Posts Tagged college

7 Days Left to Apply for the CSO Opportunity Scholarship!

CSOlogo-85High school seniors, could you use $1,000 to help pay for your freshman year of college? Or better yet, could you use $1,000 every year for the next four years to put toward your college expenses? If so, keep reading…

Class of 2010, YOU’VE DONE IT! You’re almost to graduation and you are ready to move onto the big leagues: COLLEGE! Woot, Woot! You received your college acceptance letters, selected the college you want to attend, are sending in your housing deposit and receiving your financial aid package. So now you can just chill out during the summer!

Well, not yet. Before you begin your chill session, make sure you apply for the CSO Opportunity Scholarship–a $1,000, four-year renewable scholarship awarded to first-generation, low-income, and/or minority high school seniors (class of 2010; entering the college class of 2014) enrolling at a CSO College Partner. If you win, you’ll also be given the opportunity to share your college journey and offer advice to younger students on how to make it to college on this blog!

Download the application here or email scholarship@csopportunity.org to receive an application.

Make sure your application is completed and postmarked by the deadline, May 28th. And again, congratulations on making it college!

Our work is never over

duylam-85I was going to keep some of the more major things I’ve been doing at college under wraps, but in light of a series of events that have occured back home I feel the need to stop being so abstract and “wise man” like and show maybe proof that the sky’s the limit regardless of “this, that, and the third”. Hopefully I don’t sound like I’m gloating…but I am. Just kidding, hah.

So maybe we should kick it off with my high school year.

January 1st passed, just like you guys now, all my applications are done and I’m feeling overly relieved. Between my schools it was a whole bunch of business schools: Washington & Lee, Uni. of Virginia, Uni. of Richmond, and Babson. And then there was the Rhode Island School of Design. I know!! Complete 180 from all of the schools I’ve applied too, but that was my sort of crazy, not-secure school that I would go to if I decided to pursue my more creative dreams.

Well the rest is history as they say, but it’s actually more like a long story I’m going to explain in my blog.

I never went to RISD as you know, hah, I was too scared to follow that route, but to serve as a medium I went to Babson, which I thought would be nice because Boston is right there and a big city means big opportunities. Oh good lord I forget to mention that at that time and currently still, I was/am passionate [is that too corny of a word to use?] industrial design/product design. Industrial design is basically the creation of new products. Some of your favorite companies have a huge emphasis on design: Apple, BMW, Fender, etc. You get the gist.

Right anyway, so I’m all gung-ho about design so I email the professor, Sebastian Fixson, in charge of this really cool class at Babson called Product Design & Development. So I email him once I decided on going to Babson. We remained in correspondence all throughout the summer, and after the first week of college I email him again and we set up a time to just talk about everything. So I meet him and I’m trying to exude my passion as much as possible, and let me remind you meeting him was a HUGE thing for me – I had already planned on sitting in on his PDD class. Anyways we talk about everything and he offers me a seat in the course!!! This just put a smile upon my face because even though I wouldn’t get credit I would learn something, which I did, and I also created a few important relationships. Right also this course was a 3 school joint program with Babson College for business, Olin College for engineering, and the Rhode Island School of Design – HOW COOL THAT EVERYTHING COMES BACK 360 [actually I knew about the class before I came].

Check out more from the class here

Anyways I sit in on the class and [this part always makes me laugh] it’s full of 3rd years & 4years and I introduced myself and I said I was a 1st year at Babson and I picked business over RISD and they all laughed at me. Woot! So I sit in on other classes and I even got to go to RISD, which is absolutely beautiful by the way, and I met a man named Tim Prestero of Design That Matters. A quick aside, DTM is a non-profit that produces products that are actually of use to people in 3rd world countries such as medicial devices.

Tim had this really interesting project where students would be making a phototherapy unit to help fight hyperbilirubinemia/jaundice in newborns [you can find out more here and click around that is only one type of HB]. If there are any parents, you know how this works. The jaundiced baby/baby with hyperbilirubinemia is placed under a blue light [yes blue light is all it takes] and in a few days the problem is gone. Well this project was of particular interest to me because it was to be made in Vietnam and first implemented in Vietnam, my home country. As you know, Vietnam is not so rich, and the best phototherapy units, such as the neoBlue, cost up to $10,000 USD. Yeah that’s not working for a third world country.

