Our 2021 College Scholarship Winner: Celine Ha

Meet Celine Ha our 2021 Carol Phan College Scholarship winner.

Congratulations, Celine!

Celine won while we are all STILL in the coronavirus pandemic against 4 other excellent applicants. At some point, when the pandemic eases and more people are vaccinated (like me!), I will meet with Celine and her parents for an “official” Starbucks picture and to give her the certificate’s frame.

In the meantime…..

Celine is planning to attend Cal Poly San Luis Obispo majoring in Computer Engineering.

Celine submitted a paper and web site detailing how she and her team are helping Tracy, CA Seniors understand and use technology. Very cool!

Below is Celine’s written submission and here is the link to her web site.

Growing up, some kids are blessed to be able to visit their grandparents who are just a walk or drive away, while for others meeting our grandparents only comes once a year or even never. For most of my childhood, my grandparents, who live across the globe, had never visited the states even once before. Before meeting them, I imagined that grandma would be the type to bake cookies and read me stories, while grandpa would play card games and take me fishing-the typical grandparents that other kids had. But meeting them was even better: I was introduced to the fragrant taste of rice and meat, the Chinese folk tales and life lessons, and the joyful and hard-working personality of my grandparents. Each summer they flew back home and came back the next, I was always devastated and missed them very much. Seeing how they lived so far away, my grandparents struggled to communicate with me and my family although they really wanted to. I saw them struggle with overcoming technology barriers and feelings of isolation. After I was done with homework, I would be up talking to my grandparents who had questions on the phone about technology, how to operate around social media, and helping them stay connected with the friends and family they couldn’t see in person. The joy my grandparents felt from connecting with me over social media even if they were miles away, lead me to realize how there are many families who are separated and cannot connect with each other, just as my grandparents struggled to communicate with us. I took it upon myself to find a way to bridge this gap.

That summer, I was inspired to spin up a program called Tech Savvy Seniors. It began with designing a year-long curriculum of technology such as how to navigate around Facebook, recruiting and training a team of dedicated volunteers for a month across the high schools within Tracy, and making numerous calls and appointments with regional activities managers at senior assisted living communities in town for a chance to collaborate. My team headed to Brookdale, a senior assisted living community, Saturdays 7 times throughout the year for two hours where I The beauty of technology and my realization about my passion for overcoming barriers led the classes while trained team members offered one-on-one assistance to help seniors through every step. One senior who had a passion for nutrition named Alice, felt so empowered by this new knowledge, she told me that she wanted to lead her own nutrition class at the living community using PowerPoint! Another time, another senior named Dave came to us, telling us that he was trying to connect with his wife over the phone and needed our help. I learned about how these amazing seniors had so much life knowledge, wisdom, and stories to share, but unfortunately, they were struggling to navigate around a world gone digital. From seeing their determination to learn technology skills by diligently asking questions and taking notes from the PowerPoint, and coming to classes just to be able to communicate with their loved ones, for the first time in my life, I was extremely inspired to chase my own dreams even if they were outside of my comfort zone.

Watching over the conversations at the dining tables between the elderly and the young, I was filled with emotions by the power of connection and how it all started with my own desire for change. A scrappy community service club turned into the most memorable experience of my life, when months of hard work was faced with countless rejection, and I struggled at something far outside my comfort zone as an introverted and studious girl. In the grueling months before TSS even began its launch, barely two members showed up to club meetings, and no one was interested. Many were driven away by the weird name, no GPA boost, and low popularity of TSS. Many said ‘no’ when I approached them, while others didn’t care. But even the many successful businesses we know today faced tough challenges as start-ups during their early beginnings. When TSS was close to being shut down due to us having only two members, for months I advertised the club in all my classes, spread fliers throughout all the walls of Tracy high’s buildings, checking emails constantly like a madwoman for new volunteers. But as I learned from seeing the elderly tackle technology, life is not about settling in a bubble, life is about going outside of our comfort zones and chasing our dreams, whether it’s to connect with loved ones, or to make a positive impact in our community. And indeed, it all paid off. Soon afterwards, we received an influx of volunteers, my club was saved, and all the months of technology courses I developed were put to great use during our one year activity at the nursing homes.

Many big plans were cancelled due to COVID-19, but our club did not stop overcoming these barriers. The prospect of leaving our seniors to figure out the technology themselves, and struggle to stay connected with their loved ones during this pandemic ached my heart, and I knew that using social media became more of a necessity than ever during quarantine. Consequently, my friend and I had worked on building a website, recording tutorials on YouTube to help parents and students with distance learning, and providing the nursing homes with instructional manuals through the pandemic for the seniors. (Here is our website)

The incredibly rewarding feeling, that I was able to make even a small positive impact in these seniors’ lives, lead me to be sure beyond a doubt about the major that I am so excited to be diving into in the next 4 years. After creating a community service club to teach seniors technology, I realized how my deep passion since childhood for mathematics and STEM, could translate to a passion for making a positive impact on the lives of others. I will be studying computer engineering at Cal Poly SLO. I desire to “learn by doing” as much as I can in college, returning back to where it all started with TSS. Perhaps developing an app for seniors using AI to automatically execute functions on phone through voice recognition! This may sound dramatic, but the value of TSS’s mission is my dream. My dream is to overcome barriers through innovation. Innovation can make the world an even better place in the future, by connecting us with each other, but we shouldn’t move too quickly and leave behind those who came before us and those whom we care about.

Submitted by: Celine Ha

❤️Here are some photos of my team and I and the wonderful memories of serving the community❤️

What Beautiful Leaves!!
Ina and Alice taking notes
Stacy and Sophie helping out a couple
<<This is me, leading a class>>

Go here to see all the scholarship recipients since 2011.

If you are interested, WE visited Cal Poly in 2011, as Kristen was accepted there (but ultimately chose to go to the University of the Pacific).



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