Saturday, May 23, 2015

Hope Springs Eternal - On Promising Futures

Me, with much more important people, at the Rose Gilbert Spring Tea
Originally posted on Facebook, copyright, UCLA
This Thursday, I felt inspired. The Honors Program at UCLA invited me to their annual Rose Gilbert Spring Tea Event. (There I am in the photograph, sitting with much more distinguished people than myself. In fact, I look more like a student, than a lawyer or reader, and was also thought to be one.) I guess it's not a secret  to reveal because it's published in the program and they published a photo of me on Facebook: I'm a scholarship reviewer.

I've been doing the job now for a number of years. It's a lot of work, really. And I think this year, because all of the corruption I've seen in the City of Baldwin Park and elsewhere, I've been having a bit of moral crisis. It made me question if people could really change and if any of this was worth it. Well, this Thursday, I can say that attending the Spring Tea reminded me that there are good people out there who want to impact the world for good.

The UCLA Honors Program awards over $200,000 in scholarships and research stipends. The most stunning statistic I heard was that 94%, meaning almost all of the students in the program, will go on to get a higher education. Most, like myself, will end up becoming a doctorate of some sort - whether that be earning a Medical Doctorate, a Juris Doctorate or a Doctor of Philosophy. The Honors Program has over 3,000 students. So, scholarships are awarded to the best of the best in that group of 3,000. I'm convinced I was in a room full of young people who are changing and will change the world.

There were so many amazing research proposals I heard. Most of the students are 21 to 22 in age. One student was a double major in philosophy and neuroscience and was going to research some complex topic in cognitive science. The other one was going to learn more about developing mathematical formulas in creating three dimensional models. Another girl was going to study the origins of blue grass music in the South and its impact on contemporary music. Some were looking into protein interactions and its impact on cancer. One courageous student wanted to research ways to stop the Muslim Terrorist group Isis. Once again, these students are 21 to 22.

In my time, I was also an honors scholarship recipient for two research projects. Out of one of the projects, I wrote a thesis on the contemporary novel, The Silence of the Lambs. In the other, I wanted to do a survey of a predator population of the coral reef at the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. I didn't end up becoming a literature PhD or a marine biologist, but the opportunity really laid the foundation for thinking, researching, and writing. It also encouraged me as a young scholar to believe that I was able to tackle problems confronting us. In some ways, I probably still believe this.

The take away message is simple. To create a better world, we need to invests in our youth, instead of stealing from them.

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