Compiled by Rebecca W. Lee
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 April 1 at New Hong Kong Restaurant. 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 Sehome High School
Recommended by Bobby Stafford
“Han Cao came from China to the United States a year ago. There is no one who could be a better emissary of close cultural relations between China and the U.S. than Han. He is a gracious young gentleman, with keen desire to teach his new friends and classmates about the Chinese culture and language. At the same time, he is eager to hone his English and learn to be an American,” stated Bobby Stafford, a counselor at Sehome High School, in a recommendation.
“It was not long after he arrived and settled in that I learned that he was holding informal Chinese classes, after school! And, yes, he had students who were anxious to be his pupils. Han is sharing the Chinese culture, language, and music.”
“I’m glad to see so many people are interested in the language and culture of my mother country,” Cao wrote in a personal statement. “Actually, giving a Chinese class is not that easy, because my mother tongue has a completely different pronunciation than [the] Latin or Germanic language. I try to be more patient with my students and never give up on them. I am so glad that I can contribute and add another element to American culture, and make that culture more colorful.”
Senior at Mariner High School
Recommended by Auliilani Sanchez
“During his sophomore and junior year, Jonnathan became involved with Latino College Prep. It was the first time [that] an organization such as this one had been active at Mariner,” wrote Auliilani Sanchez, a math teacher at Mariner High School. “Jonnathan was an enormous help reaching out to our local families with questions and answers about education at our Noche De Familia.”
“In his senior year, he advocated for another organization, Latino Student Union (LSU), to help create awareness of the issues, struggles, and needs that Latino students face while in high school. … He sought an adviser, organized meetings. … [For] Dream Act Awareness Day, he helped design t-shirts for students and faculty to wear [and created a video] for our annual MLK Assembly. … Last but not least, Jonnathan participated in speaking out at the University of Washington about the importance of uniting Latino Students in our region for the purpose of creating college and mentoring connections.”
“Taking initiative is something I like to do,” wrote Carino in his personal statement. “I like to lead others and giving them the best I have to offer, whether it is a simple smile, or teaching them about my culture. I learn from their culture and together we break stereotypical barriers. I try to understand when someone fears the unknown, but at the same time, I want to contribute to their understanding by showing the importance of diversity.”
Sophomore at Woodinville High School
Recommended by Sylvia Law
“Christine is a highly motivated student and strives for excellence in all that she does. This includes her desire to promote individuality among her peers. Not only is she a minority (Korean American) in a predominantly Caucasian school, [but] she is also a Christian who is open about her faith,” stated Sylvia Law, a biomedical science teacher at Woodinville High School, in a recommendation.
“She is very open about sharing her religious beliefs and encourages others to do so as well. She is also very proactive about spreading cultural awareness to her friends and fellow classmates. She enjoys sharing about Korean culture and how it impacts her family, school, and social life.”
“The reason why everyone sees America as the ‘dream land’ and the ‘perfect’ place to live is because of its numerous cultures,” wrote Cho in a personal statement. “It makes people aware of what is out there and what is beyond their country. You are naturally exposed to these various cultures almost anywhere you go. To be diverse simply means [to be] different. Differences can be in ideas, culture, values, lifestyles, etc. To be a better intellectual and person, you must grasp as many points of all these things and more because you are broadening and opening your mind and thinking.”
Junior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Recommended by Cherie Cordel
“Joanna has been an active member of our Colores Unidos Club for three years. She is now serving as our vice president and is a member of the ASB planning committee. We had the “Mix it Up Dance” in November and Joanna spent hours planning, organizing, advertising, and implementing the event which was a big success,” stated Cherie Cordel, a Spanish teacher and world language department head, in a recommendation.
“Colores Unidos’ main focus is to push Latino students to achieve higher education and to give back to the community,” continued Cordel. “For the past two years, Joanna has attended the LEAP Conference (Latino Educational Achievement Project) where we spend 3 days educating students on how to be a leader in their community. We travel to Olympia and meet with our legislators about new proposals …”
“I feel keeping students involved in school and community projects encourage them and others to become what they want to be in life,” Cinfuegos wrote in a personal statement. “Taking a leadership role in the Colores Unidos group has also helped me to not only appreciate my culture, but also to appreciate everyone else’s cultures and help me break down barriers between cultures and embrace my diverse community. These leadership conferences have also helped and changed me to become open minded to everyone’s differences.”
