Compiled by Rebecca Lee
Northwest Asian Weekly
Northwest Asian Weekly’s Diversity Makes a Difference scholarship program celebrates students who are committed to reaching out across cultural lines. Students are nominated by their school as being champions of diversity. A judging panel will choose five winners who will each receive a $1,000 scholarship and a number of finalists who will each receive a $200 scholarship.
The Diversity Makes a Difference awards dinner will take place on April 1 at New Hong Kong Restaurant (900 South Jackson Street, #203, Seattle). For more information or 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.
Senior at Highline High School
Recommended by Holly Tanhueco
“This year, Dirir founded and is president of the African United Club. He was determined to get this club started and has been involved with recruiting students, finding volunteer work for the club … and has arranged field trips for the students in the club to see other aspects of African culture,” wrote Holly Tanhueco, a counselor at Highline High School, in a recommendation.
“In the past few years, he has been involved in community service at his school and in his community, including being a member of Link Crew, the robotics club, and the National Honors Society.”
“I have been hesitant to reveal the wonder of my culture to [the students at] Highline High School,” Abdullahi wrote in a personal statement. “[I realized] this causes a … blindness for all the other students and teachers who are unaware of the magical differences of world cultures. I decided to step it up and actually do something that would benefit my community as [a] whole. I created a club to integrate African culture into Highline High School. So far, it is working out quite well. Many adults appreciate us for giving them more knowledge about Africa, like the different countries, its role in the world, varied geography, and unsettled politics.”
“This club’s activity is geared to elevate the innate fear all foreigners experience when moving to a new country. … We aim to remove the blinders of our student body. As an undivided nation here at school, we see wonderful possibilities on the horizon for mutual respect and sharing in a world of ongoing cultural changes.”
Senior at the Academy of Citizenship & Empowerment
Recommended by Vijou Bryant
“In her senior year, [Latulitea] started the Tyee campus’ Pacific Islander Club, a supportive, safe space for Pacific Islander students (the Tyee Educational Complex is where the Academy is located). She then connected this club to her senior project’s activism component. For her senior project, she researched, presented, and created a workshop around the achievement gap among Pacific Islander students,” wrote Vijou Bryant, a tutor and advocate at the Tyee Educational Complex, in a recommendation.
“At the beginning of this month, I sat in for Latu’s impressive presentation,” continued Bryant. “A question from one of the judges was, ‘What legacy do you want to leave behind?’ Latu remembered a former Pacific Islander student who had focused on a similar topic for his senior project — she felt like she was following in his footsteps, in his legacy. Latu spoke with real gratitude about this past student’s significant influence on her. … She [also] urged for more diversity among teachers and more diversity days at school to share culture,” wrote Bryant.
“I never understood deaf students and how it is they cope in society,” Aho wrote in a personal statement. “Until my sophomore year, I took American Sign Language (ASL). [Before] this class, I was [unaware] that sign language was … a culture. Taking ASL, I was able to understand the deaf culture better and more importantly, it helped me appreciate my deaf classmates and their diff-erences that help [make] our school unique.”
Senior at Bellevue High School
Recommended by Mitchell Smoller
“Emanating from a strong multicultural background, Natalie discovered and self-designed a unique personal spiritual foundation. This experience is a touchstone time in her teen years prompting self-reflection and celebration of diversity and cultural similarities and differences. Natalie thoughtfully and carefully designed her high school program to parallel her post-secondary educational objectives,” wrote Mitchell Smoller, a counselor at Bellevue High School, in a recommendation.
“Natalie embraced the role of vice president of First Gear for Foster Kids, a nonprofit organization that collects bicycles and donates them to underprivileged foster children.”
“My personal upbringing in a ‘mixed marriage’ family (my mother is Catholic and my father is Jewish) has given me a unique perspective on religions, their respective ancestry, [and] the current day religious practices and the societal impact of each,” wrote Almeleh in a personal statement. “I am well aware of the importance of open-mindedness and the tragedies that can result if we forget the lessons learned in history. If we all had the same emotion, looked the same, and believed in the same things, we would have no sense of individuality and uniqueness. Diversity enriches every angle of our lives.”
Senior at Sehome High School
Recommended by Lindsay MacDonald
“Omar Alvarez arrived in the United States from Guadalajara, Mexico. Omar is involved in environmental protection and is passionate about the welfare of young children. He wants to be that individual who will make a difference in the lives of young children who may be struggling at an early age. With his bilingual skills and bicultural insights, he is poised to make a tremendous contribution,” wrote Lindsay MacDonald, an ELL teacher at Sehome High School, in a recommendation.
“He takes pride in his Mexican heritage,” continued MacDonald, “and enjoys the close association with [his] Mexican culture. He is truly eager to encounter people from other backgrounds, get to know them as individuals, and help them out if he can.”
“[During] my early childhood in Mexico, diversity was not an important aspect of life. It was not until I arrived in the United States that I realized the challenges of living with individuals from many different cultures,” Alvarez wrote in his personal statement. “This is when I started to recognize the experience of diversity as a crucial form of education. … It doesn’t matter where you come from, whether [you’re] from the falling rain, or a melting glacier, each and every one of us is a drop of water, and together we will form a river that finally ends in the same place: the great, open ocean of the globalized world.”
Senior at Edmonds–Woodway High School
Recommended by Vicki Clark
“Jessica registered in our school after moving here from Ghana. Jessica has a strong sense of purpose, is very conscientious, and seeks out help as needed,” stated Vicki Clark, a counselor at Edmonds-Woodway High School, in a recommendation.
