When the student-led campaign to invite First Lady Michelle Obama to UC Merced to deliver the Commencement 2009 keynote address began, it became obvious that the most urgent need was a way to stand out from the countless other colleges and universities across the country that would be chasing the same dream.
To get the response the "Dear Michelle" campaign was looking for was going to take a great hook, which in turn was going to take a creative mind with the talent to back it up and a personality that believes no goal is impossible, regardless of the odds or obstacles.
David Cheng was just the man student organizers were looking for; creativity, talent, and determination wrapped up in a freshman with experience in bringing big dreams to life. Cheng is the founder and president of LightStudio, a multimedia production club on this campus and in 12 countries across the globe, including Hong Kong, Finland and France.
"Our goal is to focus on multimedia; we do special effects, sound effects, animation and studio productions," Cheng said. "We want to become as professional as Hollywood before we graduate."
That's why senior Yaasha Sabba, ASUCM president for 2008-09 and an architect of the "Dear Michelle" campaign, turned to Cheng to create the video invitation. Cheng said Sabba tempted him by saying, "We're thinking of getting Michelle Obama here, but none of the guys believe we can do it. Can you?"
Unable to resist the challenge, Cheng wrote, directed and animated "We Believe." He worked closely with Sabba, the producer. They believe the video played a large part in inspiring the First Lady to accept their invitation to speak at commencement.
"The video separated us from other schools," Cheng said. "It makes me feel really awesome. When Yaasha called to say she was coming, I was literally jumping around in my room."
Cheng thrives on turning dreams to reality; his concept for LightStudio began in elementary school, and now it is a global phenomenon.
"I have to give thanks to my parents, Justin Cheng and Janey Wang; all the credit goes to them" he said, "My dad always says, ‘Never give up until you make it' and ‘there's always a way.'"
That attitude continues to shape his approach to life as he sets his sights on leaving his own legacy at UC Merced. "My major is undeclared because there is no film major here yet," Cheng said. "But I would like to start a film and animation program on campus, if possible."
Cheng has also played piano since the age of 9, and makes sure it is a solid part of his college experience. He has already performed on campus more than half a dozen times, most recently at "Debut," the April 23 student performance showcase. He played "Walking up the Stairs of Love," a song he composed in honor of his parents' 20th anniversary. Cheng performed it as they listened on the other end of the phone in Hong Kong.