ALAMEDA -- It may not be common for students to take on an unsolicited class project without much direction, but that is exactly what four 10th-graders at Alameda Science and Technology did several months ago when they heard a call to be an inspiration for other schools.

The result of those efforts, a nearly 2½-minute video on inclusivity at the small, early college high school, is now one of at least 170 entries in a nationwide video contest for lockers and scholarship money from Pennsylvania-based school furnishings manufacturer Scranton Products.

Alameda Science and Technology Institute sophomores Joey Gong, Clarissa Wu, Yongqi Kuang and Anne Huang, from left to right, pose for a photo on March 2 in
Alameda Science and Technology Institute sophomores Joey Gong, Clarissa Wu, Yongqi Kuang and Anne Huang, from left to right, pose for a photo on March 2 in their schoolâ s history class. The four students are among 170 schools nationwide who are competing in a video contest for new school lockers and scholarships. ( Darin Moriki/For Bay Area News G )

"I think, because our community is very small, everyone knows everyone and we're all friends," Yongqi Kuang, one of the four video creators at ASTI, said during an after school meeting earlier this month. "We're very accepting, whereas if we were in a more traditional school, it would be really big and you can't converse with everyone."

Brian Rodriguez, the Alameda school's history teacher, said the group's journey began in the fall shortly after ASTI accepted its National Blue Ribbon School Award and he called on students to become an inspiration for other schools.

That's when four ASTI sophomores -- Kuang, Joey Gong, Clarissa Wu and Anne Huang -- embarked on a bold mission of their own: calling on President Barack Obama to open the nation's borders at a time when calls mounted to close it off to Syrian refugees.


"We're always talking about the history of women's rights, racism, and Jim Crow laws back then, and we're always discussing about how it was wrong and how it changed our society," Kuang said. "We kind of integrated inclusivity into that because our generation is more diverse."

Their monthlong project, a 2½-minute video posted on YouTube in January, later evolved into another endeavor that same month, when Scranton Products kicked off its annual nationwide video contest, focusing on inclusivity in schools.

"We wanted to take in a Syrian refugee because we wanted to include them in our community to show that they have a place in this world with us," Gong said. "We then thought that it really correlates to this contest about inclusivity, so we just decided to strive for it."

Over the next month, the group interviewed classmates at special events about their views on inclusivity, and as turns out, there was no dearth of interested participants.

"There's a lot of events and a lot of students who actually came to us and wanted to be a part of this video, but with the time limit, it was hard to fit everyone in," Gong said. "I think it mostly came down to what they were doing, how it actually connected with our school, and how their hard work is actually integrated into our curriculum."

Still, group members say, the video is just a snapshot of the school's diverse student body on an equally unique campus, set in two rows of brown portable classrooms next to the College of Alameda gym.

"Our school is one in which we want to teach students about things, but we also want them to do it, and they're doing it -- they're volunteering, starting tutoring programs, they're entering national contests about inclusivity, and they're trying to make our world a better place," Rodriguez said. "That's all a part of our curriculum, and these young ladies really took the ball and ran with it. I think they're very creative in their approach to this project."

But regardless of whether they win the up to $50,000 in new lockers and $7,500 in scholarship money up for grabs in this year's contest, many in the group say they are proud of what they produced.

"I'm proud that we got together because, in making this video, we connected all of the grade levels," Gong said. "I think it brought our community closer together and it actually brought awareness to how inclusivity is spread about in our school."

[[[Normal]]][[[Normal]]]{"Infobox Head"/}FYI
{"Infobox Text"/}To view the ASTI students' video, go to: