Diversity Makes a Difference – Part 5

From left to right, top to bottom: Nhi Pham, Sepideh Pourpirali, Ramin Mohammad Rafiei, Kevin Rhee, Magali Sanchez, Leor Seal, Arianna Shorey, Najee Siu-Chang, Kimi Smith, Samantha Snyder, Aida Solomon, Catherine Tang, Connie Tang, Juan Teran, and Charles Tillmon

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. Of those students, a judging panel will choose five winners who will receive $1,000 scholarships and eight finalists who will receive $200 scholarships.

The Diversity Makes a Difference awards dinner will take place on April 2 at Jumbo Chinese Restaurant (4208 Rainier Ave. S., Seattle). For more information or to buy tickets, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.

Each week, leading up to the dinner, we will print a batch of short profiles of the nominees. This week’s nominees:

Nhi Pham
Chief Sealth High School
Nominated by Jol Raymond and Sam Reed

“Nhi Pham is currently serving as Senior Class Senator to our ASB,” wrote Jol Raymond in a recommendation. “Besides student government, she is an integral part of the Filipino and Key clubs.

“For the past 11 years, she has been active in her parish youth group, community outreach efforts, and the choir. … Nhi has volunteered at a local elementary school as a reading tutor. She has also found the time to be an active member of YouthForce,” wrote Raymond.

“Nhi has added to her resume by participating in a number of community and school activities. She is a member of the varsity tennis team, an officer in the Filipino Club, and a youth mentor in the Team Read program,” wrote Sam Reed.

Sepideh Pourpirali
Squalicum High School
Recommended by Terri White

“[Sepideh], along with a couple of her friends, saw a need to positively engage students outside of school. They developed programs for youth, focusing on ecology and personal growth through service-oriented activities,” wrote counselor Terri White.

“Sepideh has made a difference in our school and greater community, taking on leadership roles and making things happen. She has been an integral member of the Rotary Club, serving as president during her junior year. She identified and organized service activities for members to take part in, helping students to contribute hundreds of hours to the community,” wrote White.

“She was the assistant editor of the Literary Arts Magazine, which is published twice a year. In addition to the magazine, the club hosted Squalicum’s Coffee House to display student art, music, and poetry.”

Ramin Mohammad Rafiei
Rainier Beach High School
Recommended by Dan Jurdy

“The reason that Ramin Mohammad Rafiei came to the United States was that the government of Iran would not allow him to attend college because of his Baha’i religion … in Iran, Baha’i are untouchable,” wrote counselor Dan Jurdy.

“Ramin’s commitment is best demonstrated by his success and discipline at school.  His commitment to his education is fed by his determination to achieve.  From the beginning, Ramin would take my or his peers’ feedback and apply it to improving his performance in class,” wrote Jurdy.

“Ramin carries himself with assurance in conversation and class work.  From his earliest days with us at Rainier Beach High School, I was impressed by how natural it was for him to be active in his classes.  Whether learning a new math problem or working hard on a project, he would not withdraw his determination to succeed,” wrote Jurdy.

Kevin Rhee
Edmonds-Woodway High School
Recommended by Paul Sevig

Kevin Rhee is an IB student who came to the United States when he was 6. “His above-average college entrance exams are indicators of his mental toughness,” wrote counselor Paul Sevig in a recommendation.

“When Kevin was in seventh grade, he had a cerebral hemorrhage that left him with a physical impairment. … Kevin has faced his physical challenges with a strong spirit and positive attitude. I’m impressed with Kevin’s ability to do so well in school and at the same time, undergo extensive physical therapy,” wrote Sevig.

“Kevin volunteers at his church every week, helping [Korean children who have mental disabilities]. Kevin has taught students the Korean language through the Seattle and Bellevue Korean School program.”

Rhee is also involved in the Model United Nations program, volunteers on a high school boat cruise, where international cultures are represented, and is secretary for the school’s Asian Connection Club.

Magali Sanchez
Edmonds-Woodway High School
Recommended by Paul Sevig

Magali Sanchez is an IB student who is “motivated, hardworking, responsible, and … brilliant …,” wrote counselor Paul Sevig in his recommendation.

“Magali was one of the founders of the Colores Unidos club this year, [and] she is president. As a leader of Colores Unidos, Magali has helped present the club to the school’s senate, organized and contributed to the club’s purpose and objectives, led a crafts activity for children in the Lynnwood Civil Lights winter celebration, attended the first annual local Latino Youth and Parent Conference, tutored Latino students, organized a parent dinner to enlist their cooperation and involvement, and attended community forums to express the needs of students and their parents,” wrote Sevig.

