By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
The freezing outdoor temperature did not dampen the warm atmosphere of handshaking and extended congratulations inside the House of Hong Restaurant.
Eight individuals and an organization were honored Dec. 6 at the annual Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation’s Top Contributors to the Asian Community banquet.
KING 5 morning reporter and fill-in anchor Teresa Yuan served as master of ceremonies and welcomed more than 200 people, who gathered to support the honorees.
Wearing a red dress with a red, white, and, blue corsage, 10-year-old Lena Hou sang the national anthem a Capella.
Seven of the nine honorees immigrated to the United States, including Mohan Gurung, the first Nepali American to be honored as a Top Contributor to the Asian Community. He arrived in 1993 at the age of 37 for better opportunities and “to see a new world.”
“We have to do many more projects, but we are handing over more than $1,000 to the Filipino community, those who are typhoon victims in the Philippines,” he said after a performance of traditional Nepali folk music and dances by the Nepalese Seattle Dancers.
“To all my friends here tonight, I give my best gratitude. It has been a wonderful American journey for me and my family.”
Elected as a Bellevue School Board member (District 5) last month, My-Linh Thai arrived in the United States at age 15. She said her grandparents were her source of inspiration.
At the age of 4, Thai demonstrated an interest in reading, but could not enroll in school until she reached the required minimum age of 7.
About her grandmother, Thai said, “She cooked and she started on a campaign of knocking on the doors of school officials. A year later, I get to be in a classroom.
“That was how she inspired me. That was the spirit of advocating for education.”
Born in Tacoma and with no prior experience as a politician, Bryan Yambe became a Fife City Council member (Position 1) last month. At the age of 27, he is the second Japanese American elected to its city council and has worked on such political campaigns as President Obama’s Organizing for America.
“I’m here because of each and every one of you in this room, because if it weren’t for the sacrifices, the time, the dedication, and hard work, I wouldn’t have the opportunity to be standing here as a councilman of a city of almost 10,000 people,” he said.
Dr. Jae Hoon Kim emigrated from Seoul, South Korea in 1981 to get his Ph.D. from the University of Florida in electrical and computer engineering. Ten years later, he moved to Washington state to work for Boeing. A holder of four U.S. patents with another one pending, Kim is the board chair of the Korean American Education and Culture Foundation.
“I am totally honored and feel very humble to receive this award,” he said. “This is great. This is the first award, non-technical and non-engineering, for me.”
The Chinese Information and Service Center (CISC) has provided integrated services – immigrant transition, adult and youth employment, among others – for the last 41 years.
CISC Executive Director Dorothy Wang and Board President Janet Ung accepted the honor. Wang acknowledged the dedication of the CISC board and staff “in ensuring that quality services, cradle-to-grave services to the entire Asian and immigrant community are provided.”
Ung added, “We’re very honored to be here to help serve the Asian community.”
Dr. Austin Huang, a native of China, is a composer, mining engineer, and an honorary professor at Western Washington University. He is also the artistic director of the Bellingham Chinese Culture Festival.
“Tonight, I’m being recognized here by the community for my achievements,” he said. “But actually, I think it’s not for my achievements, I consider it an honor awarding all the people who pursue their dreams.”
Dr. Bjong Wolf Yeigh is the new chancellor of the University of Washington Bothell. Before joining the university, he was a professor and president of the State University of New York Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome.
“I’m very honored to accept this award really on behalf of the University of Washington and the University of Washington at Bothell,” Yeigh said. “Helping the Asian community attain a college education really isn’t my work, but the work that the UW Bothell community has really put emphasis on for the last several years,” Yeigh said.
Life Achievement Awards
Sue Taoka attended the 1971 White House Conference on Aging and now works as the executive vice president of Craft3.
She said, “This is all about community, and doing work in the community and making it stronger and better. I’m among wonderful honorees. Everybody is making the community stronger, each in their own way.”
When Rey Pascua was 3 years old, he and his mother traveled from the Philippines to the United States and settled in eastern Washington. An advocate for diversity and API historical preservation, he has worked to get October officially recognized as Filipino American History Month in several cities throughout Washington state.
“Lifetime achievement is very special, and so I dedicate this honor to my partner Sandra, who rests in peace since May of 2011,” said Pascua. (end)
James Tabafunda can be reached at email@example.com.