Brian Tom is the CEO and founder of the non-profit organization BLINDSTART of America; he has utilized both the mental and physical hardships in his life to fuel him to help others in his community. In his early 20s, Brian Tom developed Glaucoma, a group of eye conditions that damage the optic nerve; due to this, he underwent a series of 20 eye surgeries throughout the next 15 years. Currently, he has lost complete sight in his left eye, and his right eye is badly damaged and blurred. It was through this arduous journey that he found his passion in public speaking, volunteer service, and leadership.
Tom wanted to give back to his alumni-school, Whitney High School, by providing a unique opportunity to the high schoolers. In November of 2019, he kickstarted the winter session of his bi-annual fellowship: the True Vision internship. This internship has been offered by himself and California Educational Centers since 1995. When asked why he continuously offered such a great opportunity to high school students, he stated “Life is more than simply being able to read the ‘big E’ on a vision chart. It is about what you are able to read in yourself and others. 3 months after starting my business, California Educational Centers, I asked myself, how can we help these highschoolers beyond what they learn in school?”
6 highschool interns from Whitney High School were chosen, through a resume and interview process, to assist Brian Tom in a variety of ways. The focuses include videography, photography, writing e-books, and marketing. 2 of the interns, Justin Ji, a sophomore, and Maya Alverez-Harmon, a junior, have been chosen as Math Olympiad coaches, and are working with the nearby elementary school, Wittmann Elementary School, weekly to train a team of young students. “As a Math Olympiad coach, I review the curriculum, look for areas of improvements that students have, and create alternate solutions to problems to help students understand in a different way” Justin says, in an interview. Brian Tom’s Math Olympiad team have ranked in the top 10% of the nation in the past, so the interns are currently working diligently to teach the students the techniques and formulas needed to ace the test.
The remaining 3 interns, myself, Sophia Chuesakul-Linville, and Siddhant Watwani work hand-in-hand directly with Brian Tom, to assist him in any way possible. I am currently working with Mr. Tom to write an e-book of life lessons to pass on to his daughter, in case he is unable to, due to his medical problems. The e-book will be released onto Amazon this year.
Sophia, however, works in a different area of focus. When asked what her interning responsibilities included, she responded: “As a CEC intern, I mainly deal with designs, like photography, posters, and banners.” She believes internships are important for highschoolers because “students gain all kinds of experience for the career field they are planning or are interested in pursuing, which is a good way to get started for their future.”
Siddant Watwani has “ tutored a group of students on [his] own, something [he] never thought [he] would be able to do independently” He believes internships are crucial to high schoolers because “they teach us how to be independent and responsible, and they give us valuable skills that will stick with us throughout our careers and our lives.”
Further inquiries about California Educational Centers can be sent to ochanco@CECtutoring.com or through phone: (562) 860-7633.
Stella Hong, Grade 11
Whitney High School