July 14, 2011; Source: Asian Journal Most Americans share the image of Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) students as model minorities, bespectacled nerds who can solve complex math problems while simultaneously playing the violin. A report by the National Commission on Asian American and Pacific Islander Research in Education points out that this dominant portrait of AAPI students has been “heavily influenced by stereotypes and false perceptions, rather than empirical evidence.”

The reality is that not all AAPI students are cut from the same mold. The AAPI population in the U.S. is a rather heterogeneous lot. According to the Census Bureau, it is composed of 48 different ethnic groups from the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian Subcontinent and the Pacific Islands. Asian Pacific American Islanders speak hundreds of languages and dialects, practice various religions and come from all socioeconomic groups. Not all AAPI students make it to Ivy League colleges or concert halls.

The Asian Pacific Islander American Scholarship Fund (APIASF), acknowledging the reality that many AAPI students come from families that live at or below the poverty level, is awarding $1.2 million in scholarships to more than 500 deserving AAPI students for the upcoming academic school year.

APIASF is the nation’s largest nonprofit devoted solely to providing college scholarships for AAPI youth. It was founded to meet an urgent need in the AAPI community, which has been disadvantaged by its model minority status. The organization’s website sheds light on the little known fact that many AAPI groups have educational levels below the national average. The fund awards anywhere from $2,500 to $10,000 to high school and college students, many of whom are the first in their family to attend college.—Erwin de Leon