George Dong participated in the MIW program in fall of 2008 pursuing his interest in higher education. He immigrated to the United States from China when he was fifteen years old and barely spoke English. George’s parents never had the opportunity to obtain a decent education in China and when his father immigrated, he worked as a cook in a restaurant to support the family. Knowing how hard his parents worked and sacrificed for his future, George studied hard in school and was accepted to the University of Michigan.
At Michigan, George majored in English and took leadership roles in clubs concerned with social justice such as the NAACP, United Asian American Organization, and Migrant and Immigrant Rights Awareness. After gaining admission to the MIW program, George obtained an internship at the Association of American Universities (AAU) where he had the opportunity to research higher education policy issues. After attending and reporting on congressional hearings on higher education issues throughout the semester, he focused on the issue of immigrant education for his MIW research project because “approximately 65,000 youth do not get the opportunity to access higher education due to their undocumented status.” His research “aimed to solve the mysterious college admissions puzzle and support education advancement for these students.”
When George returned to Michigan after a rewarding semester in D.C., he was selected to be the student commencement speaker for the Class of 2009. After graduation, George joined Teach For America and taught high school freshman English and public speaking in the inner-city of Chicago. He joined Teach For America “to make sure that everyone in this country has the opportunities my father never had.” George was recently awarded a Fulbright scholarship to China, the country his parents left years ago so that their son would have more opportunities. He will conduct research on access to higher education for ethnic minorities in Yunnan Province by examining several conditions that might be inhibiting their education advancement such as lack of government funding and a shortage of qualified teachers.
As a first generation college student, George truly is the embodiment of the American Dream. The MIW program helped George learn more about the realities of access to education in the U.S. and ultimately, pursue his American Dream. Throughout college and beyond, he has worked to create more education opportunities for those less fortunate in the U.S. and now China. This Michigan and MIW alum is truly one of the leaders and the best.