Senior at Franklin High School
Recommended by Jamie Jackson
“Raven is a leader in [the] Black Student Union (BSU) and Victory Club, a faith-based club at Franklin High School. … Raven actively promotes diversity by reaching across ethnic and racial lines to encourage all students to become members in both clubs, stated Jamie Jackson, an adviser at Franklin High School, in a recommendation.
“As part of the BSU leadership team, Raven has participated in the coordination of a youth summit, cultural potluck, and college prep workshops,” continued Jackson.
“These events attract all types of students, providing a venue for them to share in Raven’s culture while also promoting their own.”
“The idea to increase diversity in BSU came to me when I noticed kids saying BSU is only for African American students. This encouraged me to go around the school and recruit not only African Americans, but also others to join the membership team. … Posters were posted around the school to let people know the diversity we were looking for in BSU. As a result in posting the posters, the club now has a wide spread of diversity,” wrote Coleman in her personal essay.
Senior at Roosevelt High School
Recommended by Cora H. Mackoff
“Elaine needs to make sense of what she is learning and often applies those concepts to her own life in a most impressive way,” stated Cora H. Mackoff, social studies department chair at Roosevelt High School, in a recommendation.
“Nowhere do Elaine’s talents shine more brightly than her work as a student docent at the Henry Art Gallery on the campus at the University of Washington. Her passion for the arts and making it accessible to all students has been a major accomplishment in her high school career. She has led countless tours, trained many docents, and established a summer intern program, as well as being a student curator of a student art showcase at the Sunlight Café.”
“I’ve led over 35 tours to about 400 students, ranging from kindergarteners to at-risk high school students to senior citizens. As I guide a group through a discussion of art, students offer their reaction and opinion to what they see,” wrote Colligan in a personal statement. “Groups interpret work together, sometimes working off and often debating their different ideas. I love leading tours, because I get to interact with diverse people and play catch with their ideas. This year, I founded the Teens at the Henry advisory group. One of our goals is to bring people who are often underrepresented in art galleries to the museum, from teens to other groups.”
Xu Alice Dai
Senior at Bellevue High School
Recommended by Mitchell Smoller
“Alice Dai transitioned from Canada to the United States in [the 10th] grade. She adapted to her current sphere with courage, hard work, maturity, and displays a profound and deep penchant for learning and inquisition,” wrote Mitchell Smoller, a school counselor at Bellevue High School, in a recommendation.
“Alice did the Japanese Exchange Experience in grade nine. Event personnel immediately recognized Alice’s competence, and appointed her to the organization committee. … Alice volunteers numerous hours as a tutor for children and serves as a Sunday school teacher.”
“[I] have gone to school in four different countries, in 14 different schools, and [lived] in 15 different houses,” Dai wrote in a personal essay. “[In China], I missed being the new girl from Canada by always starting off a conversation with a handshake and saying, ‘Hi, I’m Alice, nice to meet you!’ My trip back to China showed me how bland and passive life can be if we all looked the same, did the same, and acted in the same way. Diversity encompasses a variety of things. It is not limited to the people, culture, belief, or actions that someone interacts, lives, stand for, and upholds.”
Senior at Franklin High School
Recommended by Caroline Sacerdote
“Yemesrach immigrated to the United States from Ethiopia in January 2010,” wrote Caroline Sacerdote, a College Access Now (CAN) adviser, in a recommendation. “Her family came to the U.S. on a diversity visa, the equivalent of winning the lottery.”
Yemesrach also excels outside of school. She has been involved in multiple social justice related clubs, including the gender club and HIV/AIDs awareness club. She recognizes the importance of diversity and has shared her culture with others at her high school at multicultural night. In addition, her passion for service is evident when she describes her volunteer work at the Rainier Dental Center and Causey’s Learning Center.”
