Students recognized for making diversity a priority

By Nina Huang
Northwest Asian Weekly

On Friday, Mar. 27, the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation presented several scholarship awards to deserving high school students in Washington. The diversity banquet dinner was held at Jumbo Chinese Restaurant in the Columbia City neighborhood, and more than 200 people attended the event.

There was a lot of young talent. Nominees, friends, teachers, and relatives gathered that night to recognize the winners of the scholarships.

The light-hearted event was hosted by professional public speaker Vanna Novak. The night’s keynote speaker was King County Councilmember Larry Gossett.


The scholarship winners and award presenters

“Diversity enriches our community,” Novak said of the night’s festivities.

Indeed, diversity was embraced and recognized through the influential efforts of the nominated students. The nominees were a diverse bunch, and many were recognized by their teachers and counselors.

Vietnamese American Phuong Truong, senior at Ballard High School, was thankful and speechless for being nominated by Dina McArdle, her U.S. history teacher, who was more like a friend to her. Like the other supporters, McArdle accompanied Truong for dinner and was ecstatic for her.

Truong hopes to study biology and international relations at Wellesley College in Massachusetts.

Neama Said, a senior at Garfield High School who is of Oromo descent, expressed that she “really appreciates the nomination” by her school counselor. Like Truong, Said also hopes to study biology or public health at a liberal arts college in Pomona, Calif.

Another senior from Garfield, Chinese American Alexander Ching has contributed more than 100 hours of volunteer work at the UW Medical Center. He participates in various community service activities and is also a member of the Student Conservation Association.
Ching hopes to study mechanical engineering next year in college.

These distinguished students have devoted much of their time toward giving back to their community.

“I feel like they are honoring me for something that I would be doing anyway, but it’s great that this is helping people be more aware of diversity,” Satinder Haer said.

For Indian American Haer, a sophomore at Kentridge High School, the nomination was “really unexpected.” She was excited to be nominated by the multicultural club adviser.

She is involved with the speech and debate club and has high hopes of studying at Harvard University to become a mediator. She is also interested in psychology and has applied to the UW Academy of Young Scholars. If accepted, she would be graduating from high school two years early to attend college.

College is on most of the nominees’ minds already, and many are considering prestigious institutions.

African American Duron Jones, a junior at Chief Sealth High School and one of the four finalists, felt very honored.

He said he believes that the award is a great opportunity for diverse students to be recognized. He hopes to study both business and law at Seattle University after he graduates from high school.

Gossett, a Franklin High School graduate, was the keynote speaker for the night. His speech was about leading the effort in dealing with issues of stereotyping and racism in the community.

At the event, Sen. Paul Shinn said, “America is like a beautiful piece of tapestry; there are white, black, yellow, and other threads that represent the country that we live in.”

Indeed, the public figures were proud of the students’ overall achievements.

The first female Korean American mayor in the United States, Cindy Ryu of Shoreline, presented awards to the finalists. She said she was “amazed at the breadth and depth of all the students here in spite of their youth.”

The four finalists were Anson Chan, Alexander Shigemi Honjiyo, Duron Jones, and Lauia Lamositele. They were each awarded a scholarship of $200.

Misun Bishop, Laura D’Asaro, Malcolm Moore, Daniel Nguyen, and Jairo Flores Torres were honored with $1,000 scholarship awards. Emcee Novak also graciously donated five of her DVDs on public speaking to the winners.

The reactions of friends and families to the recipients’ awards were of delight.

Nguyen energetically thanked both his mother and best friend.

After walking from the stage back to his table, Torres was embraced by his mother, who was already in tears. In Spanish, Torres’ mother thanked God for her son’s award and said that she is very happy that her son studied and worked so hard for this achievement. She said that she is proud of her son and that he is a good person.

Lily Clifton, a nominees from Nathan Hale High School, really enjoyed the evening. She was also nominated last year and thought it was nice to see one of her good friends, Laura D’Asaro, receive the scholarship award.

At the end of the evening, Ryu said that she believes there is hope for the future and is truly impressed by everyone. She said she is glad that Assunta Ng, founder of the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation and publisher of Northwest Asian Weekly, was able to create this opportunity for students to be recognized.

The uplifting and inspirational night would not have been made possible without the sponsors of the banquet, which included Microsoft, KWJZ Smooth Jazz, Pemco, State Farm Insurance, UPS, and Safeco Insurance. (end)

Nina Huang can be reached at

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