February 13, 2012
Dear Wa Sung Scholarship Committee,
Hope all is well! As you may remember, my name is Brianna Pang (from Skyline High School in Oakland, CA), and I was one of the 2009 Wa Sung Scholarship recipients. I recently concluded the fall quarter of my junior year, and now am in the middle of winter quarter. I am writing to provide an update of my progress since my last letter (at the end of freshman year). I want to thank you again for your generous support, which has sustained me for the last three years Ė I am very grateful for your support of my college education, since the experience has opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities and opportunities.
Stanford has been a challenge, but Iím happy to report that the struggles I had during freshman year has decreased significantly. Coming from an Oakland public school, I was initially worried that I wouldnít be able to catch up to my peers Ė but with two and a half years of too many all-nighters, I have maintained my overall GPA to over 3.7. Though there are still the moments in which I feel a little behind my peers, I am glad to report that I am still going strong academically. As a junior, Iíve declared a fairly new, interdisciplinary major called Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, with a focus in public service. I am on track to graduate in June 2013 with a B.A. with honors, since I will also be writing a senior honors thesis during my senior year. On the way, I also happened to pick up a Political Science minor (without initially intending to do so, but it happened anyway as a result of my exploration of courses). The road has been tough, and it will continue to be tough, but Iím almost there!
In high school, I fully intended to pursue public health and pre-medical studies Ė but the study of education policy had completely stolen my heart in freshman year. I reported in my letter at the end of freshman year that Iíve become increasingly interested in the world of law for public interest and education policy Ė and amazingly, my interests havenít changed significantly since then. After doing research with an education professor on a college counseling research project during spring quarter of last year, my interest in education has only increased. I recently applied for the Stanford School of Educationís Policy, Organization, and Leadership Studies masterís program to learn more about education law and policy. I intend to complete a fourth-year masterís degree, hopefully in my senior year. Admissions are tough, but please keep your fingers crossed for me! I still intend to attend law school also, since Iím interested in the child advocacy and education law. However, Iíve decided to take about a year or so off first to work or take advantage of post-graduate fellowship opportunities, and to reflect on my choices to figure out where I want to go next. If I have learned anything in the past three years, Iíve learned that passions develop and plans can change Ė had I not taken that one course in Introduction to Humanities on Freedom, Equality and Difference, my college career would have turned out vastly different. The year off would allow me to explore opportunities.
In addition to academics, I have continued to maintain a commitment to various activities. This past spring, I was elected to our student governmentís Undergraduate Senate, and then elected to the role of Chair of the Appropriations Committee to manage over 2 million dollars in student funds. In the role of a student senator, I have been able to advocate for issues like workersí rights on campus and the California DREAM Act. As chair of Appropriations, I have had the opportunity to work with the over 650 student groups on campus on their finances, budgets, and funding. It has been an incredible experience thus far.
At the same time, I have received the opportunity to intern at the Superior Courts of California through the California JusticeCorps program. Throughout my sophomore year, I committed 300 AmeriCorps hours to working in the family law facilitatorís office in the Superior Court of California, San Mateo County. I worked directly with self-represented litigants (people who could not afford attorneys) in a small office of three 2 attorneys to increase access to justice. Since there are 8,361 self-represented litigants for every 1 legal aid lawyer, one-third of legal services needs of low-income Californians are not met Ė thus, the family law facilitatorsí offices and self-help center of California were created to assist people in family law and small claims. I have been able to help people with child custody or child support issues, domestic violence prevention orders, and divorces. We also got opportunities to assist judges in domestic violence court. As the youngest intern in the office, it was especially tough working in the internship since I was only 18 years old when I started Ė I had only barely aged out of the court system! The experience has been a real eye-opener, and a great insight on how the law can be an aid for the marginalized.
This internship experience then led me to a summer internship opportunity in Los Angeles County. For this past summer, I intern with the Neighborhood Legal Services of Los Angeles County, a nonprofit law firm that aims to serve the poor community of L.A. I was placed at the Superior Court of California, L.A. County Northeast District Ė in Pasadena, CA. I did largely the same work as I did in San Mateo, but with the addition of helping tenants in housing law to prevent them from being evicted for wrongful reasons. Since I had a lot of spare time, I also opted to volunteer at the Workers Rights Clinics in Pacoima, CA and El Monte, CA, helping workers on expungements (so they can find a job again) and wage claims to the Labor Commissioner. After concluding my internship, Iíve decided to extend my work with the California JusticeCorps. Now, as Stanford Campus Representative, Iím employed through the Superior Court of Alameda County to mentor those who are doing the internship and to work during shifts where the office is short-staffed.
