When I arrived in the United States at Age 6 from Taiwan, I had to repeat 1st grade because I did not know how to speak English. Other kids often teased or picked on my brother and me because we didn’t look or sound or act “American.” To make up for that, I worked hard and achieved such proficiency that I was able to skip the 3rd grade, and after standing up for myself … forcefully … a few times, the bullies tended to leave me alone.
Because my family lived in Pacifica when I was attending middle school and the beginning of high school, my parents couldn’t enroll me in a public San Francisco high school, so they instead enrolled me at Lick-Wilmerding, which was quite expensive. We subsequently moved to San Francisco, but I had missed the transfer window for Lowell so I was forced to attend a neighborhood high school. I easily got straight ‘A’s there and was able to transfer to Lowell the following fall.
In high school, I applied for and was granted early admission to UC Berkeley after my junior year. During my senior year, while others enjoyed the privileges of being seniors, I attended classes at Lowell in the morning and UC Berkeley in the afternoon and evening. I managed to amass so many units that, when combined with my AP credit, I had almost 1.5 years of college credits under my belt when I entered UC Berkeley as a full-time student.
I also worked as an accounting intern, for up to 20 hours a week at times, for much of my 2.5 years at UC Berkeley to help relieve the financial burden on my immigrant parents. That notwithstanding, thanks to the college credits I earned while attending Lowell, I was able to graduate from Cal at Age 19 after just five semesters in college (and tuition of only about $4,000 in total) and become one of the youngest ever to join Price Waterhouse as an associate. I had always wanted to be an accountant, and now after more than 30 years in the industry and the Bay Area, I have done just about everything I could have wished to achieve professionally and I credit that in large part to my high school alma mater.
Overcoming adversity and achieving superior results have always been an important part of my DNA. When those who studied hard were looked upon as nerds and I was bullied or made fun of, the insults and slurs merely served to motivate me to try harder, work harder, and achieve more. America is truly a land of opportunity, especially for newcomers who dare to dream and strive to achieve those dreams. At Lowell, I found many people just like me, and even today I can count many of my best friends from my time at Lowell. I am also a big supporter of our alma mater and what it stands for because my family is a Lowell family; I have three siblings and four cousins who have attended Lowell.
Today’s top students also deserve the right to study among peers who are as motivated as they are. I hope that we can work together to preserve the unique Lowell experience for future generations.