Compiled by Staff
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 schools 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 March 30 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, in no particular order.
Senior at Skyline High School
Nominated by Diane Hogel
“Loving to learn is one of her most prominent characteristics,” Skyline Counselor Diane Hogle wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Shirley has discussed with me ‘how cool’ it would be to be a college professor conducting research and learning something new each and every day. Shirley is a ‘sponge,’ picking up every piece of [knowledge] she can find. She stated, ‘I need to be tested more, so I can see what my limitations are and learn how to break through barriers.’”
“Even with all of her academic learning, Shirley is focused in nonacademic areas as well,” Hogel added. “She is a golfer [and] participates in volunteering through Key Club.”
“Through our intellectual diversity, we are able to not only adapt to our environments, but also create and shape them with our ideas,” Chung wrote in her personal essay. “The products of our diversity are apparent across the globe. … However, humans encounter problems as we progress, sometimes ones that we create ourselves, such as climate change. Yet we are also able to find solutions as a result of the various ideas that researchers develop. Ultimately, diversity is what propels us forward and assists us in overcoming any obstacles.”
Junior at Franklin High School
Nominated by Donna Lew
“I enjoy observing Gizelle in action increasing cross-cultural understanding,” wrote Donna Y. Lew, executive program director for team xbot, which Gando is involved in. “Gizelle has created a team environment where students feel very comfortable talking about themselves, celebrating their ethnicity, and their home environment. [Gizelle] is a rare person that can establish such an open and honest environment. Gizelle volunteers at Technology Access Foundation TechStart Program. Techstart addresses ‘three problems that keep students of color away from STEM [science, technology, engineering, mathematics]: low expectations, a shortage of role models in STEM, and a lack of access to a quality, STEM-focused education.’ Gizelle is that strong female minority role model.”
“Diversity is not skin deep. It is more just looking at each other and saying we look different, we are diverse,” Gando wrote in a personal essay. “It is looking at each other and acknowledging each other’s differences, it being our ideas and our outlooks in life. … And being different is not a bad thing. If anything, it is a great thing.”
A. Vivian Iwuoha
Senior at Nathan Hale High School
Nominated by Jeffery Jones
“Last year, Vivian volunteered to participate as a mentor for freshmen at our school,” Jeffrey Jones, head counselor at Nathan Hale, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Vivian was assigned five 9th graders, with whom she met monthly to discuss the ins and outs of high school, including how to get involved in the school and how to challenge oneself academically. … Moreover, in her quest to continue to learn about social justice, Vivian was an Anti-Defamation League delegate, where she was given the opportunity to visit the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. last March.”
“All my life, every school that I have gone to was predominantly white,” Iwuoha wrote in a personal essay.
“When I got to middle school, people started asking me questions like, ‘How does your skin get so dark?’ and ‘Why are your nose and lips so big?’ I didn’t care that I was different, but I still felt uncomfortable when people would ask me those questions. … I was so mad at the people in my middle school for being ignorant.”
“In high school, I happened to befriend people from many different cultural backgrounds,” she added.
“Seeing how in touch my friends are to their culture made me want to embrace my own. Since starting high school, I have joined the African Girls Club and Diversity Club.”
Senior at Nathan Hale High School
Nominated by Jeffery Jones
“Cesar has been an active member of our Latino Club,” Jeffrey Jones, head counselor at Nathan Hale, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Most recently, he has stepped up and shown that he wants to be a leader in the group. Cesar has helped set agendas and run weekly meetings this year. His goals for his Senior Culminating Project are to connect with other Latino Clubs in our area. Cesar has successfully invited and met with students from other schools to discuss issues that impact young Latinos.”
“In middle school, the white kids made fun of me for being Mexican. The Mexican kids made fun of me for not being Mexican enough,” Lomeli wrote in a personal essay. “I’ve bonded with other Latinos because [we have] common stories.”
“I am lucky to attend diverse schools,” added Lomeli. “In Latino Club, we always say that you don’t have to be a Latino to be in the club. You just have to have a commitment to learning about our culture. I’m now in the process of gathering all the Latino Clubs in the area for the purpose of doing work that benefits the community.”
“There was once a time that I wished … I was more Mexican than I felt I was. Now, I see it does not matter where you are born, but what you have in your blood and the pride you take from your background.”
