Laguna Creek grad attracts national attention

Published: Monday, Jun. 17, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 2B
Last Modified: Tuesday, Jun. 18, 2013 - 10:09 am

"Inside Editon" came to Elk Grove to interview him, "The Today Show" called him and national news websites picked up his story.

"I was surprised," said 17-year-old Lloyd Chen. "I didn't expect any of that. I never expected it to become a national thing."

But his outstanding academic success – gaining full-ride scholarships from nine elite universities – and overcoming numerous obstacles resonated with readers.

The Bee profiled Chen on May 30, the day he graduated as valedictorian at Laguna Creek High School. Chen says the local media and national interest after that were a bit overwhelming.

People were moved by the story of how Chen's mother, Susie Yun, waited in her car each day of her son's freshman year so that he could attend the International Baccalaureate program at Mira Loma High School. The Elk Grove woman couldn't afford the gas to drive the 38-mile round-trip commute twice a day. He was recruited for Laguna Creek's new IB program that is closer to his home in Elk Grove.

Chen had managed to earn a 4.79 grade-point average despite a life of poverty. His mother had sacrificed for his academic success and he worked hard to gain admission to Harvard University.

Readers responded with dozens of emails and phone calls offering to pay for Chen's yearbook, a graduation party or to help him with necessities while away in Boston.

Elk Grove Unified School District officials set up an account for Chen in response. Last week it grew to $950. Chen said he'll spend some of the money to set up his dorm room and will hold on to the rest in case he comes up short during the school year.

Chen declined an offer to pay for his graduation party, but has accepted an offer from an anonymous donor who wants to help pay for incidentals while he is at Harvard. The man told The Bee he wants to make sure the teenager has plane tickets home to visit his mother and warm clothes for the cold Massachusetts winters.

Chen said the media attention was "a little overwhelming" at one point, but that the experience has been positive overall.

"I think that the main thing I'm happy about is that a lot of people have contacted me and told me I've inspired them," Chen said. "If it motivates them in any way, this story has done its job in helping others. I'm very happy about that."

Chen leaves for college in August.

In the meantime, he will spend his days studying economics at home and attending a six-week summer engineering program at California State University, Sacramento.

Neither will earn him college credits. He just wants to be ready for Harvard.

Call The Bee's Diana Lambert, (916) 321-1090. Follow her on Twitter @dianalambert. Read her Report Card blog at

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