Northwest Asian Weekly’s Diversity Makes a Difference scholarship program celebrates young people who are committed to reaching out across cultural lines. Students are nominated by their school as being champions of diversity.
Of those students, a judging panel will choose five winners who will receive $1,000 scholarships and eight finalists who will receive $200 scholarships.
The Diversity Makes a Difference awards dinner will take place on April 2 at Jumbo Chinese Restaurant (4208 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle). For more information or to buy tickets, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.
Each week, leading up to the dinner, we will print a batch of short profiles of the nominees. This week’s nominees are:
Olympia High School
Recommended by Matt Grant
Kaycee Keegan is part of the Rotary Interact Club, a group of civic-minded students. “One year, a performance raised several thousand dollars for the Children of Uganda,” wrote her principal Matt Grant. Keegan is the club’s organizer. “For the past three years, she has helped choose the beneficiary, solicited donations, marketed the event, and helped organize the show.”
“More specifically, her efforts raised thousands of dollars for the Malawi Water Project and for the Tronie Foundation,” wrote Grant. The project and foundation provide clean water and support victims of human trafficking.
“Last year, as a junior and vice president of the Interact Club, Kaycee secured the food donations of countless local restaurants to benefit the group. Kaycee had a hand in virtually all aspects of this big undertaking ranging from recruiting school volunteers to securing local cultural entertainment.”
Keegan’s greatest accomplishment is getting Nobel Prize Nominee Greg Mortensen, who dedicated his life to building schools in Pakistan and Afghanistan, to speak at the school and community. The effort included raising $25,000 for Mortenson’s nonprofit. “Kaycee helped assemble a team that included the rotary president and other leaders. She also made formal pitches to doctors, bank leaders, and other Rotary groups to secure funds. … Since that time, Kaycee has not stopped working.” Keegan has organized school assemblies, a community rally, an international dinner, and contributed to the Pennies for Peace drive for schools in Afghanistan.
Franklin High School
Recommended by Joyce Lee-Eng
“Allegra was born with a rare genetic disease called Spinular Muscular Atrophy II (SMA),” says her 504 Assistant/disability assistant, Joyce Lee-Eng. “The powerful force that keeps her going is an astounding positive attitude and a keen sense of humor, in spite of her physical limitations.”
“Her peers regard Allegra with the highest esteem and voted her most inspirational to them,” wrote Lee-Eng.
In addition to her 3.56 GPA in honors classes, Allegra is also known for her “service to a diverse multicultural community.”
“She is very active working on projects for the SMA and MDA foundations, participates in the Washington State Business Leadership Network and S.T.A.R. Center of Seattle, a member of Franklin’s Black Student Union, Digi-Girls, and the Do It Program at the University of Washington,” wrote Lee-Eng.
Allegra is currently “making an investigation into the Americans with Disabilities Act and Seattle Public Schools compliance.”
“Just being who she is, Allegra is committed to social diversity and promoting diversity. Therefore, she would be most worthy of the intentions of the Diversity Makes a Difference Award.”
Juanita High School
Recommended by Mike Navalinski
“Amira Khablein is the type of student who is able to inspire others to spread diversity,” wrote high school counselor Mike Navalinski in a recommendation. As president of the Juanita High School Multicultural Club, “she has taken the leadership to organize meetings, choose different charities to support, broaden student’s horizons through the use of ethnic food, and has started to put together a school-wide variety show.”
The variety show “is a way to illustrate the different kinds of people that come together in this school” and “a great way for the students to come together, where all the proceeds are donated to the predetermined charity.”
“She has helped other students to open their eyes, and their minds to different kinds of people, through food,” says Navalinski.
Navalinski describes Khablein as a “student who sees past stereotypes and is able to work toward a better tomorrow by allowing other students to become involved with fabulous charities in our area as well as around the world.”
Sehome High School
Recommended by Julie Kratzig
“Bo loves music. She is a pianist who plays in a Praise Band at her church. She says she found a joy playing piano for others and helped her set a goal of bringing music to African children to give them hope,” wrote school counselor Julie Kratzig in her recommendation.