“At this time, Magali is organizing a buddy reading system with College Place Elementary School to help bilingual students succeed.”

Sanchez will be the first in her family to attend college. She hopes to become a doctor to provide medical care to the Latino community.

Leor Seal
Nathan Hale High School
Recommended by Bella Bikowsky

Leor Seal is a member of the Diversity Club at Nathan Hale High School. “His primary role with the Diversity Club has entailed arranging the Equity Summits and cultural appreciation events.

He has been a solid leader in the promotion of diversity and has been an outspoken advocate on issues of equity,” wrote counselor Bella Bikowsky.

“Leor also serves as Nathan Hale’s ASB senior class vice president in which his main responsibilities include representing the voice of students, helping to run school-wide assemblies, and playing an active role in organizing school and community fundraisers.”

“Leor has had the opportunity to travel with his family for the past several years. … He hopes to continue his travels while at a university.” Leor explained that he wants to “know what it feels like to have to work hard for everything I have.”

Arianna Shorey
Peninsula High School
Recommended by Heidi Steele

“In her role as a leader in the Chinese Club, Arianna has been instrumental in sharing Chinese culture and food with the broader school community through club events and activities,” said Arianna’s Chinese teacher Heidi Steele.

Shorey studied Chinese with Steele for four years and is the current president of Peninsula High School’s Chinese Club.

“I have never sensed in Arianna a need to conform to the norms of any particular social or ethnic group in her school community.  She surrounds herself with other interesting young people from many different backgrounds. She has a variety of friends – male and female, gay and straight, of various ages, and from a variety of ethnic and economic backgrounds,” said Steele.

“Gig Harbor is not a diverse community, so there is a strong need for students such as Arianna. She has contributed greatly to her school by being a role model who embraces diversity and being who she is, and by actively working to promote cultural understanding and acceptance.”

Najee Siu-Chang
Garfield High School
Recommended by Amber Jenkins

“As a MAN Up! Mentor and Scholar Homework Mentor, Najee Siu-Chang commits considerable time to leading other Black males in the community,” wrote Amber Jenkins in a recommendation. “At 17, he is a social entrepreneur and visionary guided by his empathy for others. As ASB president, member of the Youth Venture Advisory Board, and member of the Youth Grantmaking Board, Najee continually seeks to learn more about effective leadership. He was also selected to join the National Urban League Youth Leadership Conference last summer.”

“In order to learn more about how to influence educational policy, Najee applied to be a member of the Youth Advisory Council where he will choose a platform, research data, and write a policy to improve teacher quality,” wrote Jenkins.

Siu-Chang “teaches [black males] about financial decisions, provides academic guidance, and discusses the importance of maintaining self-confidence,” wrote Jenkins.

Kimi Smith
Shorecrest High School
Recommended by Anita Sena-Johnson

“For the past 4 years, Kimi has celebrated our diversity by helping with our Unity Festival. She has also taken time to notice that those outside of mainstream culture are sometimes limited in opportunities to succeed,” wrote ELL teacher Anita Sena-Johnson.

“Because of Kimi’s incredible sensitivity and willingness to stretch herself, she has challenged herself in lending her scholastic knowledge and time to tutor ELL students at Shorecrest. In addition, she initiated and organized a tutoring program at Ballinger Homes Community Center as a major component of her Senior Project. Completion of the Senior Project requires 30 hours of community service. However, Kimi has donated above and beyond the essential,” wrote Sena-Johnson.

“In addition, she served 3 years as student representative of Site Council. Working with the school psychologist, Kimi helped develop a survey related to homework. One of her tasks was to insure that the survey was culturally unbiased.”

Samantha Snyder
Juanita High School
Recommended by Laurie Chesley

Samantha Snyder is the co-president of Juanita High School’s Multicultural Club, leading weekly meetings, potlucks, and fundraisers.

“Samantha and the Multicultural Club strive to help people beyond the school campus and even across borders. Every year, the club picks a different organization to fundraise for,” says club adviser Laurie Chesley.

“Because of the worldwide state of the economy, this year, Samantha felt that donating to FINCA International would be a great cause. FINCA International is a nonprofit, microfinance organization that gives small loans to women in developing countries and allows them to make big impacts in the communities that they are a part of.”

