Congratulations to the 2020 ATG Scholarship Winners

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly and the Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarships to a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. Since 2011, we have awarded more than $76,500 in scholarships. Our selection committee reviews a combination of criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities, portfolio, essay, and letters of recommendation. Finalists were given a phone interview. During this pandemic year, ATG awarded $6,500 in scholarships to 5 outstanding students.

The Scholarships Committee was led by Co-Directors of Community Outreach Hue Dao and Lisa Tran. Hue Dao has served on the Board since she was a college graduate. Said Hue, “We received over 300 applications this year. The quality of the applicants is the most competitive we have seen in the nine years since we started the program. These students are vibrant, hardworking and inspirational. This year, more than ever, students are seeking out scholarship opportunities. We are thrilled to help meet some of this demand with the help of our generous donors and supporters.”

Lisa Tran also serves as ATG’s Advisor to Thailand and professionally as Managing Director of Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships at SMU Cox School of Business. Said Lisa, “We had a record number of applicants this year, and the high caliber of talent continues to inspire me every year. As I reviewed the applications, I am confident that many of the students will be leaders one day. Knowing that ATG has played a part in the students’ educational and career successes is why I love serving as a board member. Thank you to our generous donors who allow us to offer scholarships to Asian American students. ”

Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG Co-Founder/President, created these unique scholarships with the intention to support AAPI youth and give hope. Said Tammy, “Each year, getting to see what our AAPI youth have done and dream to achieve is truly inspiring. From my own experience, I know how much a scholarship can impact and provide meaning to a young student’s confidence and future. I have every faith that these exceptional students will make positive contributions to our community in ways that we can only imagine. Through our scholarship fund, we are making an invaluable investment in our future and changing our narrative. ATG is very grateful to our scholarship review committee of Hue Dao, Lisa Tran, Carol Nguyen, and Nikki Dương Koenig, as well as our generous scholarship donors like Bruce and Pat McRae and Ranier and Grace Pabilona for helping us keep alive the spirit of what it means to go Against The Grain.”

We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners…

  • Esther Cha – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
  • Emma Ne – Artistic Scholarship
  • Jenny Lin – Bruce & Pat McRae Groundbreaker Scholarship
  • Socheat Tauch – #LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship
  • Elizabeth Duong Lê – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

Esther Cha | Carrollton, TX | 21 years old | GPA: 3.82 | University of Southern California |Business Administration | Korean

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means to take action in the now and not wait for circumstances to become easier or better. It means to boldly and wisely use my resources and privileges to give a voice to those in my community. To me, that has meant to go beyond the traditional paths of business and explore innovative solutions for our world’s most pressing social issues.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“After learning of the rising college homelessness issue in Los Angeles, I began my ‘Against The Grain’ journey by asking one simple question: ‘What can I do to help?’ Since then, I co-founded Trojan Shelter, a homeless shelter specifically for college students by securing a location in LA’s Koreatown, recruiting over 50 volunteers and raising over $150,000. This experience has had an indelible impact on my life and showed me that I can create social impact in any position, field, or circumstance. As a student, I have done this by advocating for BIPOC talent and writers, while working at top entertainment companies, studying social entrepreneurship, and providing pro-bono consulting to nonprofit organizations. I want to continue to be a groundbreaker in my community by pursuing my dream of starting a social enterprise business that employs those experiencing homelessness, while providing them with resources such as food, housing assistance, job training, and mental health resources. Using my marketing and entertainment background, I hope to change people’s perspectives by leveraging my passion for storytelling to make stronger arguments for combatting homelessness.”


Emma Nebeker | Austin, TX | 18 years old | GPA: 3.92 | Art Center College of Design | Animation & Digital Arts | Taiwanese/Caucasian

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means never leaving one grain of rice in the bowl, and it certainly never means rejecting the rice scooped into it. It means swimming against the tsunami of stereotypes, pridefully carrying alongside us the noodles, rice, dumplings, or curry that our parents made us, while we work hard to undo the coursing tidal waves of prejudice against us Asians and Asian Americans. It means introducing our newest works to the world, thanking our parents and our greatest challengers for the firmest iterations of where we come from, and why we are so driven to succeed.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go ‘Against The Grain’ by breathing my life into my work. I am an animator: I bring motion to still figures and emotion from my greatest personal struggles into my characters. I do not stay complacent with the far and few animated features that include Asians and Asian Americans. I will not rely on others to include a culture often excluded from mainstream media. I continue to work hard to feature characters of Asian descent and their experiences: with culture shock, with a parent’s struggle to assimilate into the society they immigrated to, a child’s struggle to learn their mother tongue, of adolescents wrestling with what lunch to bring to school—’a bland and non smelly PB&J? Or the shui jiao that my mom worked so hard to cook for me last night?’—all of these experiences, I will include. I will not stop until the whole world understands why a bowl of fruit or the phrase, ‘Come eat!’ can double as an apology. I will go ‘Against The Grain’ of western entertainment to introduce the sharp realities and subtle beauties of Asian culture.”


