Diversity Makes a Difference — Part 3

Compiled by Sue Misao
Northwest Asian Weekly

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The Northwest Asian Weekly’s Diversity Makes a Difference scholarship program celebrates high school students from Western Washington — nominated by teachers, counselors, principals, and community members — who encourage and actively promote diversity.

From these nominations, a judging panel will choose five winners who will each receive $1,000 scholarships, and five additional finalists who will each receive $200 scholarships. The scholarships honor young people who take action to increase cross-cultural understanding and awareness in the community. These scholarships have been awarded every year since 1994.

The Diversity Makes a Difference awards dinner will be held on Friday, March 28, at the New Hong Kong Restaurant.

This is the third of a four-part series.

Bryan Contreras
Edmonds-Woodway High School

Working towards a full International Baccalaureate diploma, Bryan Contreras has a “true passion for success, a growing natural leadership ability, and a dedication to academics,” says his teacher David Quinn.

Bryan applied his learned leadership skills in becoming a mentor for middle school students all over the district in a one-day event called La Chispa. “In this event, we teach Hispanic students how to come out of their comfort zone and become leaders,” said Bryan. “They have inspired me to keep growing as a leader.”

Caleb Walin
Issaquah High School

Caleb Walin is “an outstanding student and active community leader,” said his former teacher Sara Loudon. “He is an advocate of the oppressed and a friend to all, regardless of their background and beliefs.”

Each summer, Caleb participates in a mission trip with Sacred Road Missions, traveling to the White Swan Indian Reservation in Yakima and the Warm Spring Indian Reservation in Madras, Ore., where he provides manual labor, day care, and ministry.

“Exposure to other races assists me in seeing a different perspective in the way I do things,” wrote Caleb.

Charly Nelson
Issaquah High School

“Throughout her entire high school career, I’ve observed Charly’s excitement for life, learning, and the people around her,” said teacher Erin Connolly. Charly takes Leadership class, is a cheerleader, and has taken college courses through Bellevue College, all while working part-time and learning Spanish.

“Diversity is important because it teaches people to open up their minds and hearts to learn from people who are considered different,” wrote Charly.

Christopher Adams
O’Dea High School

Christopher has been a member of his school’s Social Justice team, and has worked with Habitat for Humanity and a homeless shelter.

“What made Chris stand out to me was the choices he made when his character was tested younger than it should have been,” said his teacher David Olinger. “Chris not only overcame his own obstacles, he became an example of courage to his peers.”

Chris also participates in the Young Executives of Color program at the University of Washington.

“When we take the time to get to know and accept the culture of others,” he wrote, “we will come to understand the actions they take that are different than actions we would take.”

Courtney Vu
Issaquah High School

Her parents’ escape from Vietnam has been Courtney’s greatest motivator, she said, “urging me to work hard and succeed to honor my parents’ sacrifices.”

One project that her teacher, Keri Dean, was particularly impressed with was a large-scale research project on the Scottsboro Trial in the 1030s. “Courtney’s diligent nature ensured that she always met and exceeded assignment requirements,” said Dean, who was also impressed by Courtney’s analytical skills throughout the project.

Courtney is captain of the drill team, is Spirit Commissioner of the ASB, and participates in the National Honor Society and Key Club.

“Diversity is crucial,” writes Courtney, “as it teaches us to learn from one another, to look from different perspectives, and respect others and yourself. Embracing all our differences is what will propel us into our future.”

Daniel Kim
Issaquah High School

Daniel has served as president of Teens for Global Health and captain of the junior varsity tennis team. He also participates in the school district’s orchestra.

“His academic resume, analytical abilities, and contributions to class all bode well for his success,” wrote his teacher Keri Dean. “Daniel was also a valuable member of the classroom community because of his diligent work with others during peer revision of essays and small group discussion activities.”

As the son of immigrants, Daniel has often had to navigate through customs and traditions new to his family.

“A first-hand witness to awkward incidents that may arise in a diverse setting,” wrote Daniel, “I’ve become more conscientious of the differences the unique individuals that comprise our society have. Diversity is a key component in teaching people to respect others.”

Gary Wang
Inglemoor High School

Gary is vice president of the Future Business Leaders of America, and is an officer in the Honor Society, DECA, and ASB. He volunteers as a tutor to his peers.

“Gary has the skills to take charge and to know when to share the responsibility and not overwhelm himself with the task,” said his adviser Jan Fitzgerald.

“When diverse minds come together, their collaborations have often provided the world with some of the most unique and important discoveries, innovations, and ideas that have ever been known,” Gary wrote. “I hold a firm belief that one of my main duties in life is to inspire and support diversity in every way that I can.”

Genevieve Macdonald
Issaquah High School

Genevieve is the personification of diversity. “Tracing my lineage, one would find an alloy of Cantonese and Ning Bo, as well as remnants of European heritage diluted by generations in America, which consist of Irish, Scottish, and a dash of French,” she wrote.

