By Leah Shin
For Northwest Asian Weekly
It used to be waking up every morning where I felt like I was unable to dream. It was not because I was incapable of dreaming but I was afraid to. Growing up as an Asian American, I was <!–more–>surrounded by the stereotypical “Asian” standard of dreamers… parents who dreamed that I would attend a prestigious university, friends who dreamed of becoming successful doctors, teachers who dreamed for us to ace every test, and society that dreamed for their own success. Their dreams are what I felt pressured into dreaming.
Until recently it occurred to me that I, an Asian American female teenager, can actually change the world. I was ridiculed by words I pronounced wrong and had to attend mandatory English Language Learner (ELL) class. Yet, enduring those hardships inspired me to make a difference. For years I saw transfer students like Dao (Vietnam), Fátima (Bolivia), Wonkyoung (Korea), and Afomia (Ethiopia) feel lost at school; I wanted them to find their identity and share their culture with confidence. Hence, I established Literacy for Love.
Through Literacy for Love, members arrive early mornings to have conversations with students in the ELL Program. We create a safe place to share their stories of diverse cultures and foster acceptance. Most of the ELL students struggle to learn English. Most don’t have access to educational resources, not even a single book. So the club collected over $55,000 worth of books which have been donated to local and global communities.
This year we are uniting diverse cultures through a cultural gala: exchanging food, music, traditional dance, and language.
Society implicitly accepts diversity as: “how no one person is alike.” However, diversity implicitly falls under a common misconception of stereotypes that society sets for any ethnic group. Diversity is important because it is more than just a stereotype; diversity is our identity, our roots, our pride, and our hope. Taking the time to understand the background and cultures of others, allows us to take a piece of them with us. Only with diversity are we able to take a single step forward into the world filled with boundless amount of confident dreamers. My dream is for others to embrace what makes them different and let that not be a weakness but a strength. To be an Asian American leader and help students find their identity— for them to dream their own dream. (end)
Leah Shin is a “Diversity Makes a Difference” scholarship nominee.