Diversity makes a difference — Part 4

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. 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.

Sara Magana
Senior at Bellingham High School
Recommended by Joe Wooding

“Sara and her fellow officers re-branded the diversity club and helped shape its new moniker, Inspiring a Movement or IAM. Within a few months, the group grew from less than 10 students to 50 [currently up to 70 students]. Sara and her fellow leaders used the club as a vehicle to foster a safe and welcoming space for students of color on campus,” stated Joe Wooding, a mentor, in a recommendation.

“Last year, IAM worked with the New Wilderness Project to host a multiracial student conference to address identity issues …collaborated with Whatcom County’s most diverse high school to build community and confront potential conflict, such as gang affiliations … [and] worked with Educating Future Leaders to organize a community rally to confront racial profiling and unwarranted searches.”

“As a leader, I put together a youth summit that took place during a conference that was organized to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. … I wanted the students to focus on identity. I gave them the opportunity, so they could get to know themselves and others a little better. … The goal of these sessions was to get students to discuss issues that matter in the community and to decide on an opportunity to take action,” stated Magana in a personal essay.

Satoshi Matsuura
Junior at Lake Washington High School
Recommended by Vijou Bryant

“Satoshi Matsuura moved from Japan [and now] attends high school in the United States. … He has fully adapted to a completely new and different culture,” wrote Vijou Bryant, a tutor from Notre Dame AmeriCorps, in a recommendation. “Not only is he a dedicated student and athlete, he is committed to learning about, understanding, and analyzing social inequities. Satoshi has a deep curiosity around racism, classism, sexism, and other root causes of oppression.”

“Diversity shouldn’t make people feel alone because of their differences. Instead, people should acknowledge the diversity and encourage individuals to be themselves. In my school, Lake Washington High School, diversity separates people into different social groups, and people tend to stick with the same people. … People should go out of their own comfort zone and interact with all kinds of different people because knowing the perspective of others is very important. Although it might be hard to do, people can start by being welcoming and eventually becoming friends with people of other backgrounds,” stated Matsuura in a personal essay.

Annica Mattus
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Recommended by Alice Tanaka

“As one of the [Students Protecting Friends] club leaders, Annica is organizing this year’s peace and justice day. … The wide range of speakers who are brought in to speak [for the event] are from a very diverse group, from a gay man living with AIDS to a holocaust survivor. … Annica is currently in the process of scheduling these speakers. Annica has also shown her awareness of the Japanese culture through her involvement in our Anime-hem club,” wrote Alice Tanaka, a college counselor at Holy Names Academy, in a recommendation.

“Through diversity, we can build compassionate, efficient communities locally and around the globe. As a member of the Students Protecting Friends (SPF) Club, I carry the mission to foster awareness of responsible choices and safe behavior among students. … Through this club, I am attending the Diversity Leadership Conference in February 2011, hosted by the Seattle Preparatory School and Seattle University, to converse with students from other schools on the West Coast about diversity in the nation and how to combat walls preventing social unity. Through these experiences,
I hope to gain an insight in how to break down racial barriers as I move toward higher education and encourage my peers to do the same,” Mattus wrote in her personal essay.

Tre’Von McAllister-Lane
Senior at Chief Sealth International High School
Recommended by Colin Slingsby

“[Tre’Von] doesn’t drink or use drugs, and he’s been strong enough to avoid the ever-present social pressures. As a result, [he] has become the type of young man that any parent, teacher, or coach would envision their own children being like,” wrote Colin Slingsby, a language arts teacher and coach at Chief Sealth International High School, in a recommendation.

“Tre’Von has proven to be an extremely persistent and resilient person. As a student, he has overcome a learning disability and through hard work and diligence, has transformed himself into an honor roll student.”

