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.
Senior at West Seattle High School
Nominated by Jennifer Hall
“Once in a while, as a teacher, I meet a student whose commitment to service, and true empathy for diverse individuals, really reaffirms my faith in humanity. Michiko Yoshino is such a student,” wrote Jennifer Hall, a teacher.
“Michiko is a member of the National Honor Society,” Hall continued. “For the past two years, she has been a Link Crew leader, providing mentorship to younger students. The summer of her freshman year, she worked as an intern in an architectural firm. Michiko is just plain amazing. She shows wisdom and compassion beyond her years. Everyone at West Seattle High School loves her and admires her.”
In her essay, Yoshino wrote, “Diversity is important, but diversity should not be limited only to differences in culture. At each lunch table, even people who came from similar cultures had different individual beliefs. There is still diversity in my school, but it had more to do with our different ideas and thoughts, rather than our racial differences. It would be narrow-minded to define diversity as only a variation of culture — each group within our school’s homogenous culture reveals a myriad of different ideas, stories, experiences that they all share together with people who best understand them. It isn’t what’s on the outside that counts. It’s what’s inside that matters.”
Senior at Ballard High School
Nominated by Ellen Conley
“Edgar is … a wonderful role model outside of the classroom,” said Ellen Conley, a college readiness coach. “He is the only Latino on the swim team and the baseball team, an effort to step outside the box that doesn’t go unnoticed by other students. I see Edgar building communities across cultural boundaries all the time. He loves connecting with all kinds of people, regardless of class or ethnicity. I think his openness, combined with his compassion for others, make him a natural leader.”
In his essay, Villegas wrote, “Diversity is important, and immersing myself in a completely different ethnic group has taught me some very important lessons. Having my friends lump me into singular category full of generalizations has made me question the generalizations that I make sometimes. Since that time at the lunch table, I’ve pushed myself to be more conscious about issues regarding race and ethnicity. I feel that if other students would take similar steps to connect with people that are different from them, we all would benefit.”
Senior at Edmonds-Woodway High School
Nominated by Jillian Wellingtan
“Sabrina Bounds is among the most collaborative and authentic full-International Baccalaureate students I have encountered. She’s a natural leader, academically focused, and so centered and so sweet that no description would be believable,” wrote David Quinn, an International Baccalaureate instructor.
He continued, “Sabrina has the deep respect of her peers and is a dedicated member of our larger school community … Sabrina will find success in college, add ‘her smiling spark’ to your community, and will serve as a campus leader for years to come.”
In her essay, Bounds wrote, “At school, I encountered numerous questions about my international study and living abroad. ‘What was Tokyo like? Say something in Chinese!’ Not knowing whether to correct or satisfy their questions, I faced them awkwardly. I had moved back from Tokyo, Japan. Even after I explained their error, my friends spoke as if I had lived on a different planet. They only questioned the place, such as the climate, the weather, the time difference. The distinction between a Chinese or Japanese culture did not seem to matter. Perspective is concretely distinguishing between cultures, rather than abstractly clumping them as the one “other” culture.”
She continued, “I see cultural diversity as an opportunity to view the world from a different lens.
Undaunted to cross cultural boundaries, I am motivated to help others embrace our world, and take the risk of becoming a global citizen.”
Senior at Foster High School
Nominated by Jenni Matheny
“Eduardo’s passion for his Mexican heritage is clear,” wrote Jenni Matheny, a college and career counselor.
“He understands the stereotypes often attached to Mexicans, but he finds deep pride in his identity. He has funneled this pride into a desire to help improve the Latino community. He sees an opportunity to show others in his community how capable they are.”
She continued, “He is an outstanding young man whose heart, mind, and soul are committed to learning, growth, community involvement, and leadership, and he will make a difference in his community as one who is passionate about embracing and celebrating diversity.”
In his essay, Rojas wrote, “It is saddening to see how people are forced to stay within their own racial clique or risk being called terms such as “white-washed” or even being alienated by both groups. This lack of freedom to interact with others seems very unfair to me. My best friends are Indian, Vietnamese, and Filipino, and I have many other close friends
from all around the world. They are all great people that I am happy to have in my life and I am thankful for the diversity that eliminated much of the racial segregation in my school. All of these possible friendships are restricted to those without enough cultural diversity. I believe that the ultimate importance of cultural diversity is the possibility of the creation of peace and understanding in the world.”
Senior at Roosevelt High School
Nominated by Kristine Barnes
“Zena is a very active learner and a passionate student,” wrote Kristine Barnes, a teacher. “She has maintained a rigorous schedule, taking multiple AP courses at a time. Zena is genuine, authentic, and every day, she showed up to class with a smile on her face and an enthusiastic attitude for what class would bring. She has also flawlessly navigated a niche for herself at our very large, urban high school as a leader in the Ethiopian community, a member of the Black Student Union, and a participant of Hand for a Bridge. She naturally builds community around her.”
In her essay, Getachew wrote, “Without diversity, we would be ailed with lack of exposure and unawareness. Diversity cures us of intolerance by exposing us to the breadth and depth of cultures and individuals across our communities. Incidentally, diversity is also what got me through high school. Through being exposed to a diverse range of people, I have become more accepting of others, more self-aware, and more perceptive of the world around me.”
Senior at Highline High School
Nominated by Amanda Zuber
“In addition to her two-year run as captain of the soccer team, the activity that most impresses me is Breana’s involvement in the Global Visionaries Program,” wrote Amanda Zuber, a counselor.
She continued, “This year-long experience was capped off with two weeks in Guatemala last summer.
During this time, Breana was able to help build a community center, work in a hospital, and work on a local farm. When I asked her how the trip was, I was happy to hear her talk about how it helped her to see how her actions can impact others. She mentioned that she feels more self aware of her behavior because of this experience.”
