FLUSHING, N.Y., August 10, 2010 ― As a child Queens College sophomore Peter Xu of Maspeth would spend countless Saturday mornings watching cartoons of his favorite superheroes. While Xu found their life-saving exploits fascinating and inspiring, the values they instilled in him – social responsibility, hard work, respect and leadership – proved even more important in shaping his future goals.
“While I didn’t realize it at the time, I began to understand that these cartoons metaphorically represented what it means to be an exemplary citizen – someone who works hard and uses his talents to better society,” says Xu.
These values continued to play a pivotal role in Xu’s decisions, whether learning to play the clarinet (“Even though my peers ridiculed me for studying a ‘girly’ instrument, I persevered”) or making academic choices. (He plans to major in physics or applied mathematics and minor in business and liberal arts.)
This summer thanks to the Jeannette K. Watson Fellowship, a program that provides on-the-job paid learning opportunities for promising New York City undergraduates, Xu is getting an opportunity to use his technological ability and serve society. He is interning at Global Kids in Manhattan, a non-profit organization whose mission is to educate and inspire urban youth to become successful students, global citizens and community leaders. Xu works in their Online Leadership Program (OLP), using digital media to design web-based curricula and educational games. He credits this experience with crystallizing his career objective to become an engineer working on green innovations, a position that combines technology with public service.
“The Global Kids internship has been a wonderful experience,” says Xu. “It has given me a better understanding of the nature of nonprofits, broadened my communication skills and exposed me to new situations and opportunities I couldn’t have found on my own.”
One of the first programs Xu joined at Queens College was Project Excel. Part of the City University of New York (CUNY)’s Black Male Initiative, Project Excel provides African-American and other underrepresented minority students a variety of services and support to help them succeed. Through this program, which pairs incoming freshmen with accomplished upperclassmen to help them adjust to college life, Xu became acquainted with opportunities such as the Watson Fellowship.
This year he has been active in the QC chapter of the New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG), organizing campus events to promote green initiatives. During Earth Week, Xu’s group put together several activities to raise awareness of the environment and how to protect it. Their most popular activity involved a device they created that made pulp from recycled paper products and then turned the pulp back into actual paper. On October 24, 2009, they also participated in the International Climate Day of Action in Times Square in support of climate change.
Xu is a graduate of Brooklyn Technical High School, where he served as vice president of its break dance club, which won several dance and talent competitions. During that time he also volunteered at a local hospital and nursing home.
Cartoon superheroes aside, one of Xu’s real heroes is his father, a Queens elementary school computer teacher from Fuzhou, China, who gave him a respect for the humanities. “My father taught me that math and science by themselves cannot solve world issues,” says Xu. “Knowledge of the humanities can enrich our understanding of culture and shape our individual values…understanding them is necessary for world and personal development. I want to lead a socially responsible life where I use my own talents in math, science and the humanities to benefit the world around me.”