Diversity Makes a Difference — final part

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 are publishing a batch of short profiles of the nominees, in no particular order. This is the final week.

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_kara.jpgKara Fergerstrom
Junior at Interlake High School
Nominated by Mary Beth Gunson

“Kara seeks out every opportunity to learn, grow, improve, and shine,” Interlake counselor Mary Beth Gunson wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Kara grew up in Hawaii and loves all things Hawaiian.”

“Having spent my childhood in Hawaii, diversity was a normal part of daily living,” Fergerstrom wrote in her personal essay. “Hawaii is a place where many cultures come together to live, work, and learn together. … At the age of 12, my family and I moved to Washington state. It was one of the best things my parents could have done for our family although, at the time, I was not so willing to be thrown into a new sea of people. … It was so remarkably different that I was actually worried that I would not be able to fit in. I have made new friends, though, and have learned many things about these new cultures and traditions that have enriched my life and have given me a much bigger view of the world.”

Louis Phan
Senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Nominated by Paul Sevig

“Louis is an exemplary student,” wrote Edmonds-Woodway Counselor in a letter of recommendation. “At EWHS, Louis has helped tutor students in academics. Students admire Louis for his positive attitude and for the enthusiasm he reflects in the activities that he is involved in. … Louis has helped create a website for a local food bank that shares information in several languages. … Louis has also been active in a Vietnamese Buddhist youth group since he was 8 years old and helps organize Vietnamese events.”

“Since I believe that understanding differences, not hiding them, would promote tolerance, I want others to realize that learning about one’s culture is not only beneficial for them, but also to society,” Phan wrote in his personal essay. “This is why I started volunteering to help teach Vietnamese language at my local temple. Every Saturday, I teach kids of all ages, ranging from 8-year-olds to 15-year-olds the basics of Vietnamese and also the aspects of our culture.  … I believe if people could learn from other cultures, they would be better suited to embrace diversity.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_gabrielle.jpgGabrielle Francisco
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Nominated by Megan Diefenbach

“Gabby is a young woman who is very much defined by her family and by her culture,” Megan Diefenbach, Holy Names counselor, wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Her parents are from the Philippines, and she has essentially been raised to speak two languages (Tagalog and English). … The one extracurricular activity that she has remained consistently connected with here at HNA is our Multicultural Student Union and specifically with the Asian Pacific Islander (API) Focus Group.”

By being exposed to cultural differences, I have broadened my own way of thinking,” Francisco wrote in a personal essay. “I have been accepted to the Young Executives of Color Program at the UW, a business school for high school minorities. I have also been accepted to participate in the Accounting Career Awareness Program at the UW for minority students this last summer. … I value that everyone is unique and that we should all embrace our differences because they are a major influence to who we are.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_kausila.JPGKausila Budhathoki
Senior at Foster High School
Nominated by Lori Penor

“Kausila and her family arrived in the United States in the summer of 2009,” Lori Penor, a youth program teacher at Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA). “Kausila has also been a part of ReWA Summer in Service 2010, ReWA Teen Leadership Program, and Youth Against Tobacco. … Last spring, she spoke about her experience as a refugee through Foster High School’s ‘Stories of Arrival: Poetry Anthology,’ and recently helped to create a Bhutanese Club to help support fellow peers.”

“I am from rural country Nepal,” Budhathoki wrote in a personal essay. “I was born and lived in a refugee camp for 18 years. … Fortunately in 2009, we got an opportunity to come to America,” she wrote. “Being thrown into Foster High School in Tukwila was a shock. I was at a loss for words. Being in diversity is not that easy. There are so many ideas and values that sometimes don’t align, and it takes effort to use these differing values for the good of all. … I will use my strength from my entire heart and creative mind, and I will express my hardship, with strong emotion, and carry my community wherever I go.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_meron.jpgMeron Gurmu
Senior at Nathan Hale High School
Nominated by Marion Howard

“Meron and her family arrived in the United States when she was 11 years old. She left behind her country, Ethiopia, and her language, Amharic,” Marion Howard, a school counselor at Nathan Hale, wrote in a letter of recommendation.

“Meron has been an active member of African Girls Club,” added Howard. “Toward the end of last year, Meron and a couple of other students spearheaded Hale’s first Black Student Union (HBSU).  This year, she is one of HBSU’s leaders. As well as these two groups, Meron is an active member of Latino and FCCLA clubs.”

“I joined Latino Club my freshman year, and many students thought I was crazy for joining because I am African American,” Gurmu wrote in her personal essay. “I joined because I enjoy learning about the rich Latino culture and wanted to improve my Spanish speaking skills. I have also been a part of East African Girls Club since my freshman year, and each year, I learn more about my culture and the history of my ancestors. I enjoy sharing who I am, where I am from, my struggle as a bilingual student, and what sets me apart from my classmates. Being in Diversity Club has allowed me to put on one of the biggest events in my school, Diversity Day.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_magidson.jpgAnna Magidson
Senior at Issaquah High School
Nominated by Stacy Carlson

“Over the past three years, Anna has volunteered more than 500 hours of her time to community issues that she is passionate about,” Issaquah counselor Stacy Carlson wrote in a letter of recommendation. “Specifically, Anna has been uniting young people in our community through her work as a member of the Issaquah Youth Advisory Board, where she has spent more than 300 hours of her own time.”

