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Congratulations to the Winners of the Keeping Your Future Zesty Scholarship!

After sifting through over 70 incredible entries, we are so pleased to announce the two winners of the first-ever Keeping Your Future Zesty Scholarship, Jimmy Dang and Lydia Yejin Lee!

Jimmy Dang

Our scholarship committee was very impressed with Jimmy's story. He is currently studying Computer Science at the University of California, San Diego, and is expected to graduate Class of 2021. He's worked extremely hard in his undergraduate career thus far and has an incredible vision for his future, and how the scholarship will keep his future Zesty. Here's his story:

I first visited my family in Vietnam three years ago. Upon seeing my younger cousin, I was shocked to realize his life was panning out in a drastically different direction than my own. While I had a top-tier education that prepared me for a rigorous lifestyle, my cousin’s inadequate schooling was scraping the bottom of the educational barrel. I constantly had the support of my peers and organizations around me; he had to scramble to find ways to sustain himself academically. The gaping void between our qualities of life was seemingly irreparable.

That same year, I bore witness to the defeat of the current champion of Go by Google’s AlphaGo, a program utilizing artificial intelligence. Sitting in awe, I realized the potential in AI; I could help children, like my cousin, gain access to a proper education by implementing artificial intelligence. To begin furthering my limited knowledge of AI, I joined my high school’s STEM Society and UCSD’s Qualcomm Institute.

As I enriched myself with the neurological and computational uses of artificial intelligence, I simultaneously began to research educational inequalities and its causes. One such cause is teachers’ inability to cater to a student’s needs, as students in need of extra assistance require proper supplements that only a well-resourced teacher can provide. The once-seemingly irreparable gap in education inequalities wouldn’t exist if AI could bridge the differences in teacher resource levels.

Ever since then, I’ve dedicated myself to fighting the inequalities in education that exist in third world countries. I started off on a smaller scale in my local community by becoming a board member and instructor at CS Chicas, a program that encourages young women to get involved in computer science as teens. Now, I want to make a difference on a larger scale by attempting to harness the power of AI that I once was amazed by.

At UCSD, I am currently a Computer Science major with plans to minor in Philosophy. Currently, I am taking courses that will help build my foundation to be able to efficiently learn and program AI models in the future. To me, computer science is my hobby, passion, and life. There is nothing I would rather be doing on a lazy Sunday weekend. Of course, I must also think about the implications of computer science and thus, I know a background in philosophy will help cover this. Combining the two, I will have the required assets to begin the journey to accomplishing my dream.

With the support I need to take my first steps, I would work with local public schools that cannot afford the specialized help disadvantaged students require by getting into contact with them through various on-campus networking resources. Beyond that, I would work on incorporating artificial intelligence into the Vietnamese education system by setting up deep learning networks that can focus resources on students based on their individual performances. The possibilities of computer science are almost never-ending, allowing me to pave my own path to success.

Uplifting the flawed education system that my cousin has to go through will be the first step in allowing him and millions of other children to realize their potentials. I aspire to make a difference in the education system on a global scale and my area of study perfectly integrates the numerous aspects of all of my interests. Only by studying computer science can I properly advance my education while acquiring the necessary skills to, one day, change the world.

Lydia Yejin Lee

Our scholarship committee was very impressed with Lydia's story as well. She is currently majoring in Pharmaceutical Studies at Rutgers University, and is expected to graduate Class of 2021. Her vision and drive are what spoke to the committee, and her tenacity is a true testament to how the scholarship will keep her future Zesty. Here's her story:

Every single moment of life, one has the power to impact others. Even a smile in passing can make someone’s day much better just as a small gesture can move someone’s heart. I can never forget the tears of this one gentle, kind tenant at Mission First Housing for the Homeless. One day, out of the blue, this tenant lost everything—family, job, and health due to a stroke and two heart attacks. She had almost every single chronic condition one can imagine, and this was not because she was lazy or unmotivated. Even a week before she had her stroke, she worked two jobs as a bus driver and a medical assistant. Yet, the most surprising aspect was that when she came to us, she did not know what a healthy lifestyle meant. For many, this task is so simple as you can just use Google but for her, who does not have access to a smartphone or a computer, this was all very confusing. Thus, as a health and wellness intern through an interdisciplinary program called Bridging the Gaps, I helped her in every way possible from finding welfare to healthy recipes.

These kinds of experiences made me realize the problem in the U.S. healthcare is due to such reactive instead of a preventive system. If she had medical insurance before her stroke, it is very likely she would not have had her stroke. Yet, even with so many programs, she did not know where or who she can get help from. Even after her stroke, she did not know how to improve her life as her doctors do not have the time in their hands to sit and guide every patient each step of the way.

Another significant problem I see is that they are simply not as educated in looking for resources because they are so busy making sure their family members are housed and fed. Who can blame them for not taking care of themselves when they were just being selfless. I am aware that the world is not fair, but I strive to make it fairer than it is today. Thus, I realize again how blessed I am to have this opportunity through education to become the most accessible health care professional, a pharmacist, who can make a significant difference in the lives of others.

Evidently, my current studies align perfectly with my passion and ambition in helping those underserved communities. Thus, I am ensured that I will be extremely zesty post-grad as long as I pursue what keeps me and those around me happy. My education would provide the pathological and medical knowledge necessary in helping the patients clinically. My research and analyzing education would further amplify the effectiveness and efficiency of my work. The interdisciplinary collaboration for patient-centered care will continue developing my soft skills. Leadership by participating in different organizations would improve my communication critical in patient care. Real-life experiences through rotations would allow me the chance to practice what I have learned before graduating. Using these invaluable skills and experiences, I would be able to help myself and help those around me.

To outline some goals I have, I hope to participate in a comprehensive, futuristic clinic that encompasses a thorough health assessment through utilizing new innovations and studies. There are so many recent advancements in medicine but so little goes into practice. To continue revolutionizing this field of medicine, it is necessary to have clinical data to maximize the potential of the invention and academia. This clinic would enhance this area exponentially.

Through this clinic, I hope to provide a personalized, precise, and effective continuum of care to the patients of my clinic. In addition to this clinic, I hope to utilize the health assessment devices to create a small kiosk or designated area that can be placed in local pharmacies for a low cost. Overall, I hope to change our reactive healthcare system to a preventive model of care. This kind of care is the most cost-efficient and life-saving in the long run. Healthcare can be very costly and inaccessible to many, especially those underserved patients. Yet they are often the ones who are plagued with many health conditions. Ultimately, I hope to conquer this barrier to health care and provide innovative access to all without income restrictions.

I truly hope to serve all community members with my expertise gained from my education to make this world a better place for all.

We were very impressed not only with our winning candidates but also with all of the students who took the time to submit to the Keeping Your Future Zesty Scholarship. Congratulations once again to Jimmy and Lydia- the team at Zesty.io is extremely excited to watch you grow and have an impact!

By Chloe Spilotro

Hooked onto the platform since first using it through the Zesty.io Incubator Program at the University of San Diego. Passionate about all things marketing, IoT, and helping businesses leverage technology to grow and become major players in their industries.

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