I approached Tim and we exchanged information and I email him a few days later seeing how I could help even though I was a first year. He then directed to the Babson MBA graduate students who were working on this. I emailed them, and then I met Shilpi Gupta, Molly McDonald, Lara Clemenzi, Rahul Bhansali, & Prakash Bhatia the students on the project. We met over the course of the semester and worked on a design that would fit the culture [even my mom helped!]. Well long story short, the final product matched the best phototherapy unit on the market, the neoBlue, on output and the product lasts, about, 10,000 hours. And guess what? The creation of the product only takes $400 USD. Labour expenses will raise the cost of the unit once it starts becoming manufactured in Vietnam, HOWEVER, everything should remain will under $1000 USD. Also, by the time the product was in the design fair at Babson, there were already 300 orders for it.

Here are photos:

This is Praks with our baby. And our finished design.

I am completely honored to have worked with these people, they are nothing short of amazing. Something major come from practically nothing. Even if you’ve got a million to one shot, you’ve still got a shot.

The most powerful weapon on Earth is the human soul on fire” – Ferdinand Foch,

Reflections On The First Semester

joseph-85Wow!  Like everyone else has said, this semester has absolutely flown by.    I remember during the first few weeks of school wondering whether or not I was going to handle the social situation of all these kids that I had very little in common with.  I did miss my family, my friends, and my comfort back home for the entire semester, but that feeling was especially strong in the first few weeks.  My peers at Oxy had all been extremely friendly, and almost without exception, they have proven to be caring, compassionate, and outgoing people.    Now, I understand that people at any college are probably more friendly than the average population, however it took a while for me to come around the realization that this is how ALL people CAN BE. What’s more, I had always imagined that the historic class struggle would keep me from ever really penetrating their ranks.

With this realization it was very easy for me to make friends.  I’ve never been, by any means, a socially estranged person, but I think I can finally understand how some might sense an alienation and let it confine them.  For me, it was that a few people went out of there way to be kind to me that this became possible.  They were my gateway to a larger population at the school.   While still existent, those feelings of loneliness and distance from familiarity were significantly downplayed.  I am appreciative then for my new friends who have made being away a genuinely great experience and who have taken the pain out of it.  I genuinely believe that without them I probably would have performed much worse this semester (grades were 3 A’s and a B — the B was in a math class).  I guess what I’m saying is that, especially at a residential college, social interactions are a part of the equation. I would caution all people though to watch the company you keep because new friends might be detrimental to your success, something thus far I have tried to avoid.

Freezing with a Side of Steinmart

seanna-85Class of 2009…Class of 2013…Class of 2015…

After you say them enough, they all begin to roll off the tongue.  While these years may mean little to you, for me, they represent graduation years—high school, undergrad, Master’s…the list could continue for quite a while.  The years also symbolize change, something present in everyone’s life on the eve of a new year, particularly for current seniors.

My advice:




Open to the many new experiences headed your way, some of which you may have never considered participating in.

Prepared for all that has yet to come and for the events you have yet to finish.  Before the college journey begins…finals, admission decisions, prom… (GRADUATION!)… all remain.

Excited because here you finally are—on the brink of a novel environment—closing the chapter of elementary, middle & high school…progressing to another stage of your life.

Be all of these things and ultimately, be ready for change.

So here I am, back in Arkansas for Christmas break.  I exchanged a 78o climate for 37o weather.  I’m back at my job at Steinmart, greeting customers and bagging purchases.  Once again, surrounded by family and familiar friends. But now it’s different.  I’m different.  Still myself but with subtle adjustments.  In fact, I realized that college may be a guide in becoming more “me”.

“To exist is to change, to change is to mature, to mature is to go on creating oneself endlessly…”

–Henri Bergson

So, as you finish up senior year in the next few months and Fall 2010 becomes more of a present reality, keep who you are in mind, but also be willing to change…to mature…to progress…

Tereza Ponce de Leon featured in Star Tribune



 The times alter the campus hue

With increasing numbers of students of color attending colleges, professors face new challenges to reach diverse students.


December 21, 2009 - The growing diversity of Minnesota’s colleges can be measured in numbers, figures and graphs. Abdul Suleyman hasn’t seen the pie charts, but he has seen the cafeteria. 

“When I was a freshman, there were only three or four black guys,” said the 22-year-old senior at Gustavus Adolphus College. “People would have us confused. It went from that to now, there’s maybe 15 of us.”

At Augsburg College in Minneapolis, Tereza Ponce de Leon is part of the most diverse freshman class in history. The color palette on college campuses is changing.

Thanks in part to a big jump this fall, the number of students of color going to college is way up. From suburban community college campuses to small-town schools like Gustavus, the growth goes beyond statistics. These students are changing how professors teach and campuses feel.

“It’s a fascinating moment,” said Paul Pribbenow, president of Augsburg College and chair of the Minnesota Private College Council. “We’re in constant conversation about what this means and what a gift this is.”