Lani Tu Nguyen
Senior at the Northwest School
Nominated by Donna Lew
Lani founded and currently leads the Northwest School (NWS)’s Asian American Association,” wrote Donna Lew in a letter of recommendation. Lew is executive director of Team xbot, of which Nguyen is a part. NWS is a private school. Nguyen earned a full-ride scholarship. “Coming from Mercer Middle School, Lani experienced culture shock [when] entering NWS, where the student body was predominantly Caucasian students [that came] from wealthy families. She identified the need to bring together the minority students so that, together, they could talk about the cultural experiences that they faced every day as a minority.
The Asian American Association’s mission is to provide a safe environment that fosters leadership, cultural awareness, and community service.”
“Lani joined the Youth Ultimate Project (YUP),” added Lew. “The Youth Ultimate Project hosts a two-week Ultimate camp in a Cambodia rural community. … Lani is also active with the All Girl Everything-Ultimate Program (AGE-UP), which is an all-girls group that incorporates playing ultimate frisbee with promoting social justice.”
“Lani attended the annual Student Diversity Leadership Conference hosted by the National Association of Independent Schools in December 2011. … They addressed issues such as racism, stereotypes, gender and sexuality, classification, ageism, etc.”
“Stereotypes are embedded in society and the only way to defy these expectations is to address them from the roots, one person at a time,” Nguyen wrote in her personal essay. “We are too diverse to be classified in finite categories with specific expectations. The term ‘diversity,’ as I have come to learn, is not solely about race, but also about differences in culture, ideas, and personality.”
Senior at Sehome High School
Nominated by Lindsay MacDonald
“Dapinder is expanding his frontiers by currently attending an all-county Construction Academy to intensively study construction technology,” Sehome ELL Specialist Lindsay MacDonald wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Along with his interest in construction, he is considering entering the law enforcement field, since he recognizes the need for bilingual and bicultural Sikh law enforcement officers who can build strong ties with the Sikh community. … Dapinder is interested in educating our Whatcom County community about the Sikh culture.
He regularly volunteers at the Sikh temple and helps with the meals they serve to all comers. … He plans to develop a brochure which will explain the origins and beliefs of the Sikh faith to any community member who wants to learn more about the Sikh religion.”
“Diversity is recognition and appreciation of characteristics (age, culture, education, economic background) that make people unique in an atmosphere that promotes collective achievement,” Dapinder wrote in a personal essay. “Diversity can create new ideas and changes that can be beneficial to a society, or even the world.”
Senior at Shorewood High School
Nominated by Pam Richards
What stands out most about Celine is her resiliency and awareness of the diversity in people’s lives and backgrounds,” Shorewood counselor Pam Richards wrote in a letter of recommendation. “She’s endured significant personal challenges. … Celine is largely a caretaker at home to help keep the stress level down. Likely due to her experiences at home, she is a compassionate young woman whose hand always goes up to help out. … She was chosen by staff to be one of only 10 ambassadors. In this role, she welcomes new students and gives tours/orientations.”
“About six months ago, I got a job at a neighborhood restaurant. … I met all the cooks at work and they only spoke Spanish. … I had taken an order on the phone and ended up having to explain the changes I made to one of the cooks. It took some patience and listening skills to communicate effectively with them. We have a diverse staff at Spiro’s. Some are Mexican, Cuban, Native American, Greek, and more. I had to adapt to the different ways everyone does things. … Diversity is important because in life, there are many different types of people who all differ in a variety of ways.”
Senior at Franklin High School
Nominated by Donna Lew
“Justine is a member of the building and electrical groups and team representative,” wrote Donna Lew, executive director of team xbot, which Sims is a part of. “She coaches and introduces the rookie team members with the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) organization, the game challenge, and the technical requirements to design, build, and program the robot chassis/scoring mechanism. She has been selected as a team representative because of her poise, and clear and concise communication skills …”
“Justine volunteers as a coach for the Aki Middle School Volleyball team,” added Lew. “Justine also leads the Kimball Elementary Lego WeDo Robotics after-school activity.”
“Non-diversity truly leaves room for general uniformity in culture,” Sims wrote in a personal essay. “Living in the 98118, I have come to learn about dozens of different cultures rich in various talents and lifestyles. Every day is, no doubt, a new adventure. Because everyone is so different, every day, we, as a community, have something new to celebrate.” (end)
For more information, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.