The Founder's Annual Letter

Ivan Fan

September 2013

To the friends and members of the AYEI:

As students, we are the only ones who can truly understand what we want to be when we “grow up.” While nobody can show us exactly what to do, there are many people in our communities who can guide us and ease our future path.

Finding out one’s strengths and what one loves is the core idea behind many of our expanding mentorship and career-shadowing programs. The interaction between mentees and mentors participating in our professional mentorship program benefits both mentees in their career preparation efforts and mentors in developing relationships with future employees. Our efforts to connect high school students and alums, local university students and employers have resulted in many successful partnerships. In collaboration with Lawrence University, AYEI members participated in a pilot run of the Lawrence Scholars Sessions—establishing links to future post-graduation opportunities for high school seniors. These programs have added a strongly apprenticeship-based aspect to teaching and education—the efficacy of which I hope will translate to changes in education public policy.

The power of this idea is why I believe the Appleton Youth Education Initiative is really an American Youth Education Initiative—a grassroots, student-led movement that will fundamentally refocus secondary education in our country.

We would like to thank the Appleton area school district faculty and administration for their ongoing support. They have been phenomenal in providing the ideal environment where a student-led organization such as the AYEI can thrive. We would also like to thank Patti Milka of the Chamber of Commerce for her help in expanding the mentorship program this past year.

This year we welcomed two new advisory board members: Lori Hilt, assistant professor of psychology at Lawrence University, and Patti Jorgensen, vice president of student and community development at Fox Valley Technical College. We extend our deepest gratitude to you both for your dedication to our cause. Finally, we would like to thank Lee Allinger, Renee Boldt, James Huggins, Gail Kagen and John Mielke for their continued, invaluable service. The rest of the board joins me also in congratulating Naomi Roselaar for her stewardship of the AYEI as an excellent president—I look forward to being classmates with you again next year when you become a Yalie. A special thank you to the other student officers Hannah, Mallory, Phuntso, Brigid, Jing, Liza, and all of the other students on the executive board for their work.

I believe the future of America depends on how successful we are connecting young people with work they love and excel at.

Discover what you love—then do it. I hope that you will join our cause.

Ivan Fan

Founder and Advisory board member, Appleton Youth Education Initiative

August 2013

August 2012

To the friends and members of the AYEI:

As the fourth generation of leadership assumes responsibility, this is an exciting moment for us to again reflect on our progress and to identify future strategies for helping our students as they prepare for life after high school.

This past year, we continued to create and to improve upon projects that make our high school students more prepared to excel in an increasingly dynamic global landscape. I thank Nelson Milbach for his stewardship of the AYEI this past year—the other student officers Damon Dickinson, Wayne Sheu, Eleanor Miller, Naomi Roselaar, Annaleigh Wetzel and Mackenzie Andropolis—as well as all of the other students on the Executive board for their accomplishments.

Enhancing teacher effectiveness and providing personalized learning is perhaps the single, most important policy issue facing public education today. American students are performing at a lower level disproportionate to their peers in other developed countries and solving this issue requires a significant effort on the part of us students. Government can force us to stay in school, but it is not necessarily the best at creating the most innovative programs. That’s where we come in.

Throughout the past year, we fostered strong relationships with organizations in the community to expand our programs. In partnership with the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce and the Appleton Area School District school board, our students were able to offer our community leader mentorship program to more students and garner more mentors in a host of different industries.

I want to express my deepest gratitude to advisory board members Lee Allinger, Renee Boldt, James Huggins, Mary Harp-Jirschele, Gail Kagen and John Mielke—as well as members of the Chamber of Commerce and the school board for their devotion and contributions to the program. We are doubling our efforts this coming year and will continue to improve on the project after receiving helpful feedback from our student participants.

The newly created AYEI Alumni Association helped host our first annual College Freshman Meet and Greet event last fall, bringing together college freshman from around the country and high school students to give younger students the opportunity to interact with peers whose shoes they will soon be filling. The association itself now includes AYEI graduates attending colleges across the country: Butler, Cleveland Institute of Music, George Washington, Lawrence, MIT, Northwestern, Stanford, St. Norbert College, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, West Point, Williams, and Yale.

