Compiled by Rebecca W. Lee
Northwest Asian Weekly
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. From among those students, a judging panel will choose five winners who will receive $1,000 scholarships and a number of finalists who will receive $200 scholarships.
The Diversity Makes a Difference awards dinner will take place on April 1 at New Hong Kong Restaurant. To buy tickets, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org. Each week, leading up to the dinner, we will publish a batch of short profiles of the nominees.
Senior at Washington High School
Recommended by Earle McWright
“Vinh has accumulated over 30 hours of service at the Tacoma Rescue Mission and at various food banks,” wrote Earle McWright, a teacher at Washington High School, in a recommendation. “When I spoke with him regarding the lessons he learned during his work, he referenced how seeing people struggle in life has really made him thankful for the gifts and good fortune in his own life.”
“I remember when I was small, I would go to school and many kids would pick on me because of my eyes, what I eat, and basically because I did not look like I was from this country,” wrote Nguyen. “But since diversity has spread almost throughout the whole country, I know that this discrimination is beginning to become less of a problem. I see this through my little brother, because he is the same age as me when I got picked on, but instead of racial slurs, I see that he gets along with everyone no matter what nationality. It’s not just my little brother who can all get along with each other, but everywhere I go now, I see diversity becoming one.
“To help spread the message of diversity, I often volunteer at my temple, and we would go to Seattle and hold events for different cultures. These events would always broaden my horizons culturally and learn a little about myself,” added Nguyen.
Senior at Squalicum High School
Recommended by Aramis Johnson
“[Her father’s] death forced Suman to assume many of the roles and responsibilities that her father had. Being the most fluent English speaker in her home, she had to assist her mother in finding a job, as well as needing to find employment herself. She also took on the responsibility of setting up medical appointments for the family (which she had to attend), enroll her younger sisters in school, as well as attend parent conferences,” wrote Squalicum High School counselor Aramis Johnson.
“Suman has been an active member of Squalicum’s Rotary and United Diversity Clubs. Suman has always been highly involved in United Diversity. She has assisted our club in organizing our talent show and our multicultural week. … She was also a member of an Indian Folk Dance team that performed Bhangra, a traditional folk dance.”
“I moved to Washington when I was a freshman and my self-esteem was completely destroyed,” wrote Panwar in a personal statement. “This was because of the 9/11 attacks, where my family and I were greatly discriminated against in the densely populated town we lived in. … This prejudice became a catalyst that forced me to view people in various shades of colors they came in, rather than seeing them as just regular human beings. [But] later, I was introduced to Multicultural Club and slowly but surely, I began to reach out to other individuals. … Now that my wall of insecurity has been broken down, I’ve made tremendous progress.
Last year, I ran for secretary, which was something I could only have imagined of doing, and I actually got elected!”
Nirikohoahy Melodie Paubert
Junior at The Center School
Recommended by Joseph P. Murphy
“[Melodie was] involved with Global Visionaries [and] participated in a very intense, community service orientated program in Guatemala. Already fluent in her native languages of Malagasy and French, Melodie threw herself into this program after only a few months of studying Spanish. Melodie handled the challenges of working in a Guatemalan psychiatric hospital with grace and compassion,” stated Joseph Murphy, a Spanish instructor at The Center School, in a recommendation.
“I come from Madagascar in a small village where everybody trusted each other, and who saw the world very differently than Americans. The challenges I faced as I moved from a village girl in Madagascar to a teenager in the U.S. were very difficult. Diversity has challenged me and made me stronger. I have tutored Somali refugees with an organization called East African Community Services (EACS) in Seattle. The children came from different parts of Somalia and I learned a lot about the struggles and successes of their families.
I think when you look at people’s dreams, no matter how different they are, you can make a difference in helping them get closer to being the best people they can be,” stated Paubert in a personal essay.
