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 these students, 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. 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 Squalicum High School
Recommended by Steve Wiley
“What sets her apart from many of her peers is the amount of adversity she deals with on a daily basis due to her physical challenges and how she responds to those challenges. Her doctors thought she was just developmentally delayed when she was young. She was eventually diagnosed with muscular dystrophy a few years later,” wrote Steve Wiley, a counselor, in a recommendation.
“I’ve tried extremely hard to not allow my disability to chain me down. I want others to know that even when challenging milestones block their path, it’s possible to keep going in a positive direction. I’ve not allowed muscular dystrophy to keep me from being successful. What an honor to … represent my school as the ASB president. Being in a leadership role has allowed me to begin the process of eliminating the demeaning stereotype that disabled people are incapable of being productive in society. … It is my desire to have the stereotypical label of people in wheelchairs to disappear and eliminate the discriminating opinion that those in wheelchairs are incapable of succeeding,” Flint wrote in her personal essay.
Senior at Chief Sealth High School
Recommended by Noah Zeichner
“Molly has participated in the Global Visionaries two week trip to Guatemala, where she dove into a reforestation project,” wrote Noah Zeichner, a teacher at Chief Sealth High School, in a recommendation. “Upon her return, she continued her activism by joining the Global Visionaries Youth Board.”
“Recently, Molly was selected as one of 12 American Bezos Scholars. Part of this honor included a trip to the Aspen Institute Ideas Festival. At this event, Molly attended and participated in discussions on pro-justice issues. … Committed to awareness, Molly became inspired after the climate change conference in Copenhagen and entered an international student contest that addressed world leaders on climate change issues,” continued Zeichner.
“This March, she is planning, producing, and informing the community with Water Week. Chief Sealth International High School and the local West Seattle community will learn about water scarcity, and other issues involving the resource.”
“I find my definition of diversity in every person I encounter,” Freed wrote in a personal statement. “To me, diversity is reflected in those parts of people that don’t overlap, each original experience that contributes to the unique matrix of opinions and theories held by individuals.”
Senior at Middle College High School
Recommended by Marianne Millun
“[Merve Haklidir] has been my helper since the car crash I had a couple of years ago. Her responsibilities in that capacity have grown. Since I have known her, her leadership skills, as well as her maturity, have also grown,” wrote Marianne Millun in a recommendation.
“Merve has also been involved with a variety of tasks at her uncle’s carpet store,” continued Millun. “Her experiences have included working on inventories, helping customers, volunteering at various parks, talking to her friends about peer pressure, and helping others in need.”
“I was born in Turkey, Istanbul. My whole family was born in Turkey, my uncle is the only one who knows a good amount of English, so I can consider myself diverse,” Haklidir wrote in a personal statement. “Even if people fail to recognize diversity, there is no way to escape or ignore that cultural differences exist everywhere in the world. … We should encourage diversity instead of discourage it. We should recognize diverse people, and come to an understanding with them.”
Seung Jae (Sarah) Hyun
Senior at Sehome High School
Recommended by Julie Kratzig
“[Seung] has lived in Korea, Fargo, N.D., Columbus, Ga., and now in Bellingham, Wash.,” wrote Sehome High School counselor Julie Kratzig, in a recommendation. “Her father is a pastor and she describes her biggest job is to be a ‘pastor’s daughter,’ where she has had to learn to adapt to different locations and put others before herself.”
“Seung is connected to her school. … [She is] the president of the largest club, Global Awareness Club. Currently, the students in Global Awareness Club are raising money for the ‘Invisible Children.’ ”
“I grew up in predominately white communities,” Hyun wrote in her personal statement.
“Living in North Dakota, to Georgia, to Washington, hearing comments on my race came on a daily basis. It never bothered me much, but as I entered sophomore year, I realized that these derogatory names could not be brushed off. As my AP U.S. History class learned about immigrants in America, a friend would follow up the lectures with snide racial jokes.
“So with this issue in the back of my brain, I made it a goal to bring global issues and social diversity into my school. I joined a club called Students for Global Awareness and Outreach (GAO). … I organized Invisible Children, a program to help rebuild schools in Uganda. When the earthquake hit Haiti, I organized a cultural Haiti carnival fundraiser. I organized Bollywood Night for the student body to experience a culture breathing half way around the world. … From these experiences, I’ve learned to stand up for myself as an individual.”
Senior at Roosevelt High School
Recommended by Ben Masaoka
“Thoughtful, articulate, perceptive, Elaina has consistently demonstrated responsibility, academic achievement, integrity, and a deep concern for others. Elaina possesses high cognitive ability. She is astute and perceptive,” stated Ben Masaoka, a language arts teacher at Roosevelt High School, in a recommendation.
