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 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 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.
Junior at Lynnwood High School
Nominated by Jennifer Pullen
“[Michelle Wagner] is very involved in the cultural concerns and events at school,” Jennifer Pullen, United Nations Club advisor, wrote in a letter of recommendation.
“Lynnwood High School is diverse, and having a student like Michelle who knows how to get along with all people and who is willing to help out those who are newly adjusting to this country makes our school run smoothly.”
In her personal essay, Wagner wrote: “Without diversity, the world would be boring and uninteresting. It provides a variety of different cultures and people that bring the world together. … Lynnwood High School is considered to be the most diverse high school in the Edmonds School District. Every year, we host a multicultural talent show.
“Because my school is so diverse, I have many friends with different ethnic backgrounds. … It’s good to surround yourself with people of different ethnic backgrounds because you can see things from a different perspective. Also, diversity promotes tolerance and acceptance of other people’s beliefs and puts an end to stereotypes and ignorance.”
Senior at Franklin High School
Nominated by Caroline Sacerdote
“Aster’s parents moved to the United States from Ethiopia before she was born,” Franklin High School College Access Now (CAN) advisor Caroline Sacerdote wrote in a letter of recommendation. “As such, she has had to navigate the education system here in the U.S. largely on her own.”
“Aster … has embraced both her cultures and now works to educate others about her Ethiopian culture as treasurer of the Habesha Club,” added Sacerdote. “Through this club, she has performed at [Franklin’s] multicultural night and participated in a school-wide cultural potluck at Franklin. She also gives back to her Ethiopian community by teaching Bible study classes to children at her church.”
In her personal essay, Zewoldi wrote: “During my junior year, I started to realize that at Franklin High School, we had our own segregation within the Ethiopian community. There was a split between Muslim and Christian Ethiopians; we shared a common country but had separate values. I started interacting more with both religions and realized we were very similar. I admired how they talked so positively and proudly about the Ethiopian culture as a whole and began to embrace it more. We created the Habesha Club to inform our school about the different religions we had and the similar culture we shared. We recruited many students from different religions and used our cultures as a way to connect to each other. … I’ve learned to educate others and not just ignore ignorance because, if I’m not representing, who will?”
Senior at Roosevelt High School
Nominated by Janine Magidman
“As a member of the 2011 Hands for a Bridge program at Roosevelt, a social justice literature class, Baker traveled with me and 11 other students to Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland in February of 2011,” Janine Magidman, a social studies teacher at Roosevelt, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Baker displayed the best qualities of our program, and I watched him seamlessly make overtures to shy local middle-school students as well as parents of the host school, to bring them into the center of conversations and activities.”
“One thing that particularly sticks with me when I think about Baker is his genuine excitement to bridge differences within our own school, specifically through the vehicle of soccer. Baker is an avid soccer player and fan and has used this opportunity to make connections to the English Language Learners at Roosevelt from East Africa and Latin America who play soccer. This has connected him to parts of Seattle outside of his own neighborhood and to students who may not otherwise have friends in the mainstream of the school.”
In his personal essay, Conte wrote: “Diversity is everywhere, evident in every single region and person; therefore, it is important to understand so we comprehend each other and our world better. Diversity is vital because without it life would be plain and boring. There wouldn’t be unique activities to pursue, subjects to study, or people to meet. Diversity is what makes life interesting and worth living. Take it away and not much is left.”
Senior at O’Dea High School
Nominated by Jeanne Eulberg
“O’Dea draws students from all over the Seattle metropolitan area and [in his freshman year], Ivan did not know any other student in his class,” Jeanne Eulberg, Roosevelt’s director of college counseling, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He made it his business to meet as many of them as soon as he could. … Since those early days, Ivan has distinguished himself in all leadership positions at O’Dea. His quiet mannerisms along with his intense convictions command admiration from both his peers and the faculty.”
In his personal essay, Gaskin wrote: “My fifth grade class had been watching a documentary on the Little Rock Nine (about a group of Black students who enrolled in the racially segregated Little Rock Central High School in 1957). There were just scenes that showed just how hate-filled everyday Americans had become. … [T]he race issue became real for me when one of my white classmates started chanting, [‘Two, four, six, eight, we don’t want to integrate,’] while directly looking at me.
“Diversity is important because being a part of a diverse society forces you to look beyond yourself. … If someone grows up in a community where there is only one kind of person, then they are bound to develop false assumptions about other people because they haven’t known anything else, just as the fifth grade boy in my class chanting along with the hate-filled crowd in the video did. It wasn’t his fault. He was taught to feel that way about Black people because … he hadn’t truly gotten to know any. Diversity is necessary for growth.” (end)
For more information, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.