Senior at Lindbergh High School
Recommended by Hoan Do
“As a state officer, Cynthia’s responsibilities ranged from overseeing 1,000 DECA members from 22 diverse high schools to delivering presentations to students and business professionals about Washington DECA. Last fall, that state officer team was given the opportunity to attend the prestigious Seattle’s 1st Citizen’s Event, which is attended by the who’s who in the Greater Seattle area,” stated Hoan Do, a college/youth speaker and the founder of Succeeding in the Real World, in a recommendation.
“This last October, during our Fall Leadership Conference, First Lady Michelle Obama held a sold out luncheon at the Bellevue Hyatt Regency, where we were staying. I received a phone call from Cynthia with her crying. She said, ‘Hoan! We got tickets to see Michelle Obama!’ … While most students would have viewed meeting Michelle Obama as something out of reach, Cynthia’s ‘anything is possible’ attitude helped her to achieve what many considered impossible.”
“When I was seven years old, I joined a local organization called the Vietnamese Youth Association. This made me realize that each and every member had something to bring to the table. As a result, we have grown in size and have been featured in the Seattle Times newspaper. When I joined high school, I became involved in numerous organizations that allowed me to be exposed to a variety of cultures. Some organizations included the Latino Club, International Club, Black Student Union, and Asian Student Association. … I am a two-time State Officer for Washington DECA and am the only full minority officer,” stated Pham in a personal statement.
Senior at Woodinville High School
Recommended by Clark Cox
“As a young man, with a strong understanding of his ethical, as well as political, ideas, he is fierce and unafraid to argue a point not popular with the class,” wrote Woodinville High School teacher Clark Cox in a recommendation. “This brings a great diversity of ideas to discussion and adds much to the learning dynamics. Perhaps his greatest ability appears when the class discussion is most heated. He then shows his skill to stay calm and consider all sides of an argument, often finding middle ground with other students.”
Vincent also has a wide variety of interests, many of which are found outside of the classroom. He has, for two years, for instance, volunteered at Evergreen Hospital for over 400 hours,” added Cox. “Diversity inspires me, not because for what it can do, but rather I am inspired by what diversity can prevent,” Pham wrote in a personal statement. “Diversity forces individuals to confront and challenge stereotypes that have been perpetuated by intellectual isolationism. By embracing diversity, one eliminates the prejudices that often arise when confronted by another person of different ethnicity, gender, and even perspective on life.”
Senior at Mariner High School
Recommended by Sandie Vea
“[Chris] is a member of RSVP (Raising Student Voice and Participation). This group planned and implemented a week-long, school-wide Diversity Week. Chris visited numerous classrooms to lead discussions about diversity, respect, and bullying. Chris was also the Master of Ceremonies at our annual Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly. Because of Chris’ deep value for our diverse population, his natural ability to recognize talent and honor all races was evident as he introduced students and community members throughout the assembly, stated Sandie Vea, a counselor at Mariner High School, in a recommendation.
“Observing this idea [of diversity] in action is not hard. The greatest way to distinguish something is to find a contrast. For example, through personal experiences, there are very few towns in the state of Washington that still lack in diversity of race, ethnicity, or nationality. However, when traveling to those towns remaining so, a friend of an ethnicity other than Caucasian has usually accompanied me, and a select few of the townspeople’s reactions have been surprising. Luckily, no encounter has ever turned into a conflict, but looks and subtle words have been strong enough for me to realize how just not being exposed to different cultures and people can really affect your behavior towards others,” wrote Quilici in a personal essay.
Senior at Squalicum High School
Recommended by Debra L. Knudsen
“Armando is willing to help not only the diverse population of students, but also every student. His character should be an example for all to model. Armando was always on time and prepared to work, and consistently displayed a high level of commitment to his work, stated Debra L. Knudsen, a counselor at Squalicum.
“Armando also gives back to the community. Last summer, he helped coach a youth soccer team, and this past year, he knit hats for the homeless as part of his senior culminating project.”
