China Daily Angie Kang, a student at Los Gatos High School in the San Francisco Bay Area, shared with other high school students her experience last summer at a mountain school in Xi'an, West China. By LIA ZHU
'"With every struggle, I began to understand a little more of what my
parents went through … what the children who live in the mountain school
are currently going through," she said in an essay she wrote after
returning back home.
'Far from the affluent Bay Area, Kang, with her mother, spent a few
weeks at the rural Chinese school, where her mother taught music and she
helped with the class.
'"I find it difficult to slip back into my American life," Kang wrote
in the essay. "Sometimes I'm struck with the sheer unfairness of the
luck of the draw, the privilege I was handed through the work of my
'"Perhaps my privilege can't be helped," she said. "But I can help the ones who don't have the privilege."
'With this essay and a painting depicting a boy doing homework while
helping his parents with their restaurant business, Kang won the first
prize for the Summer/Winter Experience Competition organized by the
IvyMax Foundation, which aims to promote involvement of students in
'"The parents from China and other Asian countries put so much
emphasis on their children's academic performance and tend to overlook
the importance of serving the community," said Vickie Zhang, co-founder
of the IvyMax Foundation.
'"Four or five years ago, we launched a summer program organizing
Chinese-American students to visit orphanages and rural schools in West
China. After they came back, we found them ‘changed' – they learned to
be grateful," Zhang said. "And that's the reason to hold such a
'Open to US students between the ages of 12 and 18, the competition
solicited thought-provoking works, including essays, paintings and
videos, to demonstrate the students' efforts in philanthropy projects in
the hopes of inspiring their peers to participate as well.
'This year, around 80 students submitted their works. Besides the
Summer/Winter Experience prize, eight students' clubs were awarded the
prizes of "Students' Clubs Sponsorship Plan" by presenting their
projects and development plans.
'Caroline Zhou, 16, from California High School in San Ramon, received
the third prize on behalf of the group "Public Health Students' Club",
which has more than 10 members now.
'She and her group visited a rural village in Northwest China's
Ningxia region last summer on a tour organized by IvyMax, where the
group was divided into three teams responsible for studying the local
lifestyle and sanitation, interviewing residents, and shadowing local
'"We found their drinking water was taken from the Yellow River, which
was contaminated," said Zhou. "So we started a project of purifying the
water," said Zhou, whose parents are a doctor and engineer.
'"Drinking the contaminated water can cause liver cancer and
hypertension," added William Liao, 17, from Dublin Quarry Lane School,
whose parents are doctors. "But we were surprised how optimistic the
villagers were, even if they knew the water was polluted. That's when we
learned what optimism was all about."
'Back home, the students didn't stop their public health project in Ningxia.
'"We held auctions to help raise money," said Zhou. So far, hundreds
of dollars have been raised and sent to the village. "We plan to
register our club as non-profit organization so as to increase community
exposure to local health issues," she said.'