“In Ethiopia, there are more than 80 ethnic groups with different languages and cultures, and my father, being a teacher, taught in many different parts of Ethiopia. When I was born, he taught in one of the remotest places in Ethiopia, called Jinka, where the Hamar ethnic group lives,” Demissie wrote in her personal statement. “One day, I was able to visit my birth place. … I didn’t think I would be able to communicate with these people because they speak only their own language and they don’t have any kind of formal education. However, after I saw the Hamar people, I realized my understanding of their culture was absolutely wrong. I communicated using sign language without having any difficulties, and I found these people to be very smart, respectful, and generous. … The Jinka people are able to survive, even with all the hardships of their environment. This was the main reason why I brought the Jinka cultural dance to Franklin High School at multicultural night. … Now, I am a member of the Habesha club at Franklin.”
Senior at Sehome High School
Recommended by Bobby Stafford
“Sarah wants to challenge her beliefs and delve deeper into the geopolitical, cultural, and philosophical underpinnings of the human triumphs and tragedies that exist in today’s world,” wrote Bobby Stafford, a counselor at Sehome High School, in a recommendation.
“Last summer, Sarah applied for and got a much sought after internship in Seattle with KUOW, an NPR affiliate. She had six fantastic weeks learning and working next to professional journalists. I asked Sarah to give me a CD of the segments that she produced during her internship, as I listened to a segment that Sarah had written, produced, and recorded. Nevertheless, I remembered the segment because it provided a wonderful glimpse into the Islamic month of Ramadan.”
“Diversity is not just about righting the wrongs of the past. It is about creating a future in which everyone has equal opportunity to shape this world into the best one it can possibly be. … It is difficult to have a real awareness of the events occurring around us if the only understanding that can be gleaned is from the black and white block print of a newspaper or the microphone of a TV reporter. By talking to people who have been shaped by a different world than the one that you may have experienced, it is possible to gain a deeper understanding of the issues,” stated Dillard in a personal essay.
Senior at Chief Sealth High School
Recommended by Marta Sanchez
“Early on in Dong’s life, he learned [that] whatever would happen in life for him was up to him. Dong decided to check out the Summer Search program. This program gave him an adult mentor who helped him [to] be accountable. His focus and hard work were rewarded with an all expense paid trip camping for three weeks. Having never camped before and working with unknown students from across the nation gave Dong a chance for growth,” wrote Marta Sanchez, an administrative secretary at Chief Sealth High School, in a recommendation.
“Through Dong’s conscientious effort, he was rewarded with a five week trip to New Zealand. In New Zealand, he developed his passion for teaching and participated in community service. Upon his return, he sought out teaching opportunities and now works with an elementary after school program.”
“Newspapers, television, and the media gave their negative views on African Americans. This influenced me to create a barrier to protect myself. This went on until my first year of high school.
In that first year, one African American girl invited me to an Afro-Caribbean night at the University of Washington. As I sat in the auditorium, I was afraid that the people around me wouldn’t accept me, but people were welcoming, friendly, and they made me feel like one of them. By the end of the night, I had completely broken down my barrier, making new friends and accepting their culture. … I want to experience cultures first hand and achieve a higher understanding of why people isolate themselves from other cultures,” Dinh wrote in his personal essay.
Senior at Highline High School
Recommended by Nghi Le
“Trang is a very dedicated member of the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Society, as well as in all other activities she chooses to pursue in,” wrote Nghi Le, a youth minister, in a recommendation.
“Many people, including those who are even older than her, look to Trang for guidance. … Our youth organization serves hundreds of youth from all over the Greater Seattle region, so we have a very diverse member base. Sometimes, this huge amount of people from different areas or different backgrounds can cause clashes. However, Trang uses her skills well to stimulate unity among diversity. With her help, our organization is able to maintain a cohesive learning environment and shape our youth into virtuous and productive members of society.”
“Without diversity, I see a black and white society without any color whatsoever,” Dinh wrote in a personal statement. “I mean this literally and figuratively. Diversity offers a spectrum of color to our nation and contributes an array of cultures that define what America is all about. We are a nation of immigrants, and diversity is present to unite people of cultures from everywhere in the world. This unity is most significant because it allows us to be compassionate and understanding towards others.” ♦
Stacy Nguyen and Yukari Sumino contributed to this report.
Rebecca W. Lee can be reached at email@example.com.