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CAPA Picnic: An Interview with Alan Cheung

Written by Emily Zhang, edited by Rachel Li

On October 14, 2017, CAPA members and the CAPA JRC club joined together for a picnic at Rock Creek Park. One notable attendee was Alan Cheung, the first Chinese-American member of the Board of Education, elected in 1990.

Cheung is a first-generation Chinese-American who immigrated to the U.S. from Hong Kong for college 61 years ago. Over the years, he changed his career seven times. He is now retired as a professional volunteer.

As a Board of Education member, Cheung worked with other members to elect the superintendent and the principals for the over 200 schools in Montgomery County. He also advocated for changes that should be made improve MCPS schools. “When I ran, Montgomery County [had] very few minorities. I felt very strongly that we needed to advocate for Asian Americans,” he said. “In 1990, there was not a single Asian American [who] served as a manager or administrator. They mostly worked, some of them teachers, some building management. [Asian Americans should be able] to serve at the management and top level.”

In addition to advocating for Asian American representation in schools, he wanted to introduce computers into schools to further enhance the learning experience. He strongly believed in what he calls personalized education. “I wanted to individualize, to look at your individual abilities [because] each child is different,” he said. Different students learn better in some ways than others, such as touching, seeing, and hearing. He wanted to achieve this individualization by smaller class sizes.

I wanted to individualize, to look at your individual abilities [because] each child is different.

Additionally, Cheung pushed for global education. “[Global education] integrates the best education of the East and the best education of the West, [which] is now what we call IB [International Baccalaureate,” he said. “When I was on the board I supported having IB.”

Now, as a retired volunteer, he hopes to help the community in any way possible. “One can not be safe at your home if your neighbors are not safe, one can not be successful individually if your friends and others are not successful”, Cheung said. “That’s why I want to improve the education and opportunities for every child.”

Furthermore, he wants to combine the best of two cultures. “Most of your classmates only have one culture, American culture, but [Asian Americans] have the benefits of Chinese culture too,” he said. “Being Chinese Americans, you have the best of two cultures.”

Cheung could potentially get a school named after him, and already has a CAPA scholarship under his name. “[It is] a great honor, to be recognized for what you have done,” he said.” He supports CAPA because he believes that it is a good idea for Chinese Americans to help the next generation of Asians and other students.

One of these days we [should] have a young Chinese-American to serve as the president of the United States of America.

As for the future of CAPA, he focuses on the next generation, hoping that CAPA can build young leaders to serve our community and the U.S. “One of these days we [should] have a young Chinese-American to serve as the president of the United States of America,” he said. To him, CAPA is the beginning foundation for these goals. Who knows—maybe the first Chinese-American president will be one of us junior reporters.

This article was provided by Chinese American Parents Association Junior Reporter Club (CAPA JRC) with members who interviewed, audio recorded, wrote, translated, and video recorded. CAPA JRC has 19 Montgomery County middle to high school students. They have created a bilingual platform delivering news and serving the community.


Instagram: @capa_jrc


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