“She is determined to further her education and participate in [the] volunteer arena to learn more about herself, help her build skills for her future, and to indulge her love of people. She works as an usher in her church and volunteers at a boutique. She is captain of her track team, which helped with leadership and social skills,” continued Clark.
“Sharing my experience in Ghana with others in the United States has made my Ghanaian culture stronger to me,” Anafi wrote in her personal statement. “I want my classmates in the [United States] to know that they have privileges that I never had in Ghana. I attended a Presbyterian missionary boarding high school in Ghana, and there were strict rules that all students were to abide by. … [Here, I learned that] you should always be speaking about your home country and let others know how different we all are and what went on and is still going on there, and I believe through sharing it with others, a big change can be made to help improve the whole world.”
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Recommended by Megan Diefenbach
“Anya is very proud of her cultural heritage, and has been an active participant and leader in the Multicultural Student Union at Holy Names Academy (HNA). [She is involved] with her beloved Filipino Youth Activities Drill Team [and has said that] her participation with this dance group is like describing her role in a family,” wrote Megan Diefenbach, a counselor at Holy Names Academy, in a recommendation.
“Anya will graduate from HNA with a broad academic foundation, and she will be very well prepared for college. Anya dreams of one day having a thriving career in the music industry, specifically on the business and promotion side, and her plan is to pursue a major in business during her undergraduate years,” Diefenbach continued.
“Being half Black and half Filipino has made me realize how important it is to be proud of who you are as a whole,” wrote Asuncion in a personal statement. “When identifying yourself, it is wise to be exposed to every aspect of your background as possible, giving you enough substance to therefore decide whom you will set out to become. … I will carry these values on for the rest of my life and know that no matter where I end up in life, two completely separate cultures influenced me to become the best I could ever be.”
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Recommended by Megan Diefenbach
“Breanne hails from a very tight-knit Filipino family and she readily admits that … she is completely family-oriented. ‘My family is my rock, support, and love in my life. I have a strong passion for my heritage, and my Filipina background makes me who I am today,’ [she has expressed]. The family speaks a combination of English, Tagalog, and Ilocano in the home, and Bre is proud to be comfortable in all three languages/dialects. She credits her parents with instilling in her how important it is to set an example for her younger sister, in all aspects of life,” wrote Megan Diefenbach, a counselor at Holy Names Academy, in a recommendation.
“Each person is an element to the ‘melting pot,’ of this country,” wrote Batara in her personal essay.
“But, what people fail to recognize is that diversity is more universal than the usual generalizations. Diversity is the community at large. The community is essential to a working society — beneficiary for the continual growth of relationships and oneself. One must take into consideration that diversity is not just about what an individual is, based on their color of skin, but rather who they are as an individual. Diversity is more than just being one of the only minorities in a classroom. It is the understanding that it is the differences of [people] that bring a community together as a collective whole. Without diversity, we human beings would be in mere existence of a monotone world.”
Christina Mae Boettcher
Senior at Olympia High School
Recommended by Matthew H. Grant
“Christina Mae joined Bear Crew during her junior year, a group that helps support our incoming freshmen. Ms. Boettcher’s initiation of a new peer buddy program is called Bear Crew II. Mae’s experience interacting with her sister, who has Down syndrome, has helped [to prompt] her to establish a more inclusive school,” wrote Matthew H. Grant, principal of Olympia High School, in a recommendation.
“In Bear Crew II, students with special needs are paired with students in basic education to attend school activities. Mae provided training for club members to ensuring that all understood this was not meant to be a one-way mentoring program. Students without disabilities gain as much from [participating] as those with disabilities. She trained participants to use people-first language and gave tips to help promote social interaction. … With Mae’s help, we organized a student talk on creating a more inclusive school and a faculty presentation aimed at looking at autism not as a deficit perspective.”
“I have helped create Bear Crew II. [Through this club] many different types of people enjoy and participate in these events: cheerleaders, soccer players, volleyball players, artists, basketball fans,” Boettcher wrote in a personal statement. There is not just a blind eye to the differences. There is a celebration of them. At OHS, I am proud to be [a] part of this growing community of differences, this haven where celebrating diversity is the norm, where ‘different’ now holds a positive connotation and is applied to every single student.”
Senior at Mariner High School
Recommended by Ann Jordan
“As a child, Alfonso came from Mexico and understood the hardships created by not understanding the language. … Alfonso served [as a high school coordinator] for seven years with the district’s Giving Wishes Holiday Project, providing gifts for needy students every year. Alfonso also worked [for] three years as an elementary summer school volunteer …where he mentors Hispanic students, and is a liaison between the school and the families,” wrote mentor Ann Jordan, principal at Endeavour Elementary, in a recommendation.
“As Alfonso got older, he saw that many undocumented students dropped out of school because they had a feeling of hopelessness without a social security card. … Alfonso saw an opportunity to help change this attitude by going to the local middle school as both an assistant soccer coach and as an academic mentor. Alfonso [became] a member of the Latino College Prep organization, and a leader in Mariner’s Latino Student Union, [where he] tutors Hispanic students and helps them with problems at school,” continued Jordan.
“Being in a country that has diversity, it’s a privilege and the best thing that has ever happened to me because I’ve learned a completely different language. I live in a different world, or different as I used to live in my home country, and I have the privilege of meeting new people from a country that maybe is from the other side of the world where I’m from, or has a different culture or beliefs as I do,” wrote Bustos in a personal statement. ♦
For more information or to buy tickets to the Diversity Makes a Difference Scholarship awards banquet, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.