Diversity Makes a Difference — Part 2

Compiled by Staff
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 schools 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 March 30 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, in no particular order.

Keegan Amrine
Senior at Peninsula High School

“In the community, Keegan volunteers extensively,” Peggy Cooper, a counselor at Peninsula High School, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He is a student leader for his church youth group, as well as a mentor and tutor of young students at a local elementary school.  Keegan also shows his leadership abilities as team captain of our Knowledge Bowl.  He is involved with the Environmental Club, organizing various community service projects.

“Keegan has also earned a Varsity letter for his outstanding service to the community,” added Cooper.

“Diversity is what holds us together,” Amrine wrote in his personal essay. “The ties that bind are those of individual spirits coming together to build a community. No part of this world is better without diversity; in science, new ideas are almost as essential as the science itself, art is always changing and adapting to new methods and mediums, education changes to meet the needs of students, social interactions are all about fitting into new situations. Diversity is not an important aspect of life. It is, quite possibly, the most important thing about human existence.”

Wayne Huang
Senior at Skyline High School
Nominated by Beth Contreras

“One of the reasons Wayne stands out among peers is the significant amount of time he dedicates to community service on a weekly basis,” Beth Contreras, Skyline counselor, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Wayne gives 10 hours each week to tutor elementary students in math, organizes and recruits other volunteers, in addition to being involved in service learning clubs. He is consistent and reliable.”

“When I was five years old, I was sent from Texas to China after my parents decided that I needed to be immersed in their culture for a few years,” Huang wrote in his personal essay.

“At the beginning, I felt like I fit in and started to make a few friends, but it didn’t last long. After a few weeks, it somehow got around that I was American, even though I never spoke a word of English at the school. This changed the way I was treated drastically. … I reacted to this by rejecting my Americanism and tried to be as Chinese as I possibly could.”

“After a couple years of Chinese school, my parents decided it was time for me to return to America. … My first few weeks of school in America were horrible because I agonized about fitting in. … Things turned out differently though. I quickly made friends because I did not hide who I actually was. Instead, I was seen as more genuine and approachable. Today, I embrace the lesson that I learned when I returned to America. I don’t try to cover up my cultural differences.”

Sir Stephen Jackson
Senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Nominated by John Richer

“Sir Stephen works hard to help support and be involved in his family,” John Richer, from Edmonds-Woodway High School’s math department, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “He is dedicated to their well-being, while they are equally committed to Sir Stephen’s growth as a young man. Sir Stephen has held multiple jobs, at times simultaneously, while continuing to balance his pursuits in the classroom and on the basketball court. The same loyalty and commitment he displays in school, athletics, and with his family, is on display with each job he retains. He has held a paper route for much of his childhood. His employer has praised Sir Stephen’s punctuality, hard work, and positive demeanor on the job.”

“Having diversity is going to be the key to the future, knowing how someone of a different race or someone from a different culture acts will be how the world will operate in the future,” Jackson wrote in a personal essay. “Hanging out with other people outside your race can teach someone a thing or two about one’s life and maybe you can teach that person about your life or culture and that is what I call diversity and it is important to me because I am able to gain knowledge and love for someone else’s life or culture that might not look like me.”

Leilani Roberson
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Nominated by Detra Rugon

“This year, Leilani was selected as a Black Student Union and Multicultural Student Union leader,” Detra Rugon, Holy Names English and Social Studies teacher, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “In this capacity, her tasks include planning and leading meetings, as well as helping to organize certain assemblies. Leilani was key to our successful Martin Luther King Jr. assembly and our Mix-It-Up day. She also helps prepare current event themes. The MSU leaders recently led a vivacious club meeting discussing the book ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom’ and Asian stereotypes.”

“Going through elementary school with people similar to myself kept me from knowing the world,” Roberson wrote in a personal essay. “When I entered middle school, that all changed for me. I am a Black girl who was put into a private Catholic middle school, where the majority of the students were white. … My middle school experience gave me a worldly view. I started to understand that there are people who are different than me.”

“I am spreading the message of diversity now as a senior, by being a Multicultural Student Union and a Black Student  Union leader at the clubs in my schools. This allows me to meet people whose values, beliefs, grade levels, and race are different than mine.”

Courtney White
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Nominated by Alice Tanaka

“Courtney has been actively involved in our Multicultural Student Union (MSU) and the Black Student Union (BSU),” Alice Tanaka, college counselor at Holy Names, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “She was appointed as a BSU leader and in this capacity, she is a role model for the underclassmen. …This year, she actively helped lead Mix-It-Up day at our school. During homeroom and lunch, the students were encouraged, through a PowerPoint, to join in games and activities that facilitated interaction with others with whom they do not usually socialize.”

“Every Thursday at Holy Names, we have an MSU meeting,” White wrote in her personal essay.

“Within MSU, we have several focus groups that talk about issues, accomplishments, or the culture of that individual focus group. … In my life, I have heard many people say hurtful things to people intentionally and unintentionally. … Educating others about the importance of learning the traditions and cultural practices of various types of people is very important to me. It creates respect and understanding between communities and builds the dignity of cultures whose traditions are not usually recognized.”

Whitney Au
Senior at Nathan Hale High School
Nominated by Marion Howard

“Last year, Whitney joined Nathan Hale’s diversity club and was voted president of the club this year by club members,” Marion Howard, a school counselor at Nathan Hale, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “She oversees diversity club events and activities, including our Martin Luther King Jr. assembly on Jan. 13. This year, Whitney has participated in our Family Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA) and our Distributive Education Club of American (DECA).”

“Whitney has taken Japanese as her world language and is currently in Japanese 4 A and will complete Japanese 4 B by June,”  added Howard.

“I am personally a diverse person,” Au wrote in her personal essay. “I am Vietnamese, Chinese, and Caucasian. In my culture, I celebrate Chinese New Years and Buddhist ceremonies. I go to temple every Sunday. I help out with elders and teach children Buddhism. I teach children about karma, appropriate temple behaviors, and rules of enlightenment. I am well-versed in Vietnamese sutra. I am still discovering my Caucasian roots. My grandfather was Caucasian and fought in the Vietnam War. I don’t know that much about him, but hope to discover more about him one day.” (end)

For more information, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org.

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