Sanders Firm Scholarship Winner
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Sanders Firm Scholarship Winner

horizontal-scholarship-winnersThe Sanders Firm is pleased to announce the winner of our first annual scholarship award.

An overwhelming number of impressive applicants applied for this award, making our final decision a very difficult one. We believe that the winner we have chosen is a true inspiration for her dedication to her community. Congratulations to Ms. Janice Tang!

The 2015 Sanders Scholarship award winner:

 

Scholarship winnerJanice Tang – $1000

Ms. Tang has been serving her community in southern California since she was just 13 years old. With a focus on improving education for the underserved and high-risk youth in her area, she has dedicated significant time to tutoring students at the local middle school. Fluent in three languages, she has been able to reach an even greater number of students who might otherwise go unassisted. Over time, her volunteer work has expanded to include college and career planning for foster youth, help enrolling in health care programs, and widening access to community resources among area residents who need it the most.

Ms. Tang’s long list of accomplishments are truly remarkable and a wonderful example of the difference one person can make to help the lives of others. As she prepares to enter her first year of law school at the University of San Diego School of Law, The Sanders Firm wishes her continued success!

Please enjoy her impressive, award-winning statement:

Since the age of 13, I set forth a journey to make a difference in my community through endless
hours of volunteerism. Influenced by an integrated health model, I apply a prevention wellbeing
approach to my volunteer work. While my volunteer hours have primarily focused on providing
individuals with support, I understand that my contribution is yielding a greater outcome –
improving the lives of families and communities. My first hand experience of socio-economic
challenges underscores that place matters in influencing the social determinants of health. In
order to fully understand my passion for volunteering, I believe it is important to understand my
background.

During the Fall of Saigon in 1975, my father fled Vietnam in an overloaded fishing boat across
the South China Sea. I was born in San Diego the year after my family sought refuge. We lived
in a government-sponsored housing unit in Linda Vista designated for those displaced by war.
My parents never completely acculturated. Maintaining their native language and customs was
one way that they overcame the trauma and heartache of their migration experience. Since I
soon learned English, I became the family spokesperson, completed important paperwork, paid
bills, and helped bridge the cultural transition. I watched as my parents managed the reality of
racism, economic oppression, and social injustice.

This experience became the impetus for my conviction that every individual has the power to
positively impact his or her community. My volunteer work was driven by my belief that human
equity was based on individuals understanding their rights, advocating for their needs, and using
their political voice. Despite the socio-economic challenges I faced, I showed resilience in the
face of adversity. I replaced hardship with a strong sense of hope, optimism, and love for my
community.

I live in the North Central Region of San Diego, which has the highest number of documented
gang members. This reality creates an unsafe community and higher risk of health issues related
to stress and other relevant factors. Recognizing that language and education are essential in
reducing barriers and improving access to care, I focused my volunteer work in the area of
improving educational opportunities. As a college undergrad, I tutored students for 5 hours a
week at Montgomery Middle School. This school is located in my local neighborhood, Linda
Vista, and is a Title 1 school where 100% of students receive free lunch. Additionally, about
65% of the school’s students speak English as a nonnative language.

Since I speak English as a third language, I utilize my fluency in Cantonese and Vietnamese to
provide trilingual tutoring in English, Social Studies, and Physical Science. Over the years, I
developed a tutoring approach that is beyond a “one size fits all.” It is important to me that I
consider the interests, needs, and acculturation level of each student to tailor individualized
tutoring. My personal goal is to build the confidence of each student by providing a safe and
welcoming relationship.

The trust I established with my students gave them confidence to share their personal stories. I
soon discovered that what they shared was consistent with the findings of the San Diego Unified
School District Youth Risk Behavior Survey. Some of my students expressed sadness and
hopelessness everyday. I worked closely with their teacher and counselor to ensure that these
students had appropriate access to mental health services. Since then, I have volunteered
approximately 100 hours tutoring students at Montgomery Middle. As a result, my students
improved their reading and literacy skills. Most importantly, I helped high-risk youth feel
connected to school and foster their confidence. In turn, these impactful connections with youth
build their protective factors and improve their life-long trajectory.

As the first generation in my family to attend college, I can relate to the challenges in navigating
the college application process. According to the Kaiser Permanente’s Community Health
Needs Assessment Report, low levels of education are often linked to poverty and poor health. In
San Diego, 15% of the population does not have a high school diploma or equivalent. Since the
lack of educational achievement and unemployment impact access to care and the community’s
ability to engage in healthy behaviors, I volunteered for the San Diego Juvenile Court to assist
with the planning of college and career events for foster youth and their caregivers. Because
these events were attended by hundreds of foster youth, I saw the opportunity to have a
significant impact.

In San Diego, immigrants comprise of a substantial part of the population. Many are refugees
seeking humanitarian relief from life-threatening danger in their home countries. As a child of
refugee parents, I resonate with the struggles immigrants face including a lack of access to basic
information. Undocumented immigrants, in particular, have limited access to health coverage.
Since 2012, I have helped over 150 high school students apply for consideration under the
Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). Volunteering for DACA workshops entail
hours of trainings on both weekdays and weekends to ensure that no errors are made on their
applications. I also volunteer for the Dreamers Assistance Network to provide free information
and educational materials regarding the relief programs for undocumented immigrants. Once
granted their DACA status, youth are able to access multiple health services, including the ability
to enroll in affordable health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

I recognize that policy decisions can positively or negatively impact the wellbeing of
communities. Multiple linguistic, cultural, social, and economic barriers also limit residents’
access to community resources. Given this, I have engaged in volunteer advocacy efforts that
have helped shape policies to improve the quality of life. I do not speak from my experience
alone – I actively seek community voice in order to represent their priorities.

Throughout my academic career, I volunteered for the National Asian Pacific American
Women’s Forum. In my final year of college, the organization selected me as the California
representative to build support for repealing the Hyde Amendment. This was a legislative
provision barring Medicaid coverage for abortions, and primarily affect low-income women. I
met with Congress Members in Washington, D.C. to mobilize support for restoring public
insurance coverage so that every woman can have access to safe and affordable abortions.

I currently volunteer my time to serve a 4-year term as a member of the Juvenile Justice
Commission. Appointed to the Commission by the Presiding Judge of San Diego Juvenile Court,
I inspect publicly administered institutions, including jail, lockups, and group homes. I co-author
annual reports to the San Diego County Probation Department that provides recommendations to
improve the conditions of the facilities which in turn promotes the wellbeing of the inmates. My
role as a Commissioner provides a unique platform to reduce disparities, increase access to
services, and inspire youth to take action in improving their lives.

My deep commitment to serving my community cemented my decision to attend law school in
San Diego. Consistent with The Sanders Firm’s values, I pledge to continue my advocacy with
the utmost integrity, sensitivity, and diligence. As I reflect on my journey of volunteerism, I am
reminded of the important role we have in contributing to the overall prevention and intervention
effort of creating healthy, safe, and thriving communities. A quote from Kofi Annan underscores
this with his words, Acts of volunteerism large and small, bring hope to so many of the world’s
disadvantaged… and towards a more prosperous and peaceful world.