In tandem with our plans to create a Disadvantaged Students Assistance Program, we organized our collection of study resources into a library that students can access and check out books from for free. As part of our commitment to promote a sustainable future and to provide equal opportunities for students of all backgrounds, the AYEI continues to improve and add to this collection, holding large-scale book drives throughout the year in which students can donate materials that they no longer need. In addition, our ACT prep program was taught, once again, by high-scoring members of the AYEI student board and drew students from multiple school districts.

AYEI embodies the need for a strong culture of education in our society and for harnessing the creative energies of our youth. As students we must be self-driven to succeed, to listen to our teachers and to innovate at our schools. We have to do our part now so that we are capable of helping to shape strong and healthy communities of tomorrow. We are doing so for the wellbeing of our parents, our future children, our country and ourselves because as cliché as it sounds—we are the future.

We are grateful to our members and partners for their continued support of the organization. In particular, I want to thank our Advisory board members and all the individuals of the education community in Wisconsin who we work with. We have walked the path from a fledgling to an award-winning organization over the past four years, and I am proud to be a part of our ongoing journey.

Thank you, and I look forward to an excellent year ahead.

Ivan Fan
Founder and Advisory board member, Appleton Youth Education Initiative
August 2012


June 2011

To the friends and members of the AYEI:

A year has gone by since my generation of student leadership passed the torch to a new group of our classmates. These students have done an outstanding job working to improve education and I feel honored to write about their accomplishments. For me, it is so rewarding to be part of something that gives back to society and serving the AYEI as an Advisory board member continues to be an enriching learning experience. I would like to use this year’s letter to reflect on our activities and to describe how we are working to better prepare our students entering an ever-changing global work force.

AYEI’s continued success draws entirely from the members of community who continue to believe in its mission. With an expanding alumni base and plans to create an alumni association, we now have AYEI graduates from the past two years attending colleges including the Cleveland Institute of Music, Lawrence, MIT, UW-Madison, UW-Milwaukee, West Point, Williams, and Yale. Together, students from both years have contributed more that 2500 hours of community service. With our alumni association we plan to provide contacts for students interested in matriculating at schools alumni are attending or have attended, as well as to aid students along their way as they move beyond their high school careers.

This year we implemented many projects planned during the first year of AYEI’s formal existence as well as several new projects. Much of learning occurs not only in the classroom, but also in activities outside, and the interaction between students and their peers, teachers and mentors can often lead to greater insights of the mind compared to those from a pdf.

Our ACT prep program drew students from multiple school districts and was taught entirely by high-scoring members of the AYEI student board.

AYEI members also organized a district-wide textbook drive and collected more than $1,000 worth of books to be distributed to students in need.

AYEI’s website was put to good use as we increased accessibility to tutoring services for students through a convenient online form.

Special thanks to Executive board member Nelson Milbach for his vision to apply for the Pepsi Refresh Project Scholarship and the work he put into leading the efforts to craft the application. At the time we applied, however, applications had been closed due to a cap on the number of applicants. We look forward to trying even harder for the scholarship, valued at $5,000 to $25,000, next year with a new project idea.

After the hard work of both last year and this year’s student leadership, our community leader mentorship program pairing students with professional leaders took off at the end of the school year. This program will expand even more in the coming fall, and we plan to open applications for all our high school students beginning next January.

Also for next year, AYEI is considering plans to create a Disadvantaged Students Assistance program. The program would help students from lower-income families to succeed in academics—evening the playing field with targeted projects providing free resources.

Finally, we should not forget that at the base of the AYEI we are a philanthropic organization. We will continue to raise funds for our projects and deeply appreciate your contribution toward improving education for our students.

Before we welcome AYEI’s third generation of student leadership this summer, I would again like to thank our members and partners for their continued support of the organization. I want to express my gratitude to our Advisory board members and to all the individuals of the education community involved in this journey. Most important, I want to thank Joanne Zhou for her stewardship of the AYEI this past year as a wonderful president—the other student officers Andrew, Chelsea, Chris and Will— as well as all of the other students on the Executive board for their accomplishments.

The government can only do so much to educate our students. Our efforts must begin at the grass-roots level—at the individual level. A self-driven will to learn must prevail in a world predicated upon knowledge and understanding. We are still at the beginning of the journey, but it is crucial that we take the steps necessary to make the world a better place one student at a time.

