Wednesday, May 23, 2018
News Roundup

Teen faces challenges head on

DOVER — She has founded her own nonprofit, taught Chinese to fellow students, helped orphans in her native China, met Gov. Rick Scott and currently serves as the editor in chief of her school newspaper.

At 17, Meng Fei Shen is taking on the world in a big way, but the Riverview resident also has learned that challenges also lie right here in Hillsborough County.

The Robinson High International Baccalaureate Programme senior was selected by a committee of community business leaders as a 2014 Bank of America Student Leader, an honor given to just five teens locally and 220 students across the nation. With the distinction came an eight-week paid internship with the Boys & Girls Club and a one-week conference in Washington, D.C.

Meng Fei recently completed her internship with the Boys & Girls Club of Dover, where she worked with a number of low-income and migrant children.

"My favorite thing Meng Fei said is the fact that this experience has woken her up to see that there is not only global poverty, but poverty just down the street," said Ann Shaler, Tampa Bay market manager and senior vice president for Bank of America. "She recognizes the balance between her big passion for culture and life and staying connected to her community."

• • •

While the experience gave Meng Fei a new perspective on the needs of those close to home, it was only one such experience on a resume that reveals a compassionate character that is uniquely inspiring.

In 2011, Meng Fei founded a nonprofit organization called Pandeagle Cultural Institute after spending two months volunteering at an orphanage in her native Nanjing, China. During her stay, Meng Fei worked with Chinese children known as "leftovers," children abandoned by their families because they were physically disabled, female, beyond the ideal adoption age or any number of other reasons.

"It's scary to think they won't have families," said Meng Fei, who tutored the children in English and math, but quickly recognized an even greater need. "I hope I gave them a better understanding of the U.S. They think the U.S. is all McDonald's and Burger King. I want to eliminate cultural stereotypes."

A few years prior, she took on the task of helping her fellow seventh-graders when she founded a club to teach them the language after school, a precursor to the institute.

"I think you should take advantage of your background. Knowing Chinese is a huge advantage in the 21st century," Meng Fei said. "Once you enter the career fields, you'll realize how important it is."

• • •

Pandeagle is a nonprofit organization that teaches the Chinese language and culture, and provides members with Chinese mentors within the community, while raising awareness and funds for impoverished children in China. In the next year, she and her club hope to raise enough money to go to China to experience the culture and volunteer with the children they are helping to support.

It has a high probability of happening, judging by Meng Fei's track record so far. She has seen Pandeagle grow and expand through her relentless efforts. The institute has five officers and three board members. Meng Fei has raised interest as far away as Wisconsin, and conducted informal surveys and recruiting efforts among the other Bank of America Student Leaders during their trip to the nation's capital. Pandeagle will offer online classes for teaching Chinese, with cultural elements like making dumplings, playing Chinese chess and Chinese paper cutting, to reach members nationwide.

Meng Fei has even partnered with several area nursing homes to allow Pandeagle to present programs such as tai chi, calligraphy and cooking.

"In the end, we are not an organization that merely teaches Chinese, but brings together an awareness of culture and people," Meng Fei said. "It seems absurd that you can have two politicians from two different countries sitting beside one another and they can't communicate. There is a lot of conflict in the world because there's not a good understanding of other cultures. My hope is to eradicate misunderstanding."

• • •

To further understand Meng Fei's desire to reach more people of all ages in the name of promoting cultural awareness and acceptance, it is necessary to understand her own journey.

Born in China, Meng Fei immigrated to the United States with her parents, arriving in New York five days before Sept. 11, 2001. Out of what could reasonably have been a troubled few years for a young Chinese girl in a new country rose a stubbornly independent girl.

While her parents have never really learned to speak English, Meng Fei has mastered both languages, initially in order to communicate with doctors, lawyers, government officials and school representatives. She even taught herself to translate written Chinese through pinyin, a phonetic system for transcribing the pronunciation of Chinese characters into the Latin alphabet.

She has helped her parents complete income tax forms, championed her sister's quest to enter a school magnet program even without a transcript from her Chinese school, and called for answers to questions about the monthly bills. In ninth grade, she completed immigration paperwork for other relatives, which meant attending a lot of free consultations with lawyers, and eventually having to hire a Chinese lawyer stateside. She has wended her way through the college testing and application processes and is now waiting to hear from her dream school, which she did not want to share until she heard something official. (She did say it is out of state.)

So founding a nonprofit was a challenge she tackled head on.

"I have developed a thick skin," Meng Fei said. "Having these two parts of my life have significantly shaped who I am today. I strongly believe that Pandeagle can bridge the gap between the American culture and other cultures."

Contact Shannan D. Powell at [email protected]

Comments
Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

Rays journal: Could Sergio Romo be looking at pitching 3 straight games?

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays' pitching rotation for the weekend series against the Orioles could have a familiar look: Romo, Romo, Romo.Manager Kevin Cash said using veteran right-handed reliever Sergio Romo as the "opener" in all three upcoming g...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

Rookie’s error in 9th helps doom Rays against Red Sox

ST. PETERSBURG — Willy Adames was so excited to be in the big leagues, even if was for just a three-day cameo callup. So thrilled to make a smashing debut with a homer on Tuesday. So proud to have his parents and sister fly in from the Dom...
Updated: 1 hour ago
‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

‘This looks bleak.’ Game 7 loss short circuits Lightning fans

TAMPA — Nick Genovese was anxious.The 21-year-old from Land O’Lakes had come to Thunder Alley outside Amalie Arena hoping to see the Tampa Bay Lightning triumph over the Washington Capitals in Wednesday night’s Eastern Conference winner-take-all Game...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

Lightning’s season ends one win short of Stanley Cup final with 4-0 loss to Capitals

TAMPA — The Lightning's dream season ended late Wednesday with the final horn, or, if you prefer, early in the second period of Game 5, when it scored its last goal of the Eastern Conference final.How about that? The team with the most regular-...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

Lightning-Capitals: Tampa Bay had its chances. Here are the best ones

TAMPA — Yanni Gourde said he will have to see a replay to know just how it got away, but even in a lopsided 4-0 loss like Wednesday night, he'll remember the puck in front of an empty net, and the missed opportunity that encapsulated a frustrat...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Red Sox game

In a way, the timing of RHP Jake Faria's oblique injury seemed manageable in that RHP Nathan Eovaldi is close to coming off the disabled list and can step in. But on the other hand, the Rays finally could have four regular starters. Imagine that.Ther...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

Lightning-Capitals: A hurt that could last forever

TAMPA — This one stings. And it will ache for a long time. Maybe forever in these parts.Another chance for a Stanley Cup. Another disappointment. As the Lightning skated off the ice after losing Wednesday night's Game 7 of the Eastern Conferenc...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Woman hit, killed while crossing road in Tampa

TAMPA — A pedestrian was struck and killed by a vehicle while crossing N 40th Street near E Hanlon Street on Wednesday night, according to Tampa police.The crash took place just before 8 p.m. The driver was heading north on 40th Street before strikin...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

Son tells NC police he found dog leash around neck of strangled Hillsborough developer Bill Bishop

After a prominent Hillsborough County developer died last month in North Carolina, word spread it was a heart attack that claimed his life.But records from that state show the death of William "Bill" Bishop was much more complicated.His 16-year-old s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

Lightning-Capitals: Grading Tampa Bay’s 4-0 loss in Game 7

TAMPA — Forget Vegas.The Lightning have left the building.No more season. No more watch parties. No more anything.There is no way around it. Jon Cooper's team couldn't finish, not in Game 7 at home, not in the Eastern Conference final...
Updated: 2 hours ago