SF Bay Area

I’m no model minority

AS an Asian American who wears glasses and doesn’t speak with any ethnic accent, most people may mistake me for the stereotypical Asian American millennial whose parents are graduate degree holders who push their children to become doctors or lawyers.  This picture does not reflect my family.

The truth is I grew up in Antioch, a small suburb in the outskirts of the Bay Area, in a first-generation immigrant household. My father lost his government job when I was young, and my mother had to step up from being a housewife to working backbreaking hours as a nursing assistant and then a dialysis technician to make sure her three children had the best life has to offer.

They did their best.  But working full time and taking care of other responsibilities did not leave much time for my parents to study the complex California public school system, much less the completely foreign higher education system, which I think were too complicated for them to fully grasp.

They showed up at field trips, met with teachers when requested, but we were still at a disadvantage compared to many of my counterparts whose parents were educated in American universities.

My parents were a little shy because they were new to this country and they were focused on working instead of being more involved in our schools, which I hold no ill feelings toward them for it.

I did not do well in high school.  I had a 2.0 average, did not care for science and hated seeing numbers and formulas on a page.  I was definitely not the model minority nor had I any idea what that even meant.

According to a Colorlines report, the picture of Asian Americans as academic achievers are too broad and distorted.  “While Asian Americans as a group record high levels of educational attainment that match and occasionally surpass that of whites, large sectors actually deal with high dropout rates from high school and college,” the report stated.

The report added that Asian Americans are incorrectly identified as a monolithic group.  “The experiences of the Hmong, Laotian and Cambodian Asian Americans differ greatly from that of, say, East and South Asians growing up in the U.S.,” they added.

I was invited by my good friend Jean-Paul Nguyen, an enrollment counselor at CSUEB and a member of the planning committee, to attend a lunche on where they would announce the launch of a Journey to Success program at California State University, East Bay last April.

“The initiative is seeking to reach out to Asian American and Pacific Islander teenagers in hopes of encouraging them to pursue higher education,” Nguyen said in a story I had written for Philippine News on May 4.

“The myth has affected AAPI groups negatively because the government, public and private programs and other services have overlooked certain groups by not providing sufficient grant programs and aid for higher education,” Nguyen added.

Journey to Success was held last May 19 at CSU East Bay, co-hosted by San Francisco State University. About 350 participants attended college prep and financial aid workshops, met with potential college representatives, whiletheir families attended a workshop on parent engagement.

The program was made possible by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Asian American/Native American/Pacific Islander Serving Institution.

When I was a senior at Deer Valley High School,therewere not many college programs that reached out to Asian Americans.

In addition to the incorrect notion that I was an achiever, I was also suffering from major depression and anxiety.  In many Asian cultures, depression was not openly spoken of.  I remember a relative saying depression was “just in your mind.”  Because of the condition, I was operating on auto-pilot.  No one really saw that this was what was stopping me from excelling in school.

Although I was not outright discriminated against, I did feel ignored and excluded—and I think I’m not alone with my feelings.  It is important that schools encourage inclusiveness and are more pro-active in reaching out to the underrepresented.

It is time now that AAPI’sare given well deserved attention, although they have been broadly – and quite inaccurately — labeled a model minority.

With the rich diversity in people and cultural acceptance that exists in the Bay Area, the community should always strive to seek equal opportunities and treatment for everyone.

(Ryan GajudoMacasero graduated from California State University, East Bay in 2010.  He is a freelance reporter who contributes to various ethnic and community news sites including Power ngPinoy TV, Philippine News and The Patch.  He was 2012 nominee for the Plaridel Awards for Excellence in Filipino American Journalism. You can reach Ryan at ryan@powerngpinoy.tv)

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