Two students who overcame hardship win Chromebooks from Trustee Lisa Kaplan

--- Published on May 04th 2015 ---
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WANTED: Two high school students who don’t give up, no matter the odds, and have a fierce determination to succeed in college and in life.

Trustee Lisa Kaplan found those qualities in Jaskaran Singh and Nicole Osorio, awarding them new Chromebook computers Friday that she bought herself through the “Closing the Digital Divide Scholarship” she created last year through the Natomas Schools Foundation.

Even more importantly, perhaps, Kaplan gave the two graduating seniors a card with her cellphone and email address, inviting them to contact her if they ever need advice or mentoring.

Her message to Jaskaran and Nicole was simple: I believe in you.

“We know there are challenges, and I think young adults who are able to overcome challenges show their strength and ability to succeed because they don’t give up,” Kaplan said. “Those are the kids I want to reward.”

Jaskaran attends Natomas High School and Nicole, Inderkum High. Both have overcome modest financial circumstances to succeed academically, to help others, and to set their sights on college and professional careers – Jaskaran wants to be a computer engineer, while Nicole strives to be a civil engineer, perhaps focusing on water resources.

Kaplan’s parents were not college educated, but they told her as a child that she could do whatever she wanted, as long as she worked hard and put her mind to it, she said. She ultimately graduated from law school and now owns her own law firm. Her Chromebook scholarship program is a way to support students who just need a helping hand in making academic dreams come true.

“It’s our responsibility to help our kids,” she said. “They’re already taking the first step to go to school. I want them to succeed, and I know that having access to electronics is so important these days. So, to the extent I can personally give back to our kids, I want to do that, so they can have an easier time in school.”

Jaskaran enjoys playing hockey and basketball. He has served as a waiter at a Sacramento banquet hall. His application included a letter of recommendation from a teacher who described him as a “very polite and well-spoken young man” who serves as a teacher’s assistant and volunteers to take on extra tasks.

Jaskaran, whose family immigrated to the United States, said he wants to help other immigrants because he knows how hard it is to start a new life.

“I’m going to use this computer for study,” Jaskaran said of Kaplan’s gift. “I’m going to write essays or whatever work the teacher gives me. Sometimes, my computer doesn’t work at home, so I have to go to the library. Now I can work at home.” Jaskaran said he also plans to help his sister out by letting her use the Chromebook because her computer is extremely slow.

Jaskaran said the hardship he overcame was to hang in there, and succeed, when his classes were getting harder and harder. "Then I thought, 'I won't give up,'" he wrote in his application. "And I have passed all my classes. So I can make my mom proud."

Nicole has a cumulative grade point average above 4.0. Her resume includes participation as Filipino Youth Club president, Inderkum Color Guard member, Symphonic Band clarinet player, Sunday School instructor, North Natomas library volunteer, and a Jamba Juice employee.  Academically, she won the AP Scholar Award, AP Biology Teacher Award, and a Rotary Club speech contest last year.

Nicole, in her application, said the hardship she overcame was to learn how to balance color guard participation, competitions, volunteering, homework and other obligations. At one time, she often was getting to sleep at  2 a.m. or 3 a.m. "Surely, I needed to develop efficient habits," she wrote. "And that's exactly what I did. I took a step and simply downloaded Wunderlist, a to-do list app, and I listed all that I had to accomplish with homework. Then, after a few weeks, I noticed a dramatic improvement."

Nicole said her "ultimate goal in life is to gain experience and education so that I am able to help others’  lives in ways such as ensuring the purity and cleanliness of our waters, funding scholarships for the qualified, and giving back to organizations and people who have helped me achieve my dreams."