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Former Mayor Endows 10 Years of Scholarships for Fresno’s SE Asian Community

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A new $50,000 scholarship fund established specifically for Southeast Asian students in the Fresno area community is the first of its kind.

“Our goal is to hand out five scholarships per year for the next ten years,” said Pao Yang, CEO of the Fresno Center. “If we do get more donations and sponsorships, we want to double down.”

The money comes courtesy of a campaign war chest of $400,000 that never got used by former Fresno Mayor Lee Brand that’s now being split among 8 Fresno area organizations.

Brand says he spent a lot of time trying to decide which organizations he wanted to donate to. He decided to look for those that were dedicated to reaching young people that may be left out by other scholarships or endowments.

“If we can get them onto a path of higher education in college like I did, or to a good career job, like a plumber or electrician, that can totally change your life,” said Brand during a formal check presentation ceremony at Roosevelt High School.

Yang says the money will go a long ways toward helping members of his community that have been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pao Yang, CEO of the Fresno Center, displays a symbolic check representing 10 years of scholarship opportunities for students in the Southeast Asian community. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

The Fresno Center

The non-profit Fresno Center was founded in 1991 with a mission focused on mental health, education, employment services and civic engagement within the Hmong and Southeast Asian communities.

Yang says the number of deaths from COVID-19 within the community has been staggering.

“It’s just unfathomable what’s happening to our community,” said Yang. “In the Southeast Asian community, there is no word for pandemic.”

The yearly Hmong New celebration at the Fresno Fairgrounds normally brings in 100,000 people a year. Yang says the elders in the community are befuddled by what’s happening as they’re mostly family oriented, and the isolation brought on by the pandemic has been very difficult for them.

Yang says the scholarships available now represent a tremendous opportunity for the Southeast Asian community to emerge from COVID-19 even stronger.

“Our goal at the present center is trying to find sponsors and donors to match that as well so we can get more than just five scholarships for the next 10 years,” said Yang.

People wanting to apply for the scholarships must have at least a 3.0 GPA and be of Southeast Asian descent. Yang says there’s already quite a bit of interest in applying before the April 27th deadline. Interested students can contact the Fresno Center by calling 559-255-8395.

Fresno City College

Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith displayed a $55,000 check that will go into an endowment to help educate future students at her campus.

She said $5,000 will be used for scholarships for the coming fall semester.

Goldsmith spoke of the challenges currently facing Fresno City College that has seen an enrollment drop of 18% since to the pandemic began.

“We have to encourage our students to let them know we will be here for you,” says Goldsmith. “We’ve been to serve the community for 100 years, and we will be here for another 100 years.”

She said the pandemic has presented many challenges for her students that may have had to drop down to part time because of economic reasons.

“They’re taking care of parents or sick ones, or they’re having to take on a second job,” explains Goldsmith. “So the shame about dropping down to part time has to stop.” She reiterates the important thing is these folks are still in college, and still progressing.

Fresno City College President Carole Goldsmith holds a $55,000 check that will be used as an endowment to give scholarships. (GV Wire/Jim Jakobs)

All of the Organizations Receiving Funds

Brand says there were plenty of politicians, and other people with causes that had their hand out hoping to get some of the money.

“I think the money, the way it’s invested here will get tremendous rewards for many years to come,” said Brand.

The organizations that will be receiving funds are:

1. Roosevelt High School $100,000
2. State Center Community College District (FCC) $55,000
3. Fresno Metro Black Chamber Foundation $50,000
4. The Fresno Center $50,000
5. Youth Leadership Institute – Boys & Men of Color $50,000
6. Fresno State Social Science Department $30,000
7. On Ramps Covenant Church $25,000
8. Fresno EOC Valley Apprenticeship Connections $25,000

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