In my last letter, I mentioned that I was spending the summer after my freshman year teaching abroad in three different countries: Croatia, Romania, and China. I learned a lot about cultural exchange and global volunteerism during the summer, and I decided to stay involved in the organization after my teaching stints to be a staff member. During my sophomore year, I served as the Stanford Campus Director, recruiting and training Stanford volunteers Ė and now, I serve as one of three co-Executive Directors at the organization Learning Enterprises (www.learningenterprises.org) as Executive Director of Training and Recruiting. I am now coordinating staff members from campuses across the United States, Ireland, and the United Kingdom, including Trinity College Dublin, Georgetown, Yale, Emory, and University of Edinburgh among others. Needless to say, I am incredibly grateful for Skype and email Ė running a nonprofit organization is hard work especially when staff members are so spread out through different countries! In addition, I designed and implemented an action grants program for the organization, for alumni to return to their regions (in which they volunteered) to start up service projects to serve a need they saw while teaching in the village. The process of grant writing and searching for foundations to support us has been tough, but so far has been rewarding Ė working with Learning Enterprises has been a great learning experience.
Additionally, I was recently named to the State Farm Youth Advisory Board Ė State Farmís largest service-learning initiative, in which 30 youth chosen throughout the United States and Canada get to decide how to allocate $5 million dollars in philanthropy dollars to nonprofit organizations. For these next two years, Iíll be serving on the board reading grant applications from 501c3 nonprofits as the California zone representative. I love serving on the Board, since itís a way of working on the issues that I am most passionate about through a different way than Iím used to. Philanthropy has become increasingly interesting to me. While running a nonprofit, Iíve discovered how money is really the lifeblood of an organization. Iíve also learned that commitment to public service can come in many forms, from a private citizen mentoring a struggling child oneon- one to corporations donating millions to public interest causes. This has developed my perspective on the relationship between the private sector world and the nonprofit world. Without generous donations from the private sector, I would not have been able to pursue a higher education or I would have been riddled with high amounts of debt. At the beginning of college, I thought that the two worlds are completely separate, but Iím realizing that these two worlds are incredibly intertwined Ė and this is informing my decision of what career to ultimately pursue, whether that would be in the private or public sector.
For this coming summer, I received the Human Rights Fellowship from the Stanford Center for Ethics in Society to intern with the Legal Resources Centre in Johannesburg, South Africa. I will be traveling there in June 2012, and will be returning in August 2012 (just in time for my older sisterís wedding!) I will be working on an education funding research project with some of the attorneys, analyzing South Africaís education funding system and comparing it to different education funding systems throughout the African continent. Iím really excited, since the LRC is a wonderful human rights law organization.
In my free time, Iíve been working also on designing an Alternative Spring Break project since last spring. This next quarter, I (along with a co-leader) will be leading a group of 14 Stanford students in a winter quarter course on civil rights and education, which will culminate in a trip to Washington DC to meet with policymakers, nonprofit leaders, and politicians. Weíve developed a syllabus, and thus far, weíve also lined up a meeting with Congressman John Lewis and visits to the Department of Education, the Department of Justice (Voting Rights Division), the Supreme Court, and the Childrenís Defense Fund. Our ASB is entitled: ďChange Oh Letís Do It: Civil Rights in the Age of ObamaĒ Ė weíre aiming to teach fellow students about civil rights and education struggles of the 21st century and galvanize them to work on these issues. Usually, great projects come out of ASB teams, so weíre hoping to inspire our participants to become changemakers!
Finally, I still serve as a mentor for high school seniors who are applying to colleges Ė officially, as a volunteer for the Stanford Phoenix Scholars Project, but also unofficially, to high school students whom I meet in my visits back to my high school. If you know of any high school students who need help or guidance through the college applications process, please point them in my direction! I would really love to help in any way!
In my application essays three years ago, I wrote about my huge dreams of changing the world for the better someday. Today, I am still committed to those dreams, but with an added motivation. I want to change the world for the better, because the Wa Sung Scholarship has truly changed my world for the better. Thanks to your generous support, I have been able to not only dream, but also pursue those dreams. Your financial support has been the catalyst for my development and the inspiration for me to do service and to help others. As I am inching closer to the real world and becoming a young adult (Iím finally 20 now!), Iím realizing more and more how many doors your support had opened for me. I have been able to make so many of my goals a reality only because I was given the opportunity to do so by the Wa Sung Scholarship. To this, I am forever grateful.
Best wishes for the New Year, and please keep in touch!
Stanford University | Class of 2013