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Lack of funding for the Vietnamese-American Coalition this year has affected the coalition’s potential to attract Orange County public high school students to UC Irvine through their annual Shadow Day.
On March 10, roughly 80 high school students from the Orange County area made their way to UCI for what was to be a day of college workshops, tours and discussions.
Members of VAC, a nonprofit student organization which hopes to promote an active involvement in issues pertaining to the Vietnamese-American community, led high school students in a tour around UCI and hosted workshops explaining the college process of applying and financial aid.
Shadow Day was started in 1998 with a small group of VAC members giving tours of UCI to high school students to encourage a higher rate of college attendance among the Vietnamese American youth.
Enny Van, a third-year political science major and chair of VAC, explained, ‘VAC is not exclusively for Vietnamese students but it is catered to the Vietnamese-American experience because a lot of them are the first generation to go to college. A lot of immigrant families might not know the intricacies involved in applying to college.’
The rate of participation among Orange County high school students has increased dramatically from the first Shadow Day to include the participation of over 10 high schools from Orange and Los Angeles Counties.
According to VAC, this year, UCI has decided to stop giving funds to VAC for Shadow Day because it is a one-day program instead of a yearlong one. It was also assumed that Shadow didn’t attract or affect enough students. This cut in funding has negatively affected Shadow Day this year and completely put a halt on VAC’s plans to create a yearlong mentorship program in the future. The mentorship program would have consisted of members from VAC traveling to Orange County high schools offering free tutoring throughout the academic year.
Van explained that in previous years, ‘VAC has received funds from the vice chancellor and [the] Volunteer Center.’ This year the lack of funding has significantly affected the amount of students able to participate in Shadow Day.
‘Last year and the year before 300 to about 380 students were in attendance. Their transportation would be covered. They would just have to get on a bus, enjoy their day here, learn about what tools they need to get into a university and just kind of get a more realistic sense of a day in the life of a college student,’ Van said.
This year VAC was not able to provide buses to the high schools participating, which brought their number of students attending down to about 80.
VAC was forced to raise their funds without help from the university.
‘We sold food on campus, asking for sponsorship from the Orange County Community Alliance, as well as local businesses that we advertise for,’ Van said.
In addition to transporting themselves, each student was asked to bring $7 to pay for their lunch and a T-shirt from the program.
James Ma, a fourth-year civil engineering student and VAC’s high school outreach coordinator, explained his frustrations with the lack of funding for this year’s Shadow Day.
‘We could do so much more with more funding,’ Ma said. ‘If [only] the university could just see that we really do need this money and it is effective to the students.’
I decided to catch up with some of the students participating and ask them how they had benefited from Shadow Day.
Katherine Nguyen, a sophomore at Marina High School, explained that because of Shadow Day, ‘Now I have an idea of what it’s like to be at a university. I know the requirements and understand what I need to do.’
VAC hopes to continue to host Shadow Day in the future despite the lack of funding from the university.
They are attempting to obtain funding through the Associated Students of UCI’s Campus Activities to Revitalize Education referendum, which is meant to sponsor student-initiated community outreach programs.
Van explained that VAC has already drafted two proposals to go before a university board attempting to prove that although Shadow Day is a one-day event, it is effective in a big way.
VAC believes that renewed funding for Shadow Day and the start of a yearlong mentorship program can encourage students to pursue a higher education, and also push students to become well-rounded citizens who can contribute to their society.

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