Diversity Makes a Difference — Part 2

Compiled by Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly

The Northwest Asian Weekly’s Diversity Makes a Difference scholarship program celebrates young people who are committed to reaching across cultural lines. Students are nominated by their school for being champions of diversity. From those nominations, 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 28 at the New Hong Kong Restaurant. To buy tickets, visit diversity.nwasianweeklyfoundation.org. Each week leading up to the dinner, we will publish a selection of short profiles of the nominees, in no particular order.

Ankita Sharma
Senior at Kamiak High School
Nominated by Rachel Johnson

“Ankita is an incredible young woman,” Rachel Johnson, an English teacher, wrote. “She works tirelessly to improve her community as an integral part of Knights in Action. She patiently helps students work out their differences as a Conflict Mediator. She helps students struggling with their schoolwork as a gifted Academic Coach. She is the heart of the Link mentoring program, and she brings a higher level of cultural and academic discourse to all of her classes.”

“She has a remarkable aptitude for seeing what any two people have in common in order to bridge any gaps between them,” Johnson continued. “If someone shares an uncomfortable story in class, she always jumps in to explain how she can relate or to ask powerful questions. This ability to see our similarities and our unique strengths makes her incredibly adept at determining the needs of freshmen and transfer students. She sees where they are struggling and finds ways to help. Her empathy and kindness know no bounds.”

In her essay on the importance of diversity, Ankita wrote, “There are wars in this world because people cannot accept other cultures. Slavery existed because of racial differences. Religion often divides people even more than race. Diversity does not ask people to simply shut their eyes and pretend there are no differences in people. It asks the complete opposite. It asks that we all accept racial and cultural differences among the people that we surround ourselves with, and to give them the respect we would give to someone of our own race and cultural background. Diversity does not lead to ignorance, it overcomes it.”

Maya Fraser-Philbin
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Nominated by Megan Diefenbach

“Maya is that student who, in my opinion, flies under-the-radar,” college counselor Megan Diefenback wrote. “… She is an independent young woman who doesn’t seem to have too many needs, in or out of the classroom.”

“She has a strong respect for diversity and she believes very much in participating in the community and giving back to others,” Diefenback continued. “She has been a member of the Multicultural Student Union since she first entered our doors as a freshman, and has served that organization for the past two years as an Asian Pacific Islander Focus Group Leader. Maya is incredibly inclusive, accepting, hard-working, and easy-going, and she is a subtle leader who believes very much in the value of community and diversity. I know she will add a distinctive energy to any college campus.”

In her essay, Maya wrote, “Diversity is important to me because it defines us as not just individuals, but it contributes to growth and development as a whole. Although it defines our differences, it also highlights our similarities. As we acknowledge diversity, we honor our culture, traditions, and heritage. Diversity is significant to me because it allows me to be an individual, while still being a part of something bigger.”

Midheta Djuderija
Senior at Highline High School
Nominated by Amanda Zuber

“Midheta is a remarkable young woman who, in just over three years, has positively impacted the Highline community in numerous ways,” wrote school counselor Amanda Zuber. “She is a leader in every sense of the word.”

“Midheta’s Bosnian heritage is very important to her and she has enjoyed sharing this with others through this organization,” Zuber continued. “The Tukwila School District, a neighboring school district, has recently seen a large increase in their Bosnian population. In an attempt to help their school board learn about the culture of a growing group in their district, Midheta attended a school board meeting, where she wore traditional Bosnian clothing and performed traditional Bosnian dances. This, paired with a presentation, allowed the policy makers in that school district to see important pieces of the people in their community’s worlds.”

In her essay, Midheta wrote, “Diversity is important because it gives everybody a chance to educate themselves on the numerous cultures, races, and religions that surround us. It’s a beautiful thing if someone speaks more than one language, eats a weird looking food not common in the States, or wears a tribally printed dress, different from your average jeans and t-shirt. All these details build up to make us different and by gaining a curiosity for this diversity, it pushes us to explore the world around us.”

Telia Royal
Senior at Franklin High School
Nominated by Ellen Recupido

“Telia describes herself as ‘passionate, caring, respectful, and focused’ with the ability to motivate others,” said counselor Ellen Recupido. “These are all true descriptors. From our initial interactions, Telia entered high school with the determination to do well academically, and to be involved in those activities that she is passionate about. Her study skills and approach to learning were already well established by the time she entered ninth grade, and she has maintained that focus and dedication to learning throughout high school. Telia genuinely loves learning, and wants to share this love of education with others. It is her goal to become a teacher.”

“What is difficult to put into words is how personable Telia is,” Recupido continued. “She has an amazing knack for communicating well with others, and can bring a smile to your face on any given day. She is a fun person to be around. She will make her mark on the world, and will be an asset to any student body.”

In her essay, Telia wrote, “Diversity makes a difference because no one person is the same as another person. We all have our own stories, values, morals, cultures, and lifestyles, and how we all portray these things will be different. We are living in a society where diversity thrives because there are so many different types of people in the world that come from different cultures and backgrounds. Diversity allows us to teach and learn to accept differences in others and look beyond those character tics like language, culture, and ethnicity. Diversity teaches us to be open-minded and accepting of things that are different than ourselves.”

Bal Diyali
Senior at Foster High School
Nominated by Jenni Matheny

“Bal grew up in a refugee camp in his own country, Nepal, waiting for repatriation,” counselor Jenni Matheny wrote. “At the tender age of 8, he watched his father die due to lack of medical resources in the refugee camp. This would have been an excuse for many young people to give up, but Bal persevered.”

Matheny continued, “As a student at Foster High School, located in the most diverse school district in the United States, Bal faces diversity every day. He is not a stranger to diversity due to his experience in the refugee camp surrounded by people with different religions and languages. Bal has embraced the diversity here at Foster High School and was an instrumental part of starting the Bhutanese Students’ Club, a group that seeks to reach out and share its culture with others.”

In his essay, Bal wrote, “Diversity is very important because it brings sweetness of all kinds and creates an educational environment. Throughout my lifetime, I have been to so many diverse communities and groups where I found out that I carry a very unique and awesome background. I was born and raised in Nepal. My whole life, I spent time with people who had different religions and languages. Even though we were Nepali, we spoke different languages. While I was living with very diverse community in languages, I learned that even though we have different languages, we do have sweetness in our own languages.”

Yesenia Mendoza Ramos
Senior at Ballard High School
Nominated by Michael Smith

Yesenia Mendoza Ramos exemplifies a student with goals and a focused work ethic,” teacher Michael Smith wrote. “What sets students like Yesenia apart is her unyielding determination to learn and improve, while she continues to grow as a student.”

He continued, “One quality I think essential for students today is how they handle adversity. For Yesenia, she looks at such educational and career opportunities as both challenging and exciting. It’s the environment she’s thrived in.”

In her essay, Yesenia wrote, “It means a lot to me to have such a deep knowledge of diverse Mexican traditions. It makes me feel as though I have an insight to what people are like from state to state … I feel that this intimate knowledge gives me a voice apart from other students who have immigrated to the United States from Mexico. Coming from a family with such a strong sense of tradition and discipline, although at times exhausting, has given me the beautiful gift of truly knowing the country where I was born.” (end)

Staff can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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