“It was my first day in high school, and I came from a different country without knowing English, so the school put me in an ELL class. When I first walked into the room, I noticed that there were a lot of different students from different countries. There were Indians, Vietnamese, Russians, Japanese, and Mexicans, all of whom did not speak English. I had never been in a class with students so different. At first, I tried to stick with people of my own kind because I had no way to communicate with the other students. As time went by and my English improved, I got interested in learning more about my classmates. I started talking to David, a friend that moved from Japan to the U.S. As we became friends, I realized that we share a lot of things in common, and he taught me interesting things about his culture. In no time, I made friends from all around the world who I learned to appreciate and respect. I no longer see them as different,” wrote Armando in a personal essay.
Senior at Odyssey: The Essential School
Recommended by Vijou Bryant
“Hem was in a cohort of students who went through the College Collaboration program. College Collaboration is a program that aims to provide juniors and seniors information about college and career choices. Hem was an active participant committed to learning all that he could about his options after high school,” wrote Vijou Bryant, a tutor from Notre Dame AmeriCorps, in a recommendation.
“Because of the tumultuous climate of Bhutan, he and his family became refugees and lived in Nepal in a refugee camp. Coming to America, despite looming poverty he and his family face, Hem has committed himself to being the first in his family to graduate from high school and attend college. He understands complex issues having to do with race, poverty, and violence at a level that exceeds many of his peers.”
“A child that grows up in a diverse community can easily adapt in pluralistic society. To take my example, I have a diverse background, provided by my multi-linguistic ability and the experience of living in three different countries so far. … Diversity makes a difference because of its ability to unify people, it potentialities to provide wide ranges of effective solutions and because of its strength to overshadow prejudiced and biased perceptions that would otherwise hinder the peaceful development of the contemporary world,” stated Rizal in a personal essay.
Senior at Squalicum High School
Recommended by Aramis Johnson
“Raveena knew that she wanted to return to the United States from England to attend school. Raveena joined our Rotary Club, where she supported local marathons in raising cancer and autism awareness,” stated Aramis Johnson, a counselor at Squalicum High School.
“Raveena started by volunteering at the Woodway Inn Senior Living center. Each Sunday, her goal in this was to assist those in need [by] interacting socially. Raveena [took part] in Disability Awareness Week at Western Washington University. According to Students for Disability Awareness, Raveena recruited others to volunteer and participate in the week. … She has also been instrumental in having our club collaborate with our Gay-Straight Alliance. Raveena has made it a goal to ensure that our club is a strong ally for GSA.
“Diversity is so much more than just race, culture, and heritage. I worked and volunteered with WWU’s Disability Awareness Club to help increase awareness about the disability culture around us, while striving to promote equal opportunities for all students. My personal goal was to show the student body that disabilities are not just physical. We all have disabilities in one way or form. If I had not been willing to interact with those different to me, I would never have realized my passion for human rights,” wrote Sajjan in a personal essay.
Senior at Kentridge High School
Recommended by Roselyn Robison
“Taylor is involved in the Multicultural Club at Kentridge,” wrote Roselyn Robison, a teacher at Kentridge High School, in a recommendation. “Taylor serves as co-president of [the club]. One such activity is Mix-it-Up week, [which] Taylor has helped to expand. … Taylor also helped to plan and orchestrate the Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly that this club performs each year. … In additional to all of this work, Taylor has also taken on a leadership role in the Bite of KR, where multicultural education is presented in the form of food from around the world. This is a huge undertaking and Taylor has her hand in it from start to finish.”
“Diversity again is so important to me because I am a minority,” wrote Shimizu in a personal statement. “I am half Chinese and half Japanese. I feel it is important to uncover your own heritage and also become interested in others. Over my high school career, Multicultural Club has been like an extended family to me. I have been involved in salsa for the last three years, and I am currently the Multicultural Club president. The message of Dr. King really speaks to me and through MCC, I feel I can help spread his message and help my community see how diverse we really are and to accept all people. Seeing racist remarks and people fighting is horrific and should be stopped, and with MCC, I feel like our community has become closer and more aware that people are more accepting.” ♦
Rebecca Lee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.