“Bo became involved with her school. She ran cross country, is a member of the Global Awareness Outreach Club, auditioned and entered into Chamber Choir, to name a few activities,” wrote Kratzig.
“When she arrived in seventh grade, she learned English rapidly and became the interpreter for her parents who opened a restaurant for their livelihood. Bo became the cashier and cook, helping her folks who could not speak the language. She speaks of this experience as difficult, but “grew her up into a responsible citizen,” wrote Kratzig.
Gig Harbor High School
Recommended by Eleanor Ledbetter
“Grace is an active volunteer for World Vision in Tacoma. She has dedicated numerous hours in promoting understanding and appreciation of the African culture,” wrote activity coordinator Eleanor Ledbetter. “Grace routinely visits community homes discussing this culture with a wide variety of people. She has even been asked to represent programs for World Vision meetings.”
“Here at school, Grace is actively involved in educating teenagers in her humanitarian endeavors. She is a committed member of Amnesty International. … She has dedicated many hours encouraging students to learn about world problems and to become activists for world peace. She was elected as secretary for our school branch of Habitat for Humanity,” wrote Ledbetter.
“Grace was also selected by our school staff to be an AIDS peer educator for the last two years. … Grace was also elected this year as a senior class senator. … Thanks to Grace’s recruitment, we are now a diverse class representing almost every aspect of the student body. I was especially impressed this year with Grace’s efforts in raising a large amount of money for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.
Foster High School
Recommended by Vicki Gezon
“Sokleng has always been kind and goes out of his way to be helpful to the younger and non-English speaking kids who want to learn to breakdance,” wrote his coach and school nurse Vicki Gezon. “He speaks multiple languages and is patient about making himself understood and understanding the other person.”
“He has a wonderful stage presence and gives his all when he performs. This year, he helped choreograph a wonderful performance for Washington state politicians and some dignitaries from Japan,” wrote Gezon.
“Recently, administrators decided to discontinue our club without warning. Sokleng helped the other students adapt to the new practice routine of going to members’ homes and the Tukwila Community Center on Friday nights. … He works part-time at the mall, volunteers for College Success Foundation, and helps his family at home.”
Sehome High School
Recommended by Julie Kratzig
“Michelle is academically gifted. … She is well-respected by students and staff. When Michelle needs further clarification or has another view, her hand is held high in the air. She is unafraid of asking for further knowledge and is curious about other views,” wrote counselor Julie Kratzig in a recommendation. “She is the type of student who puts in the time needed to complete assignments, applications, and practice to attain the highest level of achievement.”
“Michelle is active in her school and community. She has been a varsity swimmer for four years, putting in countless hours running stairs in the morning and swimming in the afternoons. And when she is not swimming for her school team, she is swimming for the club team. Her coach describes her as driven, gifted, talented, and a gem to a coach. She listens, synthesizes, and makes her adjustments,” wrote Kratzig.
Ballard High School
Recommended by Ruth Kutrakun
“I’m pretty sure that all 1600 students at Ballard High School count Matthew Law-Phipps as a personal friend,” wrote his teacher Ruth Kutrakun in a recommendation. “Matthew sees people, he talks to them, he offers kind words, he notices those who are left out, and he finds ways to include everyone. All this is probably why he was awarded the Seymour Kaplan Award as an eighth-grader from Whitman Middle School to honor his kindness, generosity, understanding, and work to decrease discrimination.”
“Matthew is a member of the NAACP and the African American/Jewish Coalition for Justice. He has participated in our school’s Black Student Association for four years, becoming a regular participant in our annual Martin Luther King assembly by writing and reading original poetry. He helped to start our school’s Student Equity Club last year so that students could have a forum to speak up about diversity issues.
Law-Phipps is an athlete on Ballard’s soccer and football teams. “In victory or defeat, in fair call or unfair, Matthew maintains a sportsmanship attitude that influences the whole team and spectators as well.”
Mountlake Terrace High School
Recommended by Julie Petterson
“Juliet Le is involved in an extraordinary number of extracurricular activities at MTHS. Closest to her heart is the Invisible Children Club, which she founded this year and for which she serves as president,” wrote counselor Julie Petterson. “She has been instrumental in bringing awareness about the plight of child soldiers in Northern Uganda to our school. … Over the summer, she contacted staff from Invisible Children and got them to do a screening of their film about Uganda at MTHS, which raised awareness and funds. At MTHS, Juliet initiated a book drive and got 1,869 books donated. … Juliet’s dream is to have this club continue at MTHS until this terrible war comes to an end.”
