After seven years, the University of Massachusetts (UMass) Lowell celebrated opening a new Asian American Center for students. According to The Lowell Sun, it was funded through a five-year, $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education.
More than a hundred people consisting of state representatives, faculty, students and community leaders gathered for the opening in Cumnock Hall, according to The Sun.
Several UMass campuses already have Asian American studies programs. Lowell’s Asian American Center for Excellence & Engagement (AACEE) focuses on serving the university’s Asian American students with support services and community-building opportunities. The organization also offers assistance on the financial aid process, access to academic support services, career advising and bridging cultural or language barriers with students’ families.
UMass student Sarorn Lin is part of the population that AACEE aims to support. According to The Sun, Lin was born and raised in Lowell. His parents fled Cambodia, and four of his five siblings were refugees.
“When I got here I was planning on being a regular student,” Lin said told The Sun. “But I felt like I didn’t have the right guidance, and I didn’t ask for help. I didn’t have mentorship, no tutoring and eventually my grades dropped, and I lost my scholarships. I felt trapped.”
Lin told The Sun that seeing the center made him feel supported a student.
“The guidance that I wanted is here, now,” he said. “It’s going to help future generations of Asian American students so they don’t get left behind.”
One of AACEE’s founders Professor Phitsamay Uy spoke at the opening about wanting to study Asian American dropout rates and having her mentor tell her that the Asian dropout rate was “statistically insignificant.”
“The myth of the model minority says that 49% of all Asian Americans have a bachelor’s degree,” Uy said to The Sun. “And there are people within our Asian American community who are doing well. On the other side, there are the Lao, the Hmong and the Vietnamese communities who are not doing as well. And they need help.”
Uy explained that a scholarship fund was written into the grant because 15% of Asian Americans are at poverty level.
“They need you, and we need them because they are our future,” Uy said to The Sun. “These are tears of joy, because these dreams we started years ago are coming true, and I am dreaming of things to come.”
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