Kids: Nation's Brainy Superstars
by Scott Stephens, Cleveland Plain Dealer, July 20, 2004
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tired, your poor . . . your scientists and your mathematicians.
The children of immigrants are becoming the top math and science
students in the United States, dominating academic competitions
and representing the strongest hope the nation has of keeping an
edge in high-tech and biomedical fields, according to a study
The National Foundation for American Policy, based in Arlington,
Va., found that foreign-born professionals and students are
contributing more to American society than first thought, and
that their children are the nation's rising intellectual
"If opponents of immigration had succeeded over the past 20
years, two-thirds of the most outstanding future American
scientists and mathematicians would not be here today because
U.S. policy would have barred their parents from entering the
United States," NFAP Executive Director Stuart Anderson, who
authored the report, said at a news conference.
The study found, for example, that 60 percent of the finalists
in the 2004 Intel Science Talent Search, 65 percent of the U.S.
Math Olympiad's top scorers and 46 percent of the U.S. Physics
Team members are children of immigrants.
One of the members of this year's physics squad is Elena Udovina,
18, of Solon.
The Hathaway Brown graduate was 12 when she came to the United
States from Russia.
In 2003, three of the top four Intel awardees were foreign-born.
In many ways, those young math and science whizzes are simply
following their elders. Today, more than 50 percent of the
engineers with doctorates working in the United States are
foreign-born, and 45 percent of the math and computer scientists
with doctorates were born outside the country, the study found.
The findings were of no surprise to Jeanette Grasselli Brown.
Brown, a member of the Ohio Board of Regents, was the daughter
of Hungarian immigrants who settled in Cleveland. She earned a
chemistry degree from Ohio University before going to work for
the Standard Oil Co. (Ohio), later BP America. She retired from
the company as director of corporate research.
"They get it," she said of the respect immigrants have for
education. "In my family, it was simply a mantra. There was no
discussion about it. I think that mentality still exists."
That mantra is firmly in place in the household of Taiwanese
immigrants Ching-Chih and Meei-Ling Lee. The Hudson couple came
to the United States in the early 1980s to pursue graduate
degrees at the University of Illinois.
This fall, their son, Benjamin Lee, will begin his first
semester at Harvard University. The Hudson High School graduate,
one of The Plain Dealer's top 10 Senior Standouts, ranked first
in his class and had a perfect SAT score.
His mother, Meei-Ling Lee, said the family's emphasis on
education was nothing unusual for immigrant families.
"We ask our children to be hard-working and appreciate all the
opportunities given to them," she said. "It's really a gift from
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