“Juliet has been an ASB Interhigh Representative for the past three years, and she was the freshman class treasurer. She has been in the DECA club for the past three years. She has been a member of FCCLA since freshman year and was the president last year. She serves as vice president of the MTHS chapter of National Honor Society. Finally, she has contributed her time and organizational skills to Volunteers of America, working with incarcerated youth,” wrote Petterson.
Jun Ming Lei
Rainier Beach High School
Recommended by Dan Jurdy
“Jun Ming Lei has his mind set on earning an advance collegiate degree and has the study habit and skills to do so with much success. … Jun has the academic ability that will add in the advancement of whatever field he chooses,” wrote counselor Dan Jurdy.
“Jun is well-traveled and brings culture to the classroom. He is originally from China and has spent time in Korea, Japan, and the United States. Besides English, Jun can speak Mandarin Chinese, Cantonese, and Japanese. At Rainier Beach, Jun acts as a cultural agent helping to bring cultural traditions to campus. His involvement includes the Asian Club, teaching English to elders in his community, and [promoting] cultural traditions,” wrote Dan.
Highline High School
Recommended by Lori Box
“Sofia Locklear is a Native American student who exhibits an amazing commitment to promoting social diversity,” wrote Lori Box, an activities coordinator and ASB adviser at Highline.
“Sofia is very passionate about including students from our Integrated Learning Center (ILC) program at Highline. She started as a peer tutor in the ILC classroom. She quickly realized how important it is to integrate these students into mainstream activities at school,” wrote Box.
“At the end of the school year, our school has a half-day event — Pirate Mutiny — where students get to sign yearbooks, play games, bounce on bouncy toys, and listen to music. … Three years ago, Sofia led the group in charge and challenged them to find activities for all students. The end result was carnival games that the ILC students could play,” wrote Box.
“Every year, the ILC teachers comment on how much their students love the event and how great it is that we have found a way to make it inclusive for them. I credit this to Sofia and her passion for these kids.” Locklear also teaches music to ILC students and shows them how to make percussion instruments. She has educated peers in physical education classes not to tease ILC kids.
Garfield High School
Recommended by Willie Seals III
“Katherine Ly is a participant of the City of Seattle Upward Bound program, a nation-wide college preparatory program for high school students,” wrote her counselor Willie Seals III.
“Katherine has also participated in programs such as Summer Search where she can travel abroad and develop her leadership skills. She has natural leadership capabilities that exemplify her culture and personality by serving on the Upward Bound Youth Leadership Council that provides Upward Bound participants with opportunities for community outreach and youth development.”
“Katherine is always on time to tutoring sessions, summer classes, or workshops. … Katherine is a resourceful, creative, and solution-oriented person who is able to come up with new and innovative approaches to assigned projects. She functions well as a team leader when required, and she also worked effectively as a team member under the direction of me and other team leaders,” wrote Seals.
“Katherine exemplifies diversity and service for underrepresented groups, not for self gratification, but for the belief that she can be a change agent in society.”
Squalicum High School
Recommended by Karen Anastasio
“Within two months of her arrival to Squalicum High School, she participated in the Ski to Sea Parade as a member of the school band,” wrote ELL teacher Karen Anastasio. “With her limited proficiency in English, she was still able to form relationships with the other students in the band. … Irina never considered her background and the backgrounds of the other students as a barrier to success.”
“To this day in school, I observe her helping other students to complete school work. She does this during class, during lunch, and after school. This year, Irina and another Vietnamese ELL student completed their senior projects for graduation. Irina assisted the other student when he was not sure what to do. Whenever I have asked her to assist others, she has happily supported them in any way possible,” wrote Anastasio.
“In addition, for her senior project, she volunteered at her church to conduct the children’s choir. She donated many long hours to prepare the children for a beautiful Thanksgiving performance. She has since been asked to continue as the director for this choir.” ♦