By Alia Marsha
Northwest Asian Weekly
The Diversity Makes a Difference scholarship dinner at New Hong Kong restaurant on March 28, hosted by Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation, was, in essence, a celebration for students, educators, family, and the community.
This event marks the 19th year since the scholarship program, called Diversity Makes a Difference, was first established. Its mission is to honor outstanding high school students in the Puget Sound region who have worked to promote diversity in their community.
This year, the Foundation considered more than 60 exceptional students who were winners in their own rights.
The dinner was emceed by Tina Young, who serves as the director of multicultural services at Seattle Central Community College. She delivered a balance of light-hearted jokes and learning points for students, parents, and educators to take home. Another memorable part of the evening was the Q&A session between David Santillanes Jr., president of D. Lark, Inc., a franchisee of McDonald’s, and Northwest Asian Weekly publisher Assunta Ng. This lively and humorous exchange, which had the whole room breaking out into laughter, stressed the importance of learning and perseverance.
The dinner also honored Jol Raymond, a counselor at Chief Sealth International High School, for his 36 years of service. Raymond nominated several students for the scholarship. He was introduced by Chief Sealth’s principal Aida Fraser-Hammer, who stressed the importance of the event.
“It’s very important not only for young people, but for us older people because it helps us to appreciate the things we treasure, such as diversity and education,” she said. “It’s good for young people because they see that we depend on them to carry on efforts that have started, but not only that, we want to inspire them to do more than we have ever done.”
One of the $1,000 scholarship winners, Adora Nwankwo, echoed this statement. The Olympia High School senior cited activists such as Martin Luther King Jr. and Gloria Steinem as her major inspirations for her involvement in the community. Nwankwo is one of the 22 members of the Legislative Youth Advisory Council, representing the youth of Washington in the State Legislature.
Sarah “Cha Cha” Sawyer, another scholarship winner, said she learned a lot from her fellow nominees and the event itself.
“Everyone has so much potential — the youth today, the generation today — there’s so much empowerment in our generation about fighting for justice and equal rights,” said the Holy Names Academy senior, who is involved with her school’s Social Justice Committee and the Multi-Cultural Student Union, in which she is a leader.
“When you find young people who stand up tall and say, ‘I believe in this and I will take the step to do what I think is right,’ then we have to support them,” said Fraser-Hammer.
“This also makes us proud as educators.”
The winners, judged on their essays detailing why diversity is important, were Sara “Cha Cha” Sawyer from Holy Names Academy, Ana Cervantes of Squalicum High School, Adora Nwankwo of Olympia High School, Nicola LaGuardia of Roosevelt High School, and Julie Nguyen of Shorecrest High School. Each received a $1,000 scholarship from the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation.
Finalists, who each will receive $200 scholarships, were Austin Moungchanh of Chief Sealth High School, Erick Yanzon of Mountlake Terrace High School, Courtney Gu of Edmonds-Woodway High School, Asosa Sailiai of Highline High School, and Caleb Walin of Issaquah High School. (end)
Alia Marsha can be reached at email@example.com.