“[Snyder] understands the importance of having a community full of diverse people, thoughts, and backgrounds,” says Chesley.

“She strives every day to make Juanita a place full of differences that do not inhibit growth among the students, but instead foster respect among the young people and cause a thirst for diversity in all aspects of life.”

Aida Solomon
Nathan Hale High School
Recommended by Bella Bikowsky

“Aida Solomon has a passion for studying different cultures. Being that her family is from East Africa, she has had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with many different cultures in Africa. In addition, Aida will be spending about three weeks in Ethiopia as part of her Senior Project studying the African media and how their culture portrays Western media,” wrote her counselor Bella Bikowsky in a recommendation.

“When Aida was a sophomore at Nathan Hale, she was extremely involved with representing Ethiopia in Seattle. She worked at the Pacific Science Center in downtown Seattle where they had an exposition on Ethiopia. Aida was able to singlehandedly obtain permission from all ends for her sophomore class to travel to the center and experience Lucy, a 3.5 million-year-old Ethiopian,” wrote Bikowsky.

“Aida has also been an active leader in Nathan Hale’s East African Girls Club. Through her leadership abilities, the group has been able to put on a fashion show representing African clothing as well as win The Bite of Hale,” a cultural food event.

Catherine Tang
Bellevue High school
Recommended by Maureen Travaille

“Catherine Tang is bilingual and recently graduated at the top of her class in Chinese school” after 11 years of taking lessons, wrote her counselor Maureen Travaille in a recommendation.

“Catherine is committed to improving the climate and culture of our school community. In her leadership roles, she promotes diversity and inclusiveness. … I have appreciated the many hours that Catherine has given to help in two of our school-wide programs, Student Senate and LINK. … At the end of her sophomore year, Catherine went through a rigorous application process to become a LINK leader and has spent the last two years helping freshman with the transition into high school,” wrote Travaille.

“Catherine feels that her most meaningful accomplishment in high school has been as a peer educator through her participation in Teens Against Tobacco Use. She has delivered lessons to health classes and has spoken with groups of students at a local teen center.”

Connie Tang
Bellevue High School
Recommended by Maureen Travaille

Connie Tang has achieved academic excellence and has graduated at the top of her class in Chinese School, after spending 11 years learning the language. “Yet for all of her academic success, Connie has also left a lasting mark in her passion for helping others. For four years, Connie has participated in our school’s Key Club, devoting 100 hours per year to community service projects,” wrote counselor Maureen Travaille.

“For the past two years, she has participated in the highly coveted role of juror for her City of Bellevue’s Youth Court, deliberating with other jurors in real court cases. Similarly, she has held a leadership role for the past two years in tutoring middle school and high school students who struggle with their academics,” wrote Travaille.

“Connie’s drive and passion for helping others is also evidenced by her continued involvement in our school’s Teens Against Tobacco Use club. She is the club officer and as such, has been instrumental in spearheading increased interest in the club’s activities.”

Juan Teran
Highline High School
Recommended by Holly Tanhueco

“Juan has been working in the community with a program called New Futures, which supports Hispanic students and families by tutoring in Spanish and English.  He tutored students in grades one through three,” wrote counselor Holly Tanhueco in a recommendation.

“Juan is an outstanding student and citizen of Highline High School.  Academically, he has carried a full load of college preparatory classes. Juan has been in our AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program for the past three years.  He will be one of the first in his family to attend college,” wrote Tanhueco.

“He is responsible for working to help support the family, which he does wholeheartedly without thinking twice about it. In addition to demonstrating high academic performance, Juan is a strong leader in his school as well as in his community.  One of Juan’s biggest strengths is that he never gives up, he continuously preservers in all situations.”

Charles Tillmon
Rainer Beach High School
Recommended by Dan Jurdy

“In his classes, Charles Tillmon has become a role model for his fellow classmates. He keeps on task while always finding time to help others. He works well with others and shows great leadership qualities in the way he handles working with others,” wrote counselor Dan Jurdy.

“Charles’ desire to learn extends far beyond the classroom. He has been involved in groups like Team Read and MESA. … He was also involved in Broadway Bound where he participated in the tech crew for the play FAME. His contributions helped the production tremendously, and [it] was later a hit among our community,” wrote Jurdy.

“Charles shows great balance in his life by being a student athlete. He is involved in wrestling and baseball. … I admire Charles for his ability to balance all aspects of his life.” ♦

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