Jenny Lin | Los Angeles, CA | 30 years old | GPA: 3.65 | School of Visual Arts | Design for Social Innovation | Chinese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“To go ‘Against The Grain’ means to build your self confidence: that despite what others see, you might see something different, and that difference is worth pursuing. It is easy to doubt yourself when the world doesn’t reflect your vision. You begin the journey by understanding who you are and by standing up for your self worth. Grounding yourself is absolutely essential, because even if you fail, you never know who you will inspire along the way.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“For a long time, I did not trust my own voice.

My upbringing as a Chinese American taught me the traditional values of obedience and filial piety. While my parents are loving people, their world view was molded by a troubled society. When I left my upper-middle class family to attend college, I learned about the injustices happening to others less fortunate. I saw gentrification, criminalization, and dead ends for brilliant people. I started using my voice to speak up and act. I became active in my local Chinatown grassroots organization to fight against Wal-Mart and greedy developers. I used art to share stories and build new narratives. I learned UX to understand how we can use technology to build tools for change.

For me, choosing to go ‘Against The Grain’ means to actively challenge my parents’ and societal norms to pursue justice. Today, I trust my voice, because I see the change it can bring. I continue to build my voice by pushing my boundaries, building my leadership skills, and investigating the possibilities of better worlds.”


Socheat Tauch | Troutdale, OR | 28 years old | GPA: 3.61 | University of Oregon | Sports Product Management | Cambodian

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means to individually and spiritually break free from the constraints of cultural, societal, and family norms. It’s about breaking your safety and comfort barrier, standing up for what you truly believe in, and striving toward your dreams. It’s challenging the status quo, empowering others, while giving back to the community, and acting as an agent of change. Moreover, it also means taking a risk to address the underlying issues with a systems-thinking approach, fused with creative, sustainable, and innovative steps in developing fair and equitable solutions.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I am the friction within the Cambodian community in Oregon. Everyday, I challenge the Khmer expectation and the model minority myth that Asian Americans are good at math, musically-inclined, and have life-long careers as doctors, pharmacists, attorneys, and business people. There isn’t much room for creativity, art, or design within my community spaces. However, through several graphic design projects over 5 years, I represented myself as a designer within my community, and through my professional role, I was able to serve as an example that creativity does hold value and merit in society.

I am also the very same designer that creates friction within the sports product industry, too. Entering the apparel industry confronts the stigmatization that Khmers are known as “cheap and expendable” garment labor. Because of the exploitative practices in Cambodia, we have always historically been at the bottom. This representation is very important to me because I strive to be the example that uplift Khmers as more than factory laborers, but show that we can hold creative decision-making roles as apparel designers, product developers, and mid-to-senior level managers and directors, too.”


Elizabeth Duong Lê | Capitol Heights, MD | 22 years old | GPA: 3.77 | George Washington University | Security Policy Studies | Vietnamese 

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“To me, going Against The Grain’ is taking the road less traveled and withstanding the pains of criticism as well as fears of unfamiliarity, while paving a path for the generations who come after. Going ‘Against The Grain’ means striving to be the difference, even if it means standing alone. Those who go ‘Against The Grain’ accept risk and are willing to sacrifice completely for the opportunity to pursue a more authentic life, achieve excellence, be truly free, and fulfill what is unique to their soul and purpose.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I went ‘Against The Grain’ when I understood that healing transgenerational trauma and understanding familial history were both prerequisites to breaking the cycle of poverty for my refugee family. I’m the youngest of five, born fifteen years after and the first to graduate college, completing undergraduate with a 4.0 GPA and earning a fellowship to pursue graduate studies. I broke ground by dedicating myself to a purpose larger than myself. Growing up, my household’s dysfunction made it difficult to believe in a world outside of one plagued by self-destruction and unhealthy survival tactics. However, with an innate compulsion to bring betterment where I notice a lack thereof, I challenged myself to rise above the emotional and intellectual naivety present in my milieu. Doing so allowed me to undertake a rigorous journey, in which I would break ground, examine the conditions my family has survived, and dedicate myself to conflict resolution efforts and the alleviation of human suffering. I didn’t make it to where I am today because of where I come from; I made it despite where I come from.”

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