College was “always a big dream” of Ponce de Leon’s. A program for low-income students called Admission Possible helped her focus her ambitions. Pregnancy narrowed her college search, but it only heightened her 2newcomers[1]commitment to going. “I had to think not only about myself, but what would be better for the future of my son.”

This fall, students of color make up 43 percent of the first-year, daytime undergraduate class at Augsburg. In total, a full quarter of the college’s undergraduates are students of color — up from 8.6 percent in 2001.

Augsburg has lots of company. Enrollment of undergraduates of color is up nearly 90 percent in the last decade at the 17 member schools of the Minnesota Private College Council. Meanwhile, white enrollment grew less than 4 percent.

In the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system, the enrollment of low-income, minority and first-generation college students — groups considered “underrepresented” — is up 22 percent this fall over last year.

“We had not seen anything like it before,” said Linda Baer, senior vice chancellor for academic and student affairs.

Experts say the economy is one reason, but Terria Middlebrook, a 22-year-old student at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, sees something bigger going on:

“We are getting smarter knowing there is potential for us out there,” she said. “Our President Obama is one example to us African-Americans showing that we do have potential to succeed, but it’s up to us to move forward.”

“Pretty much college answers it all,” she said.

We’re here. Now what?

The big jumps in minority enrollment are the buzz of admissions offices around the country. With the college-age population decreasing and becoming much more diverse, colleges will need to recruit a more diverse student body to keep classrooms full.

But Augsburg Prof. David Lapakko had heard the buzz one too many times. In early October, he wrote a post on the college’s internal forum: “I must confess that I’m tired of hearing that the world — and our classrooms — are more diverse than in years past. To that I say, ‘Well, duh.’”

Diversity is one of Augsburg’s great strengths and “a critical part of a liberal arts education,” Lapakko said. But with it come challenges that need to be discussed.

Teachers can make some changes easily, he said, such as avoiding slang that confuses students whose first language is not English.

Not so easy is the “big question colleges have been forced to take a hard look at,” he said. That is: How much are professors willing and able to change how they teach or what they teach to reach the class that now sits before them?

“It’s kind of like the elephant in the living room,” he said. “People don’t want to talk about the bad parts of it, the difficult parts.”

Reaching commencement

Getting students in the door is only one part of a college’s job. Graduating them is another. Colleges and universities aren’t as good at graduating students of color as they are white students.

Black, American Indian and Hispanic students are more likely to attend part time and less likely to graduate than white or Asian students, according to the Minnesota Office of Higher Education.

The office’s 2009 report shows that at two-year schools such as community colleges — where much of the growth is occurring — fewer than half of the students of color either completed a credential or transferred to another institution within three years.

“It’s about not only bringing more people through the doors, but making sure that they are achieving and succeeding at the same rate,” said MnSCU’s Baer.

MnSCU is one of 24 public college and university systems that just pledged to shrink the gap in college-going and degree completion between their traditional population and low-income students and students of color by 2015.

White kids care, too

Cheng Lee first saw Gustavus as a high school senior in Upward Bound, a program designed to increase the number of low-income and first-generation students in college. He thought the hilltop campus was beautiful and liked the idea of getting away from the distractions of St. Paul, where his Hmong family lives.

He began giving campus tours his freshman year and has watched the campus change through the eyes of the visiting high school students. A decade ago, fewer than 5 percent of students at Gustavus Adolphus College were a color other than white. This year, about 12 percent are.

“They always ask about the diversity — the numbers, the facts and figures,” Lee said. “But the main selling point is actually seeing students of color. If they see them walking by and saying hi to me, they really respond to that.”

White kids are asking about diversity, too.

“These kids at Eden Prairie, they’re used to a diverse population in their school,” said Mark Anderson, dean of admission and vice president for admission and financial aid.

Gustavus recruits white students whose applications show that they value diversity.

“We consider them equally important in order to be allies in what we want our campus to ultimately become,” said Virgil Jones, director of multicultural programs. “It does me no good to recruit you to come to school here if the majority of the white students don’t want you here.”

The college offers peer and faculty mentors to all first-year, underrepresented students. Advisers meet with each student every semester. Tutors set up shop in the college’s diversity center, as well as the individual colleges.

But there’s still room to improve, Jones said.

The college still deals with the occasional racist incident. The diversity of faculty and staff still lags. St. Peter could use a barbershop that knows black hair.

About 20 years ago, Anderson was mentoring a student who asked him: “You know why I sit in the front row?” He guessed wrong. “‘No, Mark,’ she told me. ‘It’s because I don’t want to see that I’m the only one in the classroom who looks like me.’

