By Rebekah Joe
Despite the unprecedented year with COVID-19, many students still took part in the the annual Asian American Heritage Council (AAHC) Student Achiever Awards. The ceremony took place through Zoom on November 7, 2020 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 the coronavirus: The coronavirus disease ( COVID‐19) pandemic has upended family life around the world. School closures, working remotely, physical distancing ‐ it’s a lot to navigate. From your own experience, describe what you learned from virtual school and real life and how you cope with social distancing during the pandemic. Rebekah Joe, a homeschooled junior, won first place with her response. You can watch her read the essay here or read the essay below.
"I thought that 2020 was going to be the crowning year and start of a new decade, filled with great accomplishments, more opportunities, and more bonding with my community than the previous years. Then, COVID-19 came crashing like a storm and wreaked havoc everywhere, upending our typical lives and making those hopes seem impossible. However, the pandemic changed my perspective on life, helping me realize the importance of supporting my community through thick and thin.
At the beginning of the coronavirus, while people overbought toilet paper and students rejoiced over an extended spring break, I unaffectedly sat at home, taking online classes that I was already accustomed to because of our homeschooling choice. However, after the shutdown, I desperately missed the community activities I took for granted: soccer practices, volunteering, board meetings, and even speech and debate tournaments. Other than doing the typical quarantine activities like going outdoors, baking, reading, taking a road trip, and connecting with friends, I learned how to use my time intentionally to benefit those around me. Each experience of online meetings, wearing a mask, and sanitizing hands reminded me that I sacrificed comforts for the sake of those around me. Next, besides staying focused academically, I found opportunities to mentor and connect a group of 5th-grade girls through Zoom. Additionally, through volunteering for 120 hours as a junior camp counselor at the science center, I found the joys in making kids smile, bonding with them, giving them exciting memories from the summer, and helping each child doing their part to keep the community safe. Each experience opened my eyes to the blessings and comfort that comes from being there for others. Although staying at home is by no means easy, I am grateful that COVID-19 demonstrated the value of a resilient community that compromises and works to support others.
Though I thought that all my plans had been shattered because of COVID-19, I now see that they simply happened differently. While the pandemic has drastically impacted my life, in the last seven months I’ve seen the beauty of people mourning, celebrating, fighting for justice, and supporting each other in unity. Through video calls, online socials, and even leading online dragon boat training, I experienced that community will always encourage me, as I did for others. Thanks to the support of those around me, I've learned that accomplishments aren’t just a trophy I take home, but adapting to my new normal by learning, having flexibility, empathy, and resilience instead of wishing for life to return to normal. Even though my soccer season, speech and debate tournaments, specific volunteer opportunities, and retreats have been canceled, community itself isn’t canceled. Instead, coronavirus helped me reflect on community, racial justice, and how I could support others by actively seeking ways to reach out to them. Though the coronavirus has upended life, each situation since then taught me that despite a global pandemic, community is unstoppable and can never be masked."
Overall, REACH congratulates and is extremely proud of all the student applicants, whether or not they received an award, for all of their hard work!
By Alex Tao
On November 16, 2019, the annual Asian American Heritage Council (AAHC) Student Achiever Awards Ceremony took place at the Orange County Library. For the past twenty five years, AAHC has commended Asian-American students for academic excellence, community service, preservation of culture, and language. On top of the scholarship awards for each grade level, AAHC hosted their 2nd annual essay contest which asked this question: As Asian Americans, how and in what ways can we promote unity in diversity? Please explain. Junior Alex Tao won 1st place with his thought-provoking and inspiring essay, written below.
(More information about this event, pictures, and a list of winners can be found at Asia Trend: asiatrend.org/lifestyle/education/aahc-four-letters-that-represent-many-cultures/)
"Five-point six percent. Each time I look at this number my heart fills with pride at what it represents. Our population of Asian Americans in the U.S. has grown more than 72% in the last two decades alone – a change unprecedented in the history of the United States for the Asian community. This shift also exhibits the nation’s melting pot demographics, with many different nationalities cohabiting together. As Asian Americans, we can promote unity in diversity by being aware of not only the different cultures that surround us, but also being conscious of the differences among our own race of people. In order to make change and bolster unity in our community, we must first be honest with ourselves. As human beings, we all hold inherent biases against those not of our in-group and even those who are. As a second generation Asian American, I often find what I like to call “behind the door discrimination” occurring in the community. We may not be up front with our prejudices against others, but from time to time, I find myself observing fellow Asian Americans exhibiting prejudice towards other people. If we fail acknowledge this and don’t realize that we have the power to improve our cohesion, how can we ever expect to close the gaps between our community and the rest of America? The crux of the issues relating to the maintenance of unity in diversity lies in the dogmatic attitudes that we are prone to embody. Many a times, we often rest on what separates us from others. While recognizing our individual cultures and celebrating what makes us unique is important, it is equally important to be aware of both the commonalities that we share and the aspects of what makes others distinct from us. As mentioned prior, we must also be cognizant of the differences within our own community. Clumping our community under “Asian” can make one forget about the differences that reside in our own race. America houses more than 20 distinct Asian ethnic groups that each speak their own language, have their own food and other special cultural aspects. We must be aware of this and be open to learning about the culture of our peers and coworkers. Unity without uniformity is what we should be striving for. Completely assimilating into a culture leads to a loss of identity, something that should be avoided at all costs. That being said, there should also be an effort on our part to reach out of our individualistic mindsets and to make a genuine attempt to understand other people. As Asian Americans, we can promote diversity through simple things like asking someone about their culture with the intent to broaden your perspective. At the root of it, we are all human beings living in the same nation, the same planet, breathing the same air. We can promote diversity by changing our mindsets to include others and adopting the ideals behind one of my favorite quotes – we all bleed red."
On November 7, 2015, REACH members attended the AAHC Student Achievers Award Ceremony at Orlando Fashion Square. Five REACH members won AAHC Scholastics Awards, with Corey Hsiao winning the Preservation of Culture Award as well. REACH volunteers helped with setup and teardown, while REACH members Julie Ng and Amy Likamwa emceed the event. Click here for pictures!
On November 15, the AAHC Student Achievers Awards Ceremony was held at the Orlando Public Library. REACH members Wendy Ng and William Tang emceed the event, while others helped with set-up and sign in. In total, nine REACH members received awards. For pictures, visit here.
In November 16, 2013, REACH members volunteered at the AAHC's annual Student Achievers Award Ceremony. Members Tiffany Tang and Frank Lau emceed the event with the help of Leilani Fontanilla. Held once again at the Orlando City Hall, the ceremony gave thirty awards to top Asian students. Seven REACH members received the AAHC Scholastic Award, with almost one quarter of the total awards going to REACH members. For pictures, visit here.