Translated by Diana Chang
Edited by Natasha Palance
On November 2, 2019, over 300 people, including teachers, students, graduates, alumni and parents gathered together in California to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Tzu Chi Academy Cupertino. For Santa Clara County, this special occasion marks a time to reflect on the school’s history and celebrate its unique place in this Californian community. Together with multiple family-friendly games and events, adults and children alike joined for a celebration of two fulfilling decades.
Since opening in 1999, the Tzu Chi Academy Cupertino in Northern California has extended Tzu Chi’s educational mission of humanistic culture throughout the Silicon Valley. In the past 20 years, more than 3,000 students have benefited from the Tzu Chi Academy’s enriching education.
Two Decades of Knowledge
Current Principal Joy Chen led the ceremony with tribute to Tzu Chi Academy teachers, students and their parents from over the past 20 years. Honor was paid to special guests who attended the celebration, including Principal of Tzu Chi Academy San Jose Elton Chen, Principal of Tzu Chi Academy Tri-Valley Jack Chen, as well as esteemed volunteers and educators, including Su-Ying Chen, a Tzu Chi teacher of 20 years.
Former Principal Tina Tuan reflected on the school’s accomplishments over the years and significant milestones — noting the school’s seven principals in its 20-year history, whose efforts have collectively established the academy’s long-standing values and traditions.
The first principal, Ming-Ling Chiang (1999-2001), established the inclusion of parent volunteers for each class. The second principal, Chijung Huang (2001-2003), started the winter season “Watsonville Tree,” as well as the annual Chinese New Year fundraiser. Yang Sizhong (2003-2005), the third principal, began the Humanistic Culture class for parents. The fourth principal, Chien Yeh (2005-2009), approved student uniforms and “IT Dad.” The fifth principal, Bob Chen (2009-2013), led fathers in a performance of “Vow to Action Dharma Ship,” and initiated the school’s collaboration with “Pick Up America” at the San Francisco beach. The sixth principal, Tina Tuan (2013-2017), orchestrated 120 teachers and students in a performance of the musical “Sutra of Profound Gratitude Towards Parents,” in addition to facilitating on campus fundraiser efforts for Tzu Chi International Disaster Relief.
More Than Just a Language School
Based on an integrated holistic approach to knowledge, learning, and development, Tzu Chi is named an Academy of Humanistic Culture, differing from traditional language schools. While the average Chinese school primarily teaches language, Tzu Chi’s humanistic courses and activities not only cultivate young minds with fundamental values including respect, compassion and solidarity, but also a community of solidarity.
Parents Eric and Chiuyen Tao of Tzu Chi Academy Alumni of 15 years Yuan Tao and Fang Tao, have had the longest commute to class in the school’s 20-year history. Every Saturday, the family drove from Carmel-by-the-Sea to Cupertino for over three hours, back and forth for drop-offs and pick-ups.
The Tao’s were first introduced to Tzu Chi Academy Cupertino after an encounter with Tzu Chi volunteer Judy Liao. From then on, they formed an incredible relationship with this volunteer and all of Tzu Chi. They witnessed the mindful contribution of Tzu Chi Academy in the field of professional education, and experienced the selfless dedication of volunteers. The Tao’s accompanied their children to grow within the Tzu Chi family and are very grateful for every compassionate moment.
Compassionate growth with Tzu Chi is common occurrence – one act of kindness leads to many. Often volunteers get their start with Tzu Chi as parent volunteers at the Academy, and being so moved by the dedication of teachers and colleagues they pursue official volunteer training and certification. One significant volunteer, Principal Joy, had her humble beginnings as an Academy parent volunteer before obtaining certification, later pursuing acting principal position at the school.
Similarly, Academy students who have graduated from high school often continue their Tzu Chi education with the Tzu Chi Collegiate Youth Association (Tzu Ching) at their respective universities. After graduating, first class graduate Gary Deng continued on to become a mentor for Tzu Ching, later receiving his Tzu Chi volunteer certification.
A Community of Happiness and Love
At the start of the ceremony, students from the Tzu Chi Phonetic Class generated excitement with a performance of the song, “Happy Faces.” Together, the audience sang and danced with vivid energy. Marching in unison, students paraded in front of guests in celebration of their educational journey, as each class presented their cheer slogans and signs.
The Phonetic Section B Class sign featured smaller, personally handcrafted signs from each student to collectively represent the group as a whole. In Junior Class 1, students wore special hats and sunglasses, while waving a small Tzu Chi flag – like a World Olympic team representing the Tzu Chi Academy. In the fourth and fifth classes, teachers used recycled bottles, lids, cardboard, and eggs to construct eco-friendly bells and castanets encouraging environmental consciousness.
Outdoor festivities followed in the warm autumn air, as Vice Principal Jolin Liu led guests through family-friendly activities enjoyed by parents and children alike. A special three-legged race started-off the fun – a challenging and fast-paced game – where each team was required to combine phrases to form a Jing Si Aphorism at the finish line. Demonstrating great skill of brains and brawn, the students from the youngest team won the race with the aphorism: “Even when right, the good person is always caring and forgiving toward others.”
Booth games, including pinball, Fishing in a River, Tic-tac-toe, Wheel of Fortune and Ring Toss, led by junior and senior class student volunteers facilitated additional educational opportunities with environmental Q&As — provided by volunteer Yu Chen Hung. Indoor games catered to the wide range of ages, permitting guests and students of all ages to enjoy the celebratory games, all while learning about the importance of environmental action and life-lessons from Jing Si Aphorisms.
Being the Jing Si Aphorisms’ 30th year anniversary, each booth at the festival commemorated this celebration with a Jing Si Aphorism note souvenir. As the Tzu Chi Academy curriculum continues to enhance student hearts and minds, many are able to interpret and internalize each Jing Si Aphorism through their own understanding.
Light refreshments of the crowd-favorite milk tea and green tea, along with 200 magnificent “gold bars,” Alumnus Daniel Huang’s freshly fried spring rolls, were served after the games – each tasty bite enjoyed by all.
Consistency is Key
Lika Huang, mother of Phonetic Class student Kado Li, shares her appreciation for the Tzu Chi’s international reach. Despite language and cultural barriers being native Shanghainese, her family found a home at the Tzu Chi Academy. Having just recently moved to the Silicon Valley, Lika was grateful to find an educational institution her children could attend where they could receive consistent, daily character education practices that other language schools often don’t teach.
Amid commemoration of the school’s great consistency in compassion over two decades, guests are reminded in the closing ceremony of the importance of long-term recovery for survivors of the wildfires that spread throughout California this past year. As a result of climate change, extreme weather has resulted in an increase of natural disasters around the world. In face of this global challenge, Master Cheng Yen’s lessons serve as a reminder that we each must turn our fears and concerns into blessings and actions. With Tzu Chi’s concept of unconditional love transcending all boundaries, we hope to continue to inspire compassion in others as we work to a safer future.