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Student uses trust fund to award Chinese youth scholarships
STANFORD -- If you handed $200,000 to most 18-year-olds, they'd probably make a beeline for the nearest sports car dealership.
When Stanford student Patrick Chang recently gained control of a $200,000 trust fund from his parents, though, he went in a different direction.
Chang has decided to use the money - every cent of it - to set up a scholarship fund for Chinese students and teachers in the birthplace of his grandparents, the Beilun district of China's Ningbo City, on the East China Sea.
"I don't think I'll need the money, because I'm confident that with my degree and all the knowledge that I have accumulated at Stanford, I'll be able to find a job to support myself," Chang said.
"I decided if I set up a scholarship fund, I could benefit many more people."
Interest from the fund will be used to provide about 600 awards annually to outstanding elementary and secondary students whom Chang will personally select.
The prizes will range from $10 - about half a month's salary for most people in that port city - to $200. The highest awards will go to outstanding disabled students who wish to go to college.
Chang's interest in disabled students is a personal one. The son of Chinese immigrants, he broke his neck diving into a swimming pool four years ago. In addition to putting him in a wheelchair, the accident weakened his breathing muscles, subjecting him to frequent and lengthy illnesses.
Still, that didn't prevent him from graduating early from Monte Vista High School in Cupertino, Calif., or from taking the fast track through Stanford.
At 18, he already is a junior, majoring in economics. He plans to apply to graduate school next year. He speaks both English and Mandarin.
"When you have a disability, you have an opportunity to explore your potential and look inward," he said. "Perhaps the children who win these scholarships will look at me as an example. I am a disabled person, but I have cleared a path for myself to succeed."
Chang's first task in establishing the scholarship fund was to sell the idea to his father, a businessman who left mainland China in 1949 and built his savings through a family manufacturing business in Taiwan and real estate development in the United States.
"I had a detailed plan that I presented to my father, because I knew if I was going to give away $200,000, unless it was a well thought- out plan, he probably wouldn't agree," Chang said.
"He was shocked initially, but afterward he said he's a hundred percent behind me. After all, Ningbo City is his hometown too - he was raised there."
The elder Chang even traveled to China several times, to help his son make contact with local officials in the Ningbo Beilun district. They reacted to the plan with delight.
"The magistrate and deputy magistrate were really happy to help out. They were supportive all the way," Chang said. "In my opinion, it could not have been any more successful. More than a thousand people attended the scholarship dedication ceremony in October."
Chang's future plans include earning a graduate degree in economics. He would like to engineer a new management style for the Chinese people, so that he can help raise their standard of living.
As for his own standard of living, he says he'll get by.
"After I told my father about the scholarship fund, he told me a story about a Chinese general who sailed overseas with his troops, and then turned around and destroyed all their ships and provisions. He told his troops, 'Now we have to succeed because we cannot fail.'
"My father was telling me that my ship is basically destroyed - my money is gone - and from now on I need to succeed, because I cannot fail. This gives me extra motivation."
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