“Her ability to engage and synthesize highly abstract ideas with intelligence and perception made her a top student in a class full of talented peers. She is thoughtful, with a broad range of interests that integrate into a comprehensive, individual self.”
“I witnessed a life [in Anadarko, Okla.] where Wal-Mart is expensive and the family unit is nonexistent, but what difference struck me most was the apathetic attitude towards education and the future. There is little emphasis on the value of education and the power it has in the future, especially since there is a distinct lack of positive and educated role models in Anadarko because the parents, community, and lifestyles do not emphasize education’s significance.
Through my experience in Anadarko, I interacted with a culture that changed my perspective of the world, my community, and me. Diversity in my life has taught me greater appreciation of different cultures and their positive and negative aspects,” wrote Kook in a personal essay.
Senior at Franklin High School
Recommended by Donna Hearn
“Khadijah is a member of the Black Student Union. She tutors at the Central Area Motivation center 2 to 3 times a week. She is on the Franklin High School cheer squad and she also participates in track and field in the spring,” wrote Donna Hearn in a recommendation.
“Khadijah is also a very active member in her church. She is a mentor and tutor to the younger girls and boys at church. She does all of this and is still able to maintain a great grade point average.”
“It is sad knowing how people still have the same mindset they had 30 years ago. Growing up in Seattle, I have always been immune to the cultural differences around me. Ever since elementary school, I was always in classes with students of all ethnic backgrounds. I was well aware that we were all different and we all had different religious beliefs, but that only made learning more fun. It encouraged me to understand who they were and what they were about. I finally saw how different the world is and how there is so much to understand and learn about. Not a lot of people get the chance to experience anything like this, but I was given the blessing to grow up with it as a daily aspect in my life,” Ladd wrote in her personal essay.
Senior at Roosevelt High School
Recommended by Brian Vance
“Joseph traveled to Northern Ireland as part of our Hands for a Bridge (HFB) program. This trip included extensive studying prior to traveling to understand the history behind the conflict in Northern Ireland. On the trip, he was able to experience first-hand from both Protestants and Catholics who live it everyday. He lived with peers and spoke with various groups as they discussed reconciliation and the challenges presented to both sides,” wrote Brian Vance, the principal at Roosevelt High School, in a recommendation.
“Joseph also experienced the Student Conservation Association (SCA). The SCA provides students experiences in working together as a team to meet goals tied to conservation work. Students involved in the program come from many different areas, with different backgrounds and from different cultural experiences.”
“To experience diversity is to share in those ideas, and to create shared experiences to draw upon. The only way to truly experience diversity is to be surrounded and immersed in it. … Then a discrepancy is found in opinions, one must face such disagreement with an open mind, ready to accept the possibility that outside thoughts and evidence may in fact strengthen ones knowledge. People all over the world are different in many ways, but a common practice is shared in the pursuit of happiness, the human drive to be comfortable and without pain,” Lambright wrote in his personal essay.
Senior at Garfield High School
Recommended by Nikki Danos
“Sallie started Rainier Scholars as a shy student who earned mostly Bs in school and didn’t take risks. She attended a summer program at Phillips Exeter Academy before entering her junior year, and that experience changed her attitude and demeanor. No activity was more of a risk and an eventual eye-opener than Sallie’s internship this past summer at the League of Education Voters (LEV),” wrote Nikki Danos, a leadership development program manager for Rainer Scholars, in a recommendation.
“While this summer internship allowed Sallie to show her leadership skills, she was also able to flex her leadership muscles during the Rainier Scholars retreats. She was vocal in large groups and could support arguments for or against an issue with solid evidence. Sallie also took risks in public speaking and used her voice and body language effectively to convey tone and emotion.”
“I am the editor-in-chief of The Pen, a literary art magazine at my school. This student-run organization publishes a magazine once a year filled with plays, poems, short stories, drawings, paintings, and photography produced by the students at Garfield. The compilation of art work in one little booklet has the ability to connect one individual to another. This cross connection is made possible by allowing different groups to express their unique opinions and styles in a widely accepted format. Regardless of prior art experiences, [students] are able to stake a claim at Garfield through The Pen,” stated Lau in her personal essay.
Senior at Lindbergh High School
Recommended by Helen Bedtelyon
“Anna is the consummate honors student, but what sets her apart is that she is genuinely a good human being, without arrogance or selfishness. She works very hard at all of her subjects, not all of which come easily to her,” wrote Helen Bedtelyon, an English/humanities chair at Lindbergh High School, in a recommendation.