In recognition of all of AYEI’s activities, the organization was recently nominated by the Fox Cities Volunteer Center as one of twelve new and upcoming organizations that have a positive impact on the community.

We would love for you to become involved with the AYEI—join us as a member of the initiative, participate in our programs, donate to the fund, and submit your project ideas.

I look forward to working with you next year.

Ivan Fan
Founder and Advisory board member, Appleton Youth Education Initiative
June 2011


April 2010

To the friends and members of the AYEI:

It is with great excitement that I send out the first of the annual letters I plan to write about our work at the Appleton Youth Education Initiative. A year ago, as our organization began to make its presence known in the community, I was encouraged by my family and friends to write about the AYEI and the dream that started it. I would like to tell you why I founded the initiative, our goals for enriching the education of our high school students, what we are working on today, and our vision for the future.

The AYEI, first and foremost, is a student-driven philanthropic institution with a fundamental mission to help high-school students in the transition into adult life and in pursuing the opportunities of continuing education. The organization serves to allocate grants and organize projects based on that mission. Last year, I formally established our Board of Directors and helped create our component fund.

We have three main goals to accomplish.

First, we seek to represent a movement of students who are self-driven to succeed. What really makes the AYEI so special is that it encourages students to get involved in their own education. Students can submit their special project ideas, apply to become an AYEI member, take the initiative to apply for grants, and watch their own ideas become realities.

Our second goal is to organize and support successful projects. To do this, we begin with ideas. Ideas are what make people, organizations, and the world go round. By drawing from the pool of talent we have in our youth, we can gain a different angle of insight and we can begin changing the way we educate students from the bottom up, a grass-roots movement in itself.

Finally, we will raise funds. True, there are many ways to improve education without money; however, as we begin to expand and give out grants for increasingly broad projects, it is imperative to have funds to help pay for these innovative endeavors.

This year we have worked on starting several projects in the Appleton Area School District. These include a community leader mentorship program that pairs students with civic and professional leaders from whom they can learn; a student mentorship program in which high school students gain a taste of higher education from college students; a college academic seminar program in which local university professors and lecturers are invited to speak to upperclassmen; and discussions on how to reshape the senior year in order to alleviate the effects of “senioritis.”

The Appleton Youth Education Initiative, finally, represents new opportunities and new possibilities based on the fact that graduating from high school today is not the end of the journey, but the beginning of another. We have the opportunity to make breakthroughs in the way we educate our youth so that they get the most out of their high school years. Innovation and good ideas coupled with action and money can go a long way—but the drive has to come from somewhere else—from us. The AYEI represents that drive—a movement started by an American teenager and driven by determined American students who want to learn and succeed in their lives.

Improving the way we prepare our students for life after high school not only will improve their competitiveness in a world that becomes more so every day, but also will help prepare the next generation of Americans for leadership. While living in an economically burdened America that faces spending cuts in education, nothing can help America’s youth more than a self-driven will to succeed.

Three years ago, I realized I wanted to do something to help my district continue to provide enriching opportunities for future students. I wanted to give something back after receiving so much. Three years later, after the economic recession hit, I finally decided to act on this desire, and so the AYEI changed from an idea into reality.

I want to thank all of our members and partners for what they have accomplished so far in the past year. In particular I would like to express our deepest gratitude to Mr. Allinger, Mr. Huggins, and Mr. Jordan, without whom we could not have come so far, my good friends Meg, Dave, Cal, and Will for their energy and determination, Ms. Krause of the Appleton Education Foundation for her invaluable guidance, Congressman Kagen for his support, and finally Mrs. Boldt, Ms. Jirschele, Dr. Mielke, and particularly the Hietpas family, without whom nothing would have happened from the very beginning. Finally, I would like to thank the entire board for all the great work I know we will do together in the years ahead. To everyone else who played a part in the creation of something truly special, you know who you are, and we are truly grateful.

Despite the fact that I will be attending college in New Haven next year, I will continue to serve on the AYEI advisory board. In college, I will use the knowledge and ideas I gain to support the ongoing work of the initiative.

I encourage you to become involved with the AYEI. Apply for a grant to support education, donate to the fund, submit your project ideas, and join us as a member of the initiative.

Ivan Fan
President and Founder, Appleton Youth Education Initiative
April 2010