High school diversity leaders awarded with scholarships

By Staff
Northwest Asian Weekly

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Scholarship winners (front, from left) Joel Bervell, Valeria Cuellar, Michiko Yee, Chantal Arevalo, and Austin Lehn with (rear, from left) Ying Kam Eng, Keynote Speaker Paul Chiles, and sponsor representatives Richard Chang from Kau Kau Barbecue, Wing Nakamura from State Farm Insurance, Tery Imamura from Panda Express, and Todd Wells from PEMCO Insurance. (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

Diversity in education was the focus of the night on March 28, as the Northwest Asian Weekly Foundation awarded scholarships to nine high school students from Western Washington as part of the organization’s Diversity Makes a Difference Scholarship program. Over 60 students in total were honored at the event, which took place at the New Hong Kong Restaurant and featured Bellevue College Trustee Paul Chiles as keynote speaker and South Seattle Community College Vice President of Student Services Rosie Rimando-Chareunsap as emcee. Each student was nominated by a counselor, teacher, or community member.

A panel selected four finalists and five winners from the 60 nominated students based on the amount of diversity work the students accomplished during high school. Finalists received $250 scholarships to the school of their choice. Winners received $1,000 scholarships.

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From left: Finalists Monica Mosqueda, Kevin Wong, Hannah Truong representing Finalist Lauren Wallace, and Dianjee Cabrera (Photo by George Liu/NWAW)

The finalists were Dianjee Cabrera, a senior from Ballard High School; Kevin Wong, a senior from Kentridge High School; Lauren Wallace, a senior from Squalicum High School; and Monica Mosqueda, a senior from Franklin High School.

Cabrera is the current vice president of Union Latina at Ballard and is currently organizing the SABER (Students Achieving Better Education Right Now) conference, which promotes leadership and educational leadership to Latino middle schoolers entering high school. She has also organized cultural events at Ballard, including an event, which brought performers from Alaska to South Mexico to the school to perform.

Wong is a leader in multiple organizations at Kentridge, including the associated student body, the Multi-Cultural Club, a principal-appointed district student advisory council, and the Key Club, where he has amassed over 150 community service hours. As part of the Multi-Cultural Club, Kevin’s largest task was the planning of the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day assembly.

Wallace founded, organized, played for, and coached Squalicum High School’s United Special Olympics soccer team, which pairs special-needs students with non-disabled partners. Wallace recruited volunteers, scheduled practices, and, in their first year of participation, Squalicum went on to win a gold medal at the Washington state tournament.

Mosqueda has spent much of her time in high school volunteering. Much of this time has been spent at Dearborn Park Elementary, where she started volunteering in 7th grade and acted as a student mentor, tutor, and translator.

The winners were Austin Lehn, a senior from Sehome High School; Chantal Arevalo, a senior from Olympia High School; Joel Bervell, a senior from Kamiak High School; Michiko Yee, a senior from Holy Names Academy; and Valeria Cuellar, a senior from Mariner High School.

In his time at Sehome High School, Lehn earned himself the title of “the exchange student guy” for his work with the exchange students that come to the school. He is a leader with the International Club, where he organizes activities, provides opportunities for exchange students to join other clubs and extracurricular activities, and helps them integrate into the Sehome community. Through his work at school, he has made many international friends whom he has visited. Mostly funded by his own work, he recently traveled to Denmark, China, and, the Netherlands.

Arevalo’s work in diversity started early when she was one of only a few freshmen from Olympia High School to visit the Nisqually Reservation as part of the school’s STAND (Students Together Advocating Non-Violence and Diversity) Club.

During her sophomore year, Chantal helped organize a field trip to learn more about Pacific Islander culture. She recruited students and helped plan activities, attracting over 60 attendees from five different schools.

This past year, Arevalo became one of two lead organizers for Olympia High School’s Martin Luther King Jr. assembly and also helped plan and organize a counter demonstration when she learned that the Westboro Baptist Church hate group was planning to picket her school.

Bervell is currently the co-director of a nonprofit organization called “Hugs for Ghana,” which has the goal to gather school supplies for underprivileged students in Ghana, the country his parents are from.

A first-generation American, he has worked through his leadership roles, speaking at and helping plan assemblies and events, to help spread multi-cultural understanding.

In his essay about diversity, he wrote, “My Ghanaian influence has caught me curiously flipping through cultural history books, where I read stories of finding cultural identity and overcoming challenges and tribulations. Each story gives me confidence as I encounter my various obstacles. I find that my history is a result of past decisions, and I wish to satisfy the hunger within me to know that heritage.”

At Holy Names Academy, Yee spends her out of class time running cross-country, playing the koto, a Japanese stringed instrument, and working with the school’s Multicultural Student Union, specifically with its Asian Pacific Islander, El Movemiento du Mujeres Hispanas, and Black Student Union focus groups.

Her diversity work also extends out of school, however. She participates regularly in community events, including playing the koto at the Eastside Nihon Matsuri Association’s Aki Matsuri event, as well as acting as emcee in last year’s Nihonmachi Nites event. She also volunteers with the Seattle Chinatown International District Preservation and Development Authority’s Congregate Meal Program.

Cuellar has spent much of her high school time improving her community. She has spent over 300 hours volunteering through Volunteers of America, her church, and local organizations. As part of the Mariner High School Action Team, she has helped organize food and clothing drives for homeless shelters and retirement homes. She has also spent much of her time mentoring and tutoring students, ranging from 6th to 9th graders, that are struggling.

“I hope to share with you this evening what I call the ‘Power of One,’ ” said Paul Chiles, Trustee of Bellevue College, during his keynote address. “… The Power of One and how it can change a culture is illustrated in a story I call the story of Las Vegas. Frank Sinatra was one of the most popular singers of the 1950s and 1960s. He was part of a group called the Rat Pack and within that group was an African American performer named Sammy Davis Jr. The Rat Pack were playing at a hotel and casino in Las Vegas, and Frank became angered because his friend couldn’t stay in the hotel where they were performing … Frank summoned the owners and told them that if his friend, this African American performer, couldn’t stay in this hotel, neither could he. As a matter of fact, they couldn’t play that hotel ever again. Almost over night, Las Vegas opened their hotels to African Americans and others who had been systematically excluded. One man made that difference.” (end)

For more information, visit diversity.nwasianweeklfoundation.org.

Staff can be reached at info@nwasianweekly.com.

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