“In the past three years, I have been a cultural exchange student to China and Spain, and have visited Israel, Mexico, and Costa Rica,” wrote Magidson in a personal essay. “In Issaquah, I have organized and participated in Multicultural Nights in Pacific Cascade and Issaquah High, performed Latin jazz, European ballads, American marches, and Middle Eastern melodies in different bands and choirs, helped welcome international exchange students into the Issaquah community, given presentations in classrooms about the cultural differences I experienced while living in Israel and the U.S., and fundraised $3540 for Hoops of Hope …”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_bahara.JPGBahara Naimzadeh
Senior at Squalicum High School
Nominated by Steve Wiley

“Bahara is proud of her Afghanistan heritage and she does a magnificent job at balancing the traditions and values of this culture, while assimilating the sometimes conflicting American culture,” Sky House counselor Steve Wiley wrote in a letter of recommendation. “In 2008, Bahara traveled to Afghanistan for a trip that changed her life. She was able to interact with impoverished children and their families who were homeless.”

“Growing up as a Muslim, Afghan American, hasn’t always been easy,” Naimzadeh wrote in her personal essay. “After Sept. 11, 2001, the lives of Muslims all over America were changed dramatically. …

“However, my life changed as I walked through the doors of Squalicum High School on the first day of freshman year. … I grasped the idea of a place that teaches others to accept that language, culture, race, and color are what make this world beautiful. I began to feel obligated to teach those who may be misinformed or ignorant. I truly believed that without my help, they may never gain the understanding that is so imperative, to understand that diversity is a part of life.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_thang.JPGThang Phu
Senior at Franklin High School
Nominated by Caroline Sacerdote

“Thang emigrated from Vietnam with his family when he was nine years old,” Franklin advisor Caroline Sacerdote wrote in a letter of recommendation. “As such, he has had to overcome many obstacles over the past 10 years, namely struggling with poverty, learning a new language, growing up in a culture different from that of his parents, and overcoming the shyness he felt as a child. … His compassion and empathy for others is especially evident when he discusses his volunteer work with Team Read and the Vietnamese Friendship Association. … Although Thang comes from a conservative Vietnamese background, he is an advocate for the LGBTQ Community, both in and out of school. He especially works to spread awareness within his own Vietnamese community.”

“In addition to diversity between races and culture, contemporary society also consists of diversity in sexuality,” Phu wrote in his personal essay. “This field of diversity needs to be recognized and respected because, believe it or not, the LGBTQ community is a growing group. … The topic of gay and lesbian rights is one of the largest issues being debated in our generation. … I believe that people have the right to love who they choose, and I am willing to advocate for anyone who falls in love with another person regardless of their sex.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_mariel.jpgMariel Sanchez Rodriguez
Senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Nominated by William J. Van Wyck

“Mariel has demonstrated her leadership ability in many clubs and activities she has engaged with, including the Jesus Project, Colores Unidos, and the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, where she serves as president,” Edmonds-Woodway teacher William J. Van Wyck wrote in a letter of recommendation.

“What is being diverse?” Sanchez Rodriguez wrote in her personal essay. “To be open to new music, different people, any idea, and explores for experiences. Someone who will not criticize but try it and accept it. After all, it’s only by being open to trying something different that we can define what we like and don’t like. But to know what you like the most, you must know what you like the least and also willing to accept what is different. Acceptance is what leads us to adaptation and with adaptation, we progress as a person, community, and world as one. Therefore, it’s vital for us to progress and change for the better.”

“The choice of being diverse is the choice to open the doors to life,” she added. “It’s what can make us be better as people.”

http://nwasianweekly.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/31_13/diversity_heather.jpgHeather Schmitt
Senior at Bellingham High School
Nominated by Lori French

“Through Heather’s leadership, the I.A.M. club (Inspiring A Movement) has become the largest, most all-inclusive club at Bellingham High School,” Lori French, a teacher at Bellingham, wrote in a letter of recommendation.

“I.A.M. is able to meet twice a week for 30 minutes during the school day because Heather made a presentation to the department chairs and administration vying for that time. Heather argued that students who felt disconnected at school often did not have a group with which they could identify. Clubs and athletics limit students’ involvement because of the cost and extra time required. Many of our poverty-level and minority students have to go home after school to take care of younger siblings and can’t stay for club meetings.”

“I’ve learned about the struggles that people face every day that I may not ever have to face because of the color of my skin. I’ve heard a lot of people say that I shouldn’t be a part of this club or care because I am from a white background,” Schmitt wrote in a personal essay. “But … diversity is the most important thing that a person can learn from, and should be celebrated in every single school.” (end)

For more information or to buy tickets, visit diveristy.nwasianweekly.com.

One Response to “Diversity Makes a Difference — final part”

  1. Karess says:

    Which came first, the problem or the sonituol? Luckily it doesn’t matter.

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