Genevieve is a creative and eager learner, says her teacher Lena Jones.

“Genevieve’s motivation in class comes from her innate, genuine interest in gaining knowledge and understanding how the world works,” said Jones.

“I hope to continue to incorporate my personal diversity into my life and wish to explore the beauty of language, dialects, and accents. With these linguistic tools, I can explore cultures and parts of the world that I haven’t even heard of yet.”

Hannah Stulberg
Issaquah High School

Hannah is not just a talented scholar, says her teacher Kristi Hardy. She is also involved in the National Honor Society, DECA, and the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization, in which she has served as chapter director, regional director, chapter president, and regional president. “She has also given back to her community through tutoring and assisting with art therapy programs,” said Hardy.

“Diversity is a journey, not a destination,” wrote Hannah. “But in a society where diversity is celebrated, anything is possible.”

James Nelson
Issaquah High School

“James is heavily involved in extracurricular activities, including National Honor Society, ASB, and Eagle Crew (a club that welcomes and mentors freshmen),” said his teacher Kristi Hardy. “I have seen him interact with his peers in a graceful and caring manner, and he seems to befriend everyone. He is present at almost every sporting event and is known to have a lot of school spirit.”

“Diversity is so important because it helps us to understand other perspectives, to broaden our own, and to fully experience and educate ourselves,” wrote James.

Josh Bean
Issaquah High School

“A natural leader, Josh’s personal qualities are equally impressive,” says his teacher Vail Crain Baxter. “Even though Josh quickly understands the material, he takes the time to make sure his classmates also understand.”
Josh is involved with his school’s lacrosse and swim teams, the National Honor Society, and peer tutoring. He was awarded Student of the Month for both school spirit and math, and is a Commended National Merit Scholar and an AP Scholar with Honor.

“Diversity is about how you make your community a more interesting place,” says Josh. “Whether it is a rich foreign heritage or a musical talent, diversity is everywhere and we all bring something to the table to help develop interesting and thriving communities.

Juliana Da Cruz
Issaquah High School

Juliana is inspired by her heritage and the struggles of her father to escape a harsh and tragic life in Brazil.
“He applied himself, and earned scholarship after scholarship to study in the U.S.” she wrote. “That is my heritage. It is hard work and drive and determination and resilience. It is a reminder of the potency of gratitude, hope, and ambition. It is a pair of rough and cracked hands.”

“Among Juliana’s numerous strengths are her dedication to academics and ability to work with and improve those around her,” said her teacher Benjamin Reed, “all while embracing her cultural heritage. Juliana has distanced herself from her peers, at a high school with very high academic standards, in these and many other areas.”

Katherine Chun
Issaquah High School

“Katherine successfully juggles the demands of a rigorous academic schedule with ambitious extracurricular activities,” said her teacher Marianne Null.

Katherine has worked with Bogey Bear Junior Golf Foundation, is a Distinguished Scholar Athlete, a member of the school band, class council secretary, and volunteers with the Key Club and National Honor Society.

“People tend to forget about things when they are not confronted with it often, and that includes appreciation for other races,” wrote Katherine. “Diversity is the solution. Diversity is our opportunity to remind ourselves to be open minded and understanding.”

Kevin Dominguez Sosa
Inglemoor High School

“Kevin is very personable and social, and I can tell he will be successful in any field he chooses to pursue,” said his school counselor Bryan McNeil. “His work ethic will be an additional asset that serves him well.”
Kevin hopes to pursue a degree in engineering.

“Diversity is important to increase the knowledge of the people and community about other countries, religions, and cultures, said Kevin. “Also to make society a little bit more expanded, with a lot of variety, not always the same, that’s what makes our country so special and unique. The country is full with immigrants or non-American citizens and that make things different.”

Nicolas Garcia
O’Dea High School

“I do not have a single origin that I can trace my ancestors to, but many,” wrote Nicolas Garcia. “This is why diversity, being different, is important to me. Without diversity, I wouldn’t exist. I am literally a product of diversity.”

Nic has a true passion to help others, said his school’s assistant principal, Jeanne Eulberg. He participates in band, as well as challenging himself with the most demanding curriculum. “He works very hard to be successful and he has a great work ethic,” said Eulberg.

Nicolas Tonel
O’Dea High School

“Having different cultures around us allows us to grow in many different ways,” wrote Nicolas. “We are able to learn from other people’s experiences and stories and compare them to our own. Diversity helps us to realize that we all aren’t that different.”

Family is very important to Nicolas and he spends a lot of his free time doing sports and other activities with them.

“He is a wonderful young man with high moral standards from which he never deviates,” said assistance principal Jeanne Eulberg. (end)

Sue Misao can be reached at editor@nwasianweekly.com.

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