In her essay, Breana wrote, “I believe that without diversity, our world would be merely black and white. There would be little opportunity for people to be different. There would be no excitement in sharing your culture with mine.”
Senior at Holy Names Academy
Nominated by Alice Tanaka
“Much of ‘serving others’ is in the way of promoting community in a multicultural environment,” wrote Alice Tanaka, a counselor. “Diversity is important to [Michiko] as she is of both Chinese and Japanese heritage. She has spent many hours in various activities in the International District to help the residents in the community and to help bring more awareness to issues of multiculturalism.”
She continued, “In our school, she has been involved in our Multicultural Student Union (MSU), which includes the Black Student Union and the Hispanic Student Union, as well as the Asian Pacific Islanders. The MSU organizes numerous activities throughout the school year, as well as the Martin Luther King, Jr. assembly. Students of all ethnic groups come together to plan and participate in each of these activities, which promotes a sense of community and camaraderie between all of the ethnic groups.”
In her essay, Yee wrote, “Growing up, I have attended very culturally diverse schools. Until recently, I did not realize how privileged I was to be surrounded by people with so many different backgrounds and ideas. Diversity allows ideas to be shared, provides a better understanding, and promotes acceptance of those around us.”
Senior at Kentridge High School
Nominated by Roselyn Robison
“Kevin promotes diversity in the clubs and activities mentioned … and champions diversity through his personality and charisma,” wrote Jill Hopefinger, a Business Department Chair. “Kevin brings his enthusiasm to my classroom and to all the students. He is a natural leader and his concern for equity makes him one of the most well-respected students on campus.”
In his essay, Wong wrote, “The amalgam of different backgrounds brought together into a common place will pacify the fear that is preventing this world from becoming a cohesive community. It is for this reason that diversity is the most vital element in fostering acceptance and achieving global unification. However, until racism is finally washed and cleansed from society, more people need to realize that diversity is the key to a better society, possibly via shower epiphanies.”
Roberto Barrios Sanchez
Senior at Mariner High School
Nominated by Karen Lee
“Despite not having the same opportunities as his classmates, [Roberto] has continued to stay motivated and still desires to make something of himself,” wrote Auliilani De La Cruz, a teacher. “Roberto never seeks pity, but instead for the opportunity to prove himself of what he can achieve. In this next year, he will be the only member of his family still remaining in the U.S. He has the dream of being the first one to graduate from college and work in a professional field.”
In his essay, Barrios-Sanchez wrote, “Diversity allows us to see the beautiful and unique culture of each and every one in our society. It helps us to better understand an individual through their typical foods, customers, and religion, which keeps a peaceful environment because there are nonwhite or ‘color’ sections that keeps different backgrounds apart.”
Senior at Nathan Hale High School
Nominated by Tina Camero
“One of the obstacles facing Errick is having a learning disability. However, due to his special education services and while advocating for himself, Errick was not placed into college bound appropriate classes,” wrote Tina Camero, a counselor. “Although very disappointed, Errick continues to be resilient and advocated for himself by writing letters to our school’s Special Education Department and the four-year colleges he applied to last fall. He also has an appointment with the admissions of a private university this week. Errick is a brave young man, who wants to be the first person in his family to complete a bachelor’s degree program.”
In his essay, a letter to his father, Ramirez wrote, “If it wasn’t for diversity, then I wouldn’t be the man I am becoming. You tell me all the time of how proud you are of me. Diversity has helped me get into things that I wouldn’t have done if I was close-minded and kept to one race or one group. There have been many times I’ve been the minority in a group. At first, I might feel different because no one else looks like me. Then after a while, I learn to overcome that thought, and I work harder to prove the stereotype wrong. You told me I need more Black friends and when I asked you why, you said it’s for the culture. But that culture is just one part of me. I want to know all cultures. In the future, I will teach my children not to care what they look like. I will teach them to look past stereotypes. I will teach them diversity.”
Senior at Olympia High School
Nominated by Matthew Grant
“I would consider Chantal one of our most outstanding students because she consistently shows a willingness to take risks, set high goals, and stand for social justice,” wrote Matthew Grant, the principal.
He continued, “Last spring, our school and community were challenged when we heard that the Westboro Baptist Church planned to protest in front of our school one morning in June. This group displays signs with hate slurs and provokes others with hate speech directed primarily at LGBTQ people. When Chantal heard this group planned to make Olympia High a target, she and a coalition of students led a powerful response … they led hundreds of other students with a loving and caring message … Despite pouring rain at 7:00 a.m., about 1,000 people showed up.”
In her essay, Chantal wrote, “Along with learning about different cultures, I think diversity is important because it brings people together. What amazes me most about our difference is how easily we are able to put them behind us for a common cause.”
Senior at Chief Sealth High School
Nominated by Leticia Bravo
“I’m proud to have witnessed her coming to realize her talents, skills, and abilities. Yadira knows she is a role model for younger Latina students and takes pride in being a role model she wished she had in middle school. Yadira has come a long way,” wrote Leti Bravo, student services specialist.
Bravo continued, “Yadira is a very honest and realistic young lady. She has come out of her ‘shell’ and is intrigued by the differences and similarities of others. Going to one of the most diverse schools in the district, she has the opportunity to develop friendships and learn from others. Her experiences at Sealth and volunteering with her church have helped prepare her to positively contribute to a multicultural campus.”
In her essay, Gonzalez wrote, “My cultural background has shaped the person that I am today. After experiencing the hardships that I have overcome, when reflecting on diversity, I realize that I have a lot in common with African Americans, Asians, Europeans, and immigrants from other ethnic groups. Diversity is important to me because celebrating what we have in common within diverse groups brings us together and unites us.” (end)
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