“Now, that doesn’t happen anymore,” he said. “And that’s pretty exciting.”

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Read Tereza Ponce de Leon’s blog about her first-year experience: csopportunityscholars.org/tereza-ponce-de-leon.

Check out the published article here.

Happy Holidays!

jesse-85Finally finished my first semester at Harvard!!! I can’t even describe how I feel. The first thing I did when I got out of my last final (Philosophy), was call my mom. She was at work so she couldn’t answer but I left her a voicemail thanking her for helping me overcome all the obstacles we have faced together. It was tough, but we made it!!

This semester was most definitely a challenge but it just takes adjusting. It’s nothing you can’t handle!

If I could give a piece of advice: learn to manage your time while still in high school; set your goals and in everything you do, ask yourself if it is helping you get to where you ultimately want to go. Also, always make time for family and friends; they are the ones that will help you get through the rough times.

The Holidays are here!! I can’t wait to come back home!! I just hope that I will be able to reconnect with all my old friends after four months. I have so many stories to share. College is definitely one of those life-changing experiences that help you gain perspective on the world. I never thought I would make it, but through hard work and faith, you can too!!

Keep working hard guys and enjoy the holidays! I’ll definitely blog again soon!

Thankful for the things we often take for granted…

lysa-85Being with my family these past few days has made me realize just how fortunate I am for having a house over my head for the holidays. I began to think about how many people don’t have anyone to go home to. 

I am grateful that everyone in my family is also relatively healthy and safe. I am thankful that I wake up every morning with no worries about how I’m going to eat that day, or where I’m going to lay my head down at night.

It’s so easy to forget just how many people are homeless during the holidays, and cannot even afford to feed their families. My heart truly goes out to those who are struggling during the holiday season.

My family may not be the richest, live in the nicest neighborhood, or drive the fanciest car, but we do have each other, and being home makes me realize that I have a support network of people who love me back home that many people do not have. 

Most of all, I am thankful to be where I am right now in my life, with the ability to shape my own  future. I am thankful to be in college, doing well and on my way to a successful career, because my own parents never had that chance.

The holiday has made me thankful for many things that we as a society often take for granted.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Lend a helping hand to someone, donate to an organization, or do anything to take a small part in changing someone’s holiday for the better this season!

A Chicana Hero

jesse-85College is the BEST!! I’ve had days where I felt overwhelmed and thought that I might not be able to make it to the end of the week, but that comes along with the transition. It’s something new, it’s something challenging, but it’s something you can handle.

When I first got here, the workload seemed impossible but it just takes getting used to. I’m feeling WAY better now that I’ve learned to balance things out and really find ways to make time for the things that really matter. I’m sure I’m still going to have days where I want to crawl into a corner and assume the fetal position but I’ve got everybody back home counting on me! You gotta find that special something to give you strength.

The opportunities in college are endless and the experiences you have here are going to stay with you forever. For example, I met Dolores Huerta on Friday!! She was the co-founder of the United Farm Workers (UFW) along with Cesar Chavez; she is a major civil rights leader who pioneered the way for not only Chicanos, but for all oppressed people. It was truly an honor to meet her. My friend Jesus-Mario and I even got to drop her off at the airport!! It was pretty crazy.

These opportunities are out there; you just have to reach for them!!

Who are you going to meet? Who are you going to impact?

Well, that all depends on how much work you put in now, while you’re still in high school.

I’m still a little shook from the honor of meeting Dolores Huerta.

If you work hard enough now, people could say the same thing when they meet you one day.

Don’t Judge a College by The Pamphlet

ashley-85I’m sure you have heard this before but don’t rule out a college by the price, but there are other things that I want to point out that you should or should not judge a school by.

1. Size– I know many people do base their college searches on sizes of the school; but sometimes there are other things that are more important, like the benefits schools offer their students. I have a friend who wanted to go to a State University, but instead came here because of the Nursing Program. You don’t want to go to a school if they can’t provide you with what you need, no matter how perfect everything else may seem.

2. For other people– Never consider a school because that’s where your best friend, boyfriend/girlfriend, or parents want you to go. College is about making you the person you want to be. No matter how much you want to make people happy, when it comes to your future, your happiness is all that matters.

3. College statistics and reputation– Never think that a college is too good for you. If you are looking at schools and think that it is perfect, but that you would never get in, apply anyways. Each person is unique and we all provide different things. If you are worried that you wouldn’t fit in based on stereotypes… ignore those stereotypes. Colleges don’t want students all the same.

4. The feel– This is what I want all of you looking at schools to look for. When you have found the right college for you, you will know. I know this sounds cliché, but it is true. There is a college out there for everyone, don’t settle for anything less.