“My mother is white and my father is Black. This is something that has caused many people to define me as ‘different,’ or judge me. I was excited for the first day of school, but I had butterflies inside. Things unraveled quickly though, being young and impressionable, several of my peers quickly crushed my self-identity. One girl who was Black would constantly make jokes about my mother being white. Now that I look back on it, I should have said something because I am happy to be mixed with two races. Being that I am bi-racial simply shows that the world is getting better because of me, and that hopefully, racial tensions will eventually disintegrate,” McAllister wrote in a personal essay.

Baillie Metcalf-Dowell
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Recommended by Alice Tanaka

“Baillie is visible around school as a student leader. [She holds] leadership roles in the Multicultural Student Union, the Black Student Union, and [she is] a student recruiter. She was involved in putting together our Martin Luther King, Jr. Assembly, which was very well done,” wrote Alice Tanaka, a college counselor at Holy Names Academy, in a recommendation.

“One of the co-advisers of the Black Student Union has gotten Ballie involved with Delta Gems, a group of Black female youth who are mentored by members of Delta Sigma Theta, a sorority of Black women.”

“From freshman year, I found that I was not just representing myself but, in a sense, my race. I regularly attended a lunch club at my school dedicated to talking about racial issues called MSU (Multicultural Student Union). Joining this club gave me a solution and plan to eliminate the ignorance and stereotypes. During my sophomore year, I decided that not only did I want to attend MSU, but also, I wanted to become an active member. I realize that diversity is not all about race, but other things such as social, economic, moral, and religious diversity. It is important as people that we come together and learn about different people because education eliminates ignorance, which eliminates discrimination,” Metcalf-Dowell wrote in a personal essay.

Michaela Milo
Senior at Franklin High School
Recommended by Jamie Jackson

“As a participant in Global Visionaries, a program which seeks to empower low-income children to become global leaders, Michaela participated in an experiential program learning about leadership, cross-cultural understanding, and social action,” wrote Jamie Jackson, a College Access Now (CAN) adviser at Franklin High School, in a recommendation. “She then traveled to Guatemala during the summer of her sophomore year and worked in a local hospital with chronically ill patients. At her school, as a participant in the Black Student Union, Michaela was involved in coordinating a Youth Summit.”

“In March 2009, I took my first trip out of the country to Guatemala,” wrote Milo in a personal statement.  “I worked as a hospital volunteer at a place called Iglesia Del Hospital de San Pedro in Antigua. This hospital wasn’t a regular hospital like [the ones] in the United States, but more [like a] caretaking facility for people who had cerebral palsy and others that needed other medical assistance. … Mercedes was a young lady who was full of energy, whose family abandoned her and left her in the hospital because she had bipolar disorder. Every day, we would run around dancing. She would sing, and I would just laugh. … I learned through my volunteer experience and Mercedes of the importance of diversity is in one’s life.”

Amia Nash
Senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Recommended by Anne Stewart

“Amia Nash embraces diversity as a gift that allows individuals to enrich one another when shared,” wrote Anne Stewart, an assistant track coach, cross country coach, and IB English teacher, in a recommendation.

“Amia leads by example. She has a strong belief in supporting others’ differences and is the first one to learn new athletes’ names on our running teams and makes sure they feel accepted. As a member of our ASB, she is committed to increasing cross-cultural understanding and is passionate about making sure no group feels marginalized. She is always the one who is there to promote awareness and offers everyone a glimpse into her own cultural background by sharing her hula with students and staff during assemblies.”

“Performing local shows and hula dancing at cultural festivals every month has added variety to my lifestyle of a typical teenager. I have learned some of the Hawaiian language and stories through dance, and taking hula lessons has encouraged diversity in my life. I believe diversity is important because it promotes acceptance and provides unique perspectives in group settings,” Nash wrote in an essay.

Asya Nelson
Senior at Ingraham High School
Recommended by Courtney Roos

“[Asya] qualifies for the Diversity Makes a Difference because she is dedicated to promoting diversity. In middle school, she took part in the multicultural club and through her high school career, she has found the time to volunteer at POPY’s cafe, a soup kitchen where she can express herself, make a difference in her community, and meet new people and new friends,” wrote Courtney Roos, a mentor from Western Washington University, in a recommendation.

