The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

The Student News Site of Sacramento City College

The Express

Jack Kent Cooke Foundation honors City College student

Jason Liu, computer science wins a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation
Jason Liu, computer science wins a Jack Kent Cooke Foundation. Photo by Tamara M. Knox | Online Photo Editor | [email protected]

Francis Bacon wrote: “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” One would be hard pressed to find a wiser student at City College than Xinyu Liu, according to his mentors and professors.

Since the 22-year-old computer science major first arrived at City College three years ago, he has knocked on as many doors as possible in search of opportunity.

Behind one of those doors Liu procured up to $30,000 a year for the next three years to help pay for his college education.

This year the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation awarded Liu its 2014 Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship.

“This scholarship I heard of last year,” says Liu. “There’s a girl who won this scholarship last year from [American River College], so I figured I’d give it a shot.”

The scholarship program was started in 2002 to help the nation’s best low-income community college students seeking to complete bachelor’s degrees, according to the foundation’s website.

Only 85 students nationwide were given the award this year, and Liu is the first City College student to receive it.

Students who have looked for tutoring help in the Math Lab or through MESA might recognize Liu with his jet black hair frizzed into an Einstein-like bulb and his inquisitive eyes peering through thin-framed, black-rimmed glasses.

Liu came to the United States with parents in 2011 from Jinan, the capital of Shandong province in Eastern China. Known as “Jason” on campus, Liu says he chose his American name on a whim.

“It sounds good,” he says.

Liu learned to speak English at City College, spending four months in the ESL program and then in regular English courses. His grasp of English was good enough by his second semester that he began tutoring his fellow students in math and science, subjects he has excelled at since childhood.

“A couple times during class I would present one of the topics,” says mathematics and statistics Professor Matthew Schutte. “And Jason would ask to come up to the board and try to explain it the way he understood it. I would give him the chalk and say, ‘Sure.’”

Schutte says Liu was impressive from the moment they met.

“Jason approached me during office hours one day and introduced himself,” says Schutte. “He said, ‘My name is Jason Liu, and I’ll be taking your calculus course next semester.’ This was one month prior to the start. And he said, ‘Is there anything I can do to prepare myself for the upcoming semester?’ And I thought, ‘Wow.’”

Schutte gave Liu some problem sets to work on.
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“He came back in two weeks and basically said, ‘I did them all,’” says Schutte. “It was obvious from my initial meeting with him that he was going to be a unique individual.”

As a boy in Jinan, Liu says he remembers always trying to learn how things worked.

“When I was child, I played with the electronics, the remote cars,” says Liu. “I would tear them apart and put them back. That’s how I got started. Then I got into programming. I learned how to program in elementary school and high school.”

Liu’s aptitude for the sciences and his dedication to his education is one of the main reasons his parents moved to the United States.

RISE counselor Keith Muraki says Liu’s story is common among immigrants. Liu attributes a large portion of his success at City College to Muraki and the RISE program.

“Parents give up everything—I mean, everything—to come here for their kids,” says Muraki “And in Jason’s case, really it was just for him.”

Muraki says Liu took on a huge amount of responsibility.

“[Liu] had to find out how to rent an apartment, how to find a job,” says Muraki. “He was thrown into the adult world right away. And I think the unique and amazing part is how well he did.”

To help make ends meet, Liu works multiple part-time jobs at City College—at the Learning Skills and Tutoring Center, Math Lab, MESA and CIS computer lab—all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA. Liu took advantage of every type of assistance available for lower-income students.

“Sac City has plenty of resources [for students] to accomplish their educational goals,” says Liu. “I just figured to ask the right people for help. That’s basically what I did.”

Muraki says what makes Liu special is what Liu wants to do with his education.

“He wants to help people,” says Muraki. “That’s what makes his story comprehensive—how it comes full circle.”

In his scholarship application Liu wrote, “I strongly believe that knowledge has the power to change a person’s life, so I am willing to help others learn as much as they can.”

Liu will be attending University of California, Berkeley, this fall. With the scholarship money, Liu hopes to research artificial intelligence and become a computer engineer. But he adds that he will miss City College.

“It has been a wonderful journey,” says Liu.

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