By Ashley Ding
This year many students participated in the annual Asian American Heritage Council (AAHC) Student Achiever Awards. The ceremoney took place on November 18th at the Orlando Public Library to celebrate the great accomplishments in academics, community service, and representation in culture of all the students who applied.
In addition, AAHC also hosted their third annual essay contest, this time giving a prompt regarding Asian protrayal in media: Based on recent media portrayal, Asian Americans and their way of life have amassed a massive number of mainstream interpretations. How do the accurate depictions of Asian American struggles influence public opinion and reflect upon your own life? How does it allow you to reconnect with your community and heritage? Ashley Ding, a junior from Lake Nona High School, won first place with her response. You can read the essay below:
During the Bank of America Student Leaders Summit this past summer, I had the privilege of viewing a documentary called "38 at the Garden." This powerful film chronicles the journey of Jeremy Lin, an undrafted Harvard graduate who overcame discrimination and skepticism as the sole Asian American basketball player on his team. Lin's historic 2011-12 season with the New York Knicks, which ignited "Linsanity," is a key focus of the documentary, particularly when he scored 38 points against Kobe Bryant and the Lakers at Madison Square Garden, hence the film's title. By the end, I had tears in my eyes.
This film fundamentally changed my perspective on Asian American discrimination. What makes this film particularly impactful is the representation it provided and its resonance with my own experiences. While I am definitely no NBA player, I could relate to Lin’s experiences of being perceived as passive and diminutive by his teammates and coaches. Beyond its relatability regarding the challenges Asian Americans face, the film emphasizes how Lin overcame these obstacles. His journey from couch-surfing to stardom showed everyone watching to not let society put you in a box in terms of what you can achieve.
Upon returning from the summit, I applied these lessons to my ongoing activities. While interning at the Boys and Girls Club—a program for underprivileged youth—I encountered stereotypical remarks from some students who had never seen someone who looked like me before. Instead of responding negatively, I realized that their perceptions of me stemmed from misunderstandings, not ill intentions. I began teaching the youth about Chinese culture and language. They loved it, as “Ms. Ashley, how do you say this in Chinese?” became a common question at the Club.
Additionally, I organized the inaugural Multicultural Expo in Taft, Florida. This unique event brought together hundreds of students, parents, staff, and community members. Nine countries were represented, all with kids presenting. I showcased China, with an informative presentation and jiaozi for everyone to try. Students, parents, staff, and even the local police officers gathered in this family-based event. Everyone left the event with a smile on their face and new knowledge. I left the event with a rekindled appreciation for my culture through sharing it with others.
As Co-President of REACH of Central Florida, I am committed to creating an inclusive environment that celebrates and spreads awareness of Asian culture. Through helping organize events such as the Asian Cultural Festival or the Dragon Boat Festival, I’m committed to facilitating cross-cultural connections in the diverse Orlando community.
38 at the Garden was one of the most moving films I have ever watched. Lin's success extended beyond his athletic abilities; it was his unwavering confidence that truly inspired people, including me. By teaching others about my culture, I hope to promote a deeper understanding and discourage stereotyping. I aspire to channel my own version of “Linsanity”, in which we can all recognize that societal perceptions should not limit us from making our mark on this world.