“Diversity makes us who we are. Not only does my family lineage make me a very diverse person, but the influence of my friends, community, school, and workplace also contribute to my diverse personality. Many people rely on their community for diversity, but diversity, to me, is something developed within oneself. Although a wise man once said, “We are all the same color when the lights are off,” it takes someone different with a strong will to lead people down the road to diversity. I am for diversity and will always be. I am a leader and want to lead my generation to a more diverse world,” wrote Asya Nelson in a personal essay.

Christina Nguyen
Freshman at Renton High School
Recommended by Keavleen Carosino

“Christina is a freshman at Renton High School. Advisory is a time where ninth graders participate in group lessons, a mentoring program, and begin to prepare for their senior culminating projects. She sets an example for them in group activities and when guest speakers and mentors are present,” wrote Keayleen Carosino, a school counselor intern at Renton High School, in a recommendation.

“Christina’s exemplary maturity and commitment to academics extends beyond my classroom as well.  … She is well liked by her classmates, and has friends from a wide variety of backgrounds and with a number of different interests. Christina is proud of her Seattle roots, and of her family’s diverse culture.”

“Being around different cultures teaches me that diversity can impact a positive vibe. One opportunity that I get to learn from is when my family and I take trips to the International District on the weekends.  The experience gives me the knowledge of where parts of my culture originated. Also, when Seattle Center holds multicultural festivals for the Vietnamese community, I get a glimpse of my culture through the foods and dances I observe. I also get to see other cultural backgrounds and know what other people experience,” wrote Nguyen in a personal essay.

Katarina Nguyen
Junior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Recommended by Bradley P. Serka

“Edmonds-Woodway High School is a public school with an International Baccalaureate Program. Katarina is a full IB student who has consistently challenged herself through the rigors of the program,” wrote  Bradley P. Serka, a school counselor at Edmonds-Woodway High School, in a recommendation.

“Katarina is a well-rounded student, and probably one of the most involved students in our junior class.”

“Diversity is essential in moving forward, as distinct thoughts and personalities allow us to integrate, evolve, and advance as a society. If everyone was identical, advancement would be suppressed. One mind can achieve a great deal. However, the contribution of different minds unified under one great planet, can achieve wonders. Through this understanding, we embrace diversity to foster human development. Diversity provides opportunities to build a richer culture and more vibrant communities, along with demonstrating that it’s possible to maintain unity and stability alongside diversity and cultural freedom. We already encompass and celebrate diversity by interacting with each other, learning different languages and cultures.  When we make friends with different people, we’re embracing diversity. When we understand and appreciate interdependence of humanity, cultures, and the natural environment, we’re embracing diversity,” Nguyen wrote in her personal essay.

Steven Nguyen
Senior at West Seattle High School
Recommended by Andrea Won

“The first thing you notice about Steven is his charisma,” wrote Andrea Won, College Access Now (CAN) adviser at West Seattle High School, in a recommendation. “Steven is the first to encourage his peers and motivate them to strive for greater accomplishments. An example is, as students were getting ready to start their college applications, Steven was able to encourage his peers to consider four year colleges, even though [they] initially decided on going to a community college.”

“Another outlet in which Steven exhibits his leadership skills is through Vietnamese Boy Scouts. Steven has organized food drives, as well as mentored younger troop members through his involvement. Steven also participates in cultural dances with his troop in order to preserve and pass down his culture’s traditions to younger generations,” continued Won.

“By making new friends, I learned that I have so many things in common with other people. I found I have created a culture within myself that is developed from my surroundings. My Vietnamese background and my parents’ experience of having to adapt to new surroundings has allowed me to prosper. I do not seclude myself and do only one thing I like. Instead, I try to keep my horizons open and am willing to give up rice to try gyros or tamales,” Nguyen wrote in his personal statement. ♦

Rebecca W. Lee can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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