Compiled by Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Northwest Asian Weekly’s Diversity Makes a Difference scholarship program celebrates young people who are committed to reaching across cultural lines. Students are nominated by their school for being champions of diversity. From those nominations, 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 28 at the New Hong Kong Restaurant. To buy tickets, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org. Each week leading up to the dinner, we will publish a selection of short profiles of the nominees, in no particular order.
Senior at Ballard High School
Nominated by John Hernandez
“Dianjee is a true leader,” John Hernandez, Proyecto Saber teacher, wrote in a nomination letter. “Dianjee has always been in the front of the crowd leading her peers to excel in school and be involved in the community. Dianjee has the charisma and personality to rally students from all ages and backgrounds to get involved and make a positive impact on our school.”
“Dianjee is a true leader and someone that I am certain will continue to make invaluable contributions to society,” he continued. “She shows the maturity to excel academically, while committing to after-school activities and holding a part-time job.”
In her personal essay on why diversity is important to her, Cabrera wrote, “Most of the time, I feel like other American teenagers, but at the same time, I’m excluded because I wasn’t born here. Being disenfranchised has made me aware of issues surrounding inclusion and exclusion, I am determined to advocate for immigrant rights with my education.”
Senior at Kamiak High School
Nominated by Bryan Stelling
“As early as primary school, Joel learned the value of hard work and gained a passion for learning,” Bryan Stelling, counselor at Kamiak High School, wrote.
“Joel has continued to excel in leadership positions and service,” Stelling continued. “He was voted by his peers to be the class president his freshmen, sophomore, and junior years. This year as a senior, he is the overall ASB president.”
In his essay, Bervell wrote, “As a first generation American, I have always taken pride in my Ghanaian heritage. After all, I cannot easily ignore the sounds of Nzema and Twi, the assortment of colorful tailor-made ethnic attires in my closet, or spicy meals such as jollof rice that greet me at the dining table when I wouldn’t mind a simple burger. All these things define who I am. In my elementary school days, when my friends would describe me simply as Black, I would turn to them and proudly declare, ‘Actually, I’m Ghanaian!’ ”
Senior at Roosevelt High School
Nominated by Takeo Tashibu
“Brian is a warm and caring individual,” Takeo Tashibu, National Honor Society adviser, wrote. “He is a good listener and has a warm heart. Whenever we’ve called upon students to be helpful, Brian has given his time with the same unending energy and commitment.”
In his essay, Huynh wrote, “In the world today, technology is bringing us all closer together. We can turn on a computer in Guangzhou, China and video chat with someone in Florida. We can also text and e-mail some one in Germany or in Iraq.
And we soon realize that we are all living in the same ever shrinking world, a diverse world with thousands of different cultures.”
Junior at Sehome High School
Nominated by Kip Jones
“[Leonel] spends one day a week working with students for an hour,” Kip Jones, counselor at Sehome High School wrote. “He helps them work on speaking and reading in Spanish. Many of these students have parents who are bilingual, but are not so themselves.
“When I asked him about it, he explained to me that many families only speak English at home in an effort to improve their skills,” Jones stated. “The result is that many of the next generation lose out on their Spanish language skills. The time he spends with them is an effort to allow them to keep their skills and culture intact. He understands the value of being bilingual and encourages students to be proud of themselves and their history.”
In his essay, Reyes wrote, “Diversity also provides our culture and society with unique and inspirational ideas and perspectives in which the different ideas that people think are beneficial.”
Senior at Squalicum High School
Nominated by Karen Anastasio
“When I first met Sandeep Kour, she had just arrived at Squalicum High School from her native country of India,” Karen Anastasio, a teacher at Squalicum High School, wrote. “As was to be expected, she seemed overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds of a large American high school. In a very short time, she became accustomed to her new cultural home and her language skills rapidly increased.”
“When I was her English teacher, I would ask Sandeep to mentor new Indian students to assist with their integration into American culture,” Anastasio continued. “She willingly and joyfully accepted the responsibility, always reminding me that she remembered what it was like when she first arrived and wanted to give back.”
In her essay, Kour wrote, “America is not only known for being a huge melting pot, but is also recognized for accepting new concepts, ways, and ideas of basically anyone. … I believe that the many different races here have shaped our beautiful country into the way it is now.”
Alma Castillo Oropeza
Senior at Ballard High School
Nominated by Michael Smith
“When I think of Alma Castillo Oropeza as a student, ‘determined’ comes to mind,” Michael Smith, a yearbook adviser, wrote. “Her seriousness and lightheartedness come through in her academic life.”
“It is amazing to think that she has been in the United States for only six years,” Smith continued. “Despite such a transformation in culture, Alma has worked extremely hard and immersed herself as a quiet leader in our high school.”
In her essay, Oropeza wrote, “My roots are important to me. I speak Spanish at school and with my friends. However, when non-Latinos at school see this, they label me with stereotypes, assuming that I’m not capable.”
She continued, “There was a time when I refused to speak Spanish at school and even at home because I wanted so badly to fit in. Eventually, I got involved in the Proyecto Saber classroom at school and began to understand that belonging to American culture doesn’t mean that I have to give up on Spanish or forget about my family’s history.” (end)
For more information, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.
Staff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.