“[Anna] once assisted a reading program in elementary school and didn’t fall in love with reading and writing until much later. [Now,] she collaborates with others and is often sought after for advice and help. … She is seeing her own future as a pediatrician or biologist. Once done, her sights are set on Doctors Without Borders or Amnesty International.”
“I spent most of my childhood at Royal Hills, a home to different immigrant families from Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. It was here that I learned about the different religions and customs of our world. … My friends and I did not share the same beliefs, but we embraced our similarities and showed respect for our differences. That sense of understanding and acceptance was something special about my childhood. … I learned that understanding other cultures would open up a world of acceptance and that this sense of acceptance will overwrite racial stereotypes,” Le wrote in an essay.
Junior at Foster High School
Recommended by Sue Pike
“Jackie has planned and facilitated two assemblies for our ASB, one for Veterans’ Day and the other in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King. Not only did she deliver messages of equality and peace, she put together a slide show featuring the diverse ethnicities of our student body.
Giving her peers an opportunity to see the many faces whose stories of war, death, heroism, and poverty was a significant feature in this presentation,” stated Sue Pike, Interact Club adviser at Foster High School, in a recommendation.
“Interact Club, which stands for International Action, became the largest club in the history of our school. Jackie is a driving force who inspires the underrepresented students to participate. … Jackie leads by example, and encouraged many from Interact Club to work at our local elementary school’s CARE night, as well as at the local Clothing Bank. … Currently, she is working with the Interact Club of Aviation High School for a combined benefit on behalf of Children’s Hospital.”
“Being exposed to different parts of the world like Bosnia, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and Sudan helped me to become a better-rounded individual. I can sit here today and not be afraid to try anything new that life throws at me, all because of the experiences I’ve obtained from growing up in such a diverse environment. … With this unique privilege, I know we’ve accomplished what Dr. King wanted. We’ve broken through stereotypes and racial slurs because we learned to embrace one another through the positive work of diversity,” wrote Le in a personal essay.
Senior at Squalicum High School
Recommended by Karen Anastasio
“I have known this student since Khoa emigrated from Vietnam more than three years ago. At that time, he entered my English Language Learner (ELL) class as a beginning level English speaker, having only studied it as a foreign language in his native country,” wrote Karen Anastasio, an ELL teacher at Squalicum High School, in a recommendation.
“Khoa remembers how he felt when he first arrived at our school. Consequently, whenever there is a new student, Khoa always seeks them out and assists them. He helps them understand their new school schedule, which changes daily. He helps them to buy lunch in the cafeteria and demonstrates how to use P.E. lockers. He directs them to their counselor when they have questions about graduation requirements and when needed, he will translate for them.”
“Diversity has made a big impact on students who respect their schoolmates. Diversity challenged students to work in a complex society and so they will learn to work effectively with people from various backgrounds. From working with various characters, students started to learn from one another and developed their ability to communicate with people from different ethnic groups. … We don’t use diversity to judge other people any more, but to love each other,” Le wrote in his personal essay.
Senior at Chief Sealth High School
Recommended by Marta Sanchez
“[When I first met] Slwan Logman, what I didn’t know was that this quick learning, athletic, outgoing student would become a voice for the Muslim community,” wrote Marta Sanchez, a counselor at Chief Sealth High School, in a recommendation. “I remember when Ms. Logman came back to campus after her first day at college. The professor singled her out and said, ‘You know where the ELL (English Language Learner) room is, right?’ Ms. Logman was surprised, and shook her head and said, ‘No.’ We talked about the assumption made based possibly on her appearance or her name. I saw her a couple days after the incident and asked for the professor’s name, she said, ‘It’s OK Ms. Sanchez, I took care of it. I waited until after class and told her she should be more careful with how she asks questions and that she was lucky that it was me she asked because I have a high self-esteem. It was really scary, but I had to do it.’ ”
“She and another Muslim student were recently invited to perform a piece at the King County Martin Luther King, Jr. celebration. The co-authored piece is about Muslim identity. … The written work reviews the assumptions based on their appearance from underestimating faith to being seen as a terrorist,” continued Sanchez.
“When I first arrived … I had never been in the company of so many financially stable people in my life. As they talked about things they had, I quickly assumed I had nothing in common with them. … [But] together, we talked for hours, laughed until our stomachs hurt, and danced like there was no tomorrow,” wrote Logman in a personal statement. “Additionally, I just helped plan and implement an open mic night for our school. At Sealth, while we have a diverse student body, many of our after school events and programs are segregated. I wanted to create a student planned event, inclusive of all cultures that represented our school.”
Stacy Nguyen and Yukari Sumino contributed to this report.
Rebecca W. Lee can be reached at email@example.com.