I was born in Guangzhou, China and at the age of eight, my mother and I joined my father in America. I grew up in West Oakland, an underprivileged community that taught me to be relentless and to be fearless. Living here often felt as though I was in a war zone; the sounds of constant gunshots, sirens, and loud bass systems would pierce through the thin walls of my house. In my community, success was defined by having money, owning nice cars with big rims, and wearing the latest Jordans. In spite of my environment, I had big aspirations for my future, but my educators didn’t share my sense of possibility. In middle school, my teacher said my dream of becoming an inventor was unrealistic. She told me people simply do not become inventors, and didn’t offer much explanation. In high school, teachers told me I didn’t have the potential to attend a top university because my grades were not good enough. It felt like no one believed in me. However, this did not stop me from setting my sights high and pursuing my dreams. This year, I graduated from UC Berkeley as a Gates Millennium Scholar with a degree in electrical engineering and computer science.
My journey is one where I have defied the odds to get to where I am today. I was very fortunate to be connected to College Track who provided me with one-on-one support throughout high school and college. My College Track mentors not only believed in me but filled in the gaps where my academic classes weren’t always enough to pursue my passion. These educators wore many hats; they were my tutors, counselors, advocates, friends, and even played the role of a parent in my life.
During my first years in college, it seemed impossible for me to focus on school work and earn good grades when I had to hustle and work to help maintain the roof for my migrant family. Throughout the many challenges I faced, my College Track mentors provided me with constructive advice, resources, and support to stay on ‘track.’ They understood that, based on my background alone, achieving my dream to attend and graduate college was going to be ten times harder than the average student. Now, I am graduating from the highest ranked public university in the world.
To help me realize my dreams of becoming an inventor, my College Track mentors recognized that I needed more than academic knowledge; I needed exposure to what being an inventor could look like because I didn’t have access to that in my classrooms or at home with my parents. College Track connected me with entrepreneurs who had built successful companies. I learned the skills and gained the confidence I needed to launch my own startup, NomNom, with a mission to enable talented chefs, who may not have the resources to open a restaurant, to become food entrepreneurs. Now, I can proudly say I am an inventor.