for APIDA students, said Adam Xiong, a sophomore of Hmong heritage. Xiong attended the University’s first APIDA College Day in 2019, and it helped reinforce his plans to pursue a higher education.

adam-Xiong
Sophomore Adam Xiong.

While Xiong attended Monterey Trail High School in Elk Grove, some of his cousins and friends studied at Sac State. He said they assured him that “knowledge is power” and that a college education would lead him to a brighter future.

Attending APIDA College Day helped convince him that “Sac State was the place for me,” Xiong said. “I thought it would be the best option, and I have not regretted my decision.”

From his first days as a Hornet, his professors and fellow students made him feel welcome and comfortable, he said. Xiong now is president of a student club that supports Hmong students and promotes the culture.

“I would definitely recommend going to Sac State because so many opportunities are given to us here,” Xiong said, also lauding what he considers the University’s affordability.

Marcellene Watson-Derbigny, Sac State’s associate vice president for Student Retention and Academic Success, said APIDA College Day is an attempt to give participating students and their families “a comprehensive glimpse into the Hornet experience” with support from area leaders, K-12 schools and community colleges.

“We are proud of the strong commitment that has been made by the campus leadership, and the many programs that help guide all APIDA students in securing a path to a college degree and realizing their goals,” she said.

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About Cynthia Hubert

Cynthia Hubert came to Sacramento State in November 2018 after an award-winning career writing for the Sacramento Bee. Cynthia believes everyone has a good story. She lives in East Sacramento with her two cats, who enjoy bird-watching from their perch next to the living-room window.

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