Student ambassador fights for college awareness

By Khaylid Haywood

Bulk Lao aims to fight income inequity by introducing college awareness to high school and elementary students.

Thirty-one year old East Los Angeles College student Lao speaks with a confident and deep voice as if he was a born orator. In class he will most likely be the most vocal when it comes to answering questions and is never afraid to give his opinion on topics. His great public speaking ability, as well as his underdog background story, earned him his role as the ambassador of ELAC’s Outreach Program.

As the ambassador of the Outreach Program, Lao’s duty is to speak to students in the Alhambra and Los Angeles school districts about the great opportunities that ELAC has to offer. Usually the students he speaks to come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds where college is seen as an afterthought.

Lao’s background is something that the students can draw inspiration from, because like them Lao also came from the bottom not just economically but academically as well.

“I graduated high school with a 2.4 GPA and couldn’t get into any colleges. I had no direction as to what I wanted to do in life,” Lao said. When he enrolled in ELAC he was placed in English 26 and geometry. “I literally started at the bottom when I first arrived at ELAC,” said Lao.

His situation might have led him to just-drop out and get a job, which is what his parents wanted him to do. However, the teachers he encountered helped him unlock the potential he never knew he had.

More importantly his teachers instilled in him the idea that a university wasn’t an unrealistic goal. In fact, they spoke to him as if they knew for a fact he would transfer to a university one day.

After years of hard work Lao completed English 101 honors and calculus. In January he will be transferring to his dream school, University of Southern California. His story landed him the opportunity to speak with media representatives about his journey and success.

“I owe most of my success to the wonderful teachers here at ELAC. They pushed me to do my best,” said Lao.

His fellow club members also think very highly of him. Yareli Gerves has been in the program since the beginning. “He is great at connecting with people. He is really ambitious and passionate when it come to higher education,” Gerves said.

Lao is very passionate when it comes income inequality and feels that education can help close the gap. He feels that it’s the only way that people at the bottom can achieve economic ascendancy. “People in charge at the top usually make decisions that effects them and not the average person like you or me. If we want change we have to start at bottom and help open doors for young people faced with disadvantaged circumstances,” said Lao.

He usually speaks to the lowest funded high schools and elementary schools in the districts. Lao can relate to the students who come from hard working parents that want their children to get jobs right after high school. However, he feels that they don’t fully understand that going to college after high school will result in there kids have better jobs in the long run.

The Outreach Program isn’t without its critics.  Lao said that the program is met with some skeptics. “Let’s just say there to the right of me. The opposition feels that if children decide they want to work straight out of high school they should. I’m not saying its wrong but by instilling that mind frame in them at an early age is limiting their options in life,” Lao said.

Lao’s goal is to the get the message across to young kids and there parents that college is how we move up the social ladder. “It’s the best chance we have to fight income inequality,” Lao said. He is trying to give them benefits he never had in high school and hopefully inspire them to attend college.

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