Meet our 2018 ATG Scholarship Winners


Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly and most recently 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 $60,000 in scholarships. Our selection committee reviews a combination of criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities, portfolio, essay and letters of recommendation. Finalists are given a phone interview before deciding who will be our actual winners.  We are truly proud of this exceptional group and look forward to all that we know they will accomplish for their vocation and for the Asian American community in the future.

Meet Our 2018 Scholarship Winners:

  • Dan Ta – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
  • Jana “Sze Ching” Choi – Artistic Scholarship
  • Isaiah Wu – Artistic Scholarship
  • Aaron Geldert – Pat & Bruce McRae Artistic Scholarship
  • Isabella Li Kostrzewa – #LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship
  • Jasmine Cho – Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship

Dan Ta | 18 years old | GPA: 4.14 | UC Irvine – Business Administration | Vietnamese American

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

…Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost

To go “Against The Grain” is to go against the brushes, the thorns, the mud, the untamed grass, the unruly branches, and yet reach the end of our path, our destination.

Those who go “Against The Grain” are the trailblazers, the pioneers who set precedence for the infinite possibilities that lay beyond the vast expanse of conformity. They wear down the path so that others may have ease traveling the road that was once unknown.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I find the nearest barley field and roll in it!

Kidding aside, to go “Against The Grain,” I try not to repeat what has already been done and charted. I strive to create value out of nothing!

I rallied my peers and community to join my mission to spread financial literacy awareness. First, I created alongside my peers the financial literacy club, Penny Wise Club. Unfortunately, the club wasn’t enough to motivate others to see the importance of financial literacy.

To set importance to our cause, we invited the biggest name we can find — the California State Treasurer — and hosted a financial literacy event. After the event becoming wildly successful, the biggest success that came from this event is being able to inspire those who participated that anything is possible.

Going “Against The Grain” gives me the experience and the courage to chart the next paths of my journey in life. I hope to continue to inspire others to challenge the norm and set precedence of their own paths.”

Essay excerpt:

“In my community, being a Groundbreaker is the norm for me, as I started two ambitious organizations from ground up. The experience tempered me to become more successful through numerous mistakes, overcoming significant challenges, and rising to national prominence… I’ve learned that a great leader is multi-faceted.”



Jana “Sze Ching” Choi – 21 years old | GPA: 3.98 | Virginia Commonwealth University – Graphic Design | Chinese American

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

To me, going “Against the Grain” means speaking my mind and sharing my perspective, even if that puts me in the minority. It means not being afraid of being pegged as over-opinionated or too outspoken, because I think that my voice as a young Asian American is significant and powerful. Especially in the United States, it’s important to me that I advocate for myself and minority communities so that we may contribute our cultural “aboutness” and experiences to societal understanding. Sometimes going “Against the Grain” places us in uncomfortable situations, but it is so important to overcome this discomfort in order to grow as people and communities.

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go /Against The Grain’ because I am passionate and interested in diaspora stories and the coexistence of many thriving cultures in the United States. Moreover, I believe that in order to uphold diversity, people must be committed to sharing their experiences and in turn listen to the experiences of others. That is why as a graphic designer, I go “Against the Grain” and do my best to make work which cultivates spaces where the perspectives of women and people of color may be privileged. With this goal in mind, I affect positive change in my community by providing platforms for discourse surrounding marginalized bodies via my design practice. My work encompasses a body of publications and projects which shine a spotlight on topics such as Asian Americans in Media, and gender discrimination in politics.

For example, I designed and self-published a book entitled Yellow Fever about presentations of Asian American sexuality. The book is a compendium of academic writing, personal stories, fiction, and images which delves into the objectification and colonization of feminine Asian bodies in America. This project was both a personal exploration of how I move through the world as a Chinese-American woman, as well as a way for me to connect with other Asian-American women and discuss a topic that I feel is taboo or brushed off in our community.

My hope is that my work can serve as a starting point for members of my community to discuss their viewpoints and find others who commiserate with their experiences. It can be difficult to bring up and consider the nuanced aspects of societies and communities, and go ‘Against The Grain,’ which is why I think it is the job of socially-engaged artists and designers to provide the space to do so.”

Essay excerpt: 

“Enabling minority groups to represent themselves is key to fostering a rich community of individuals who practice compassion and empathy. With this goal in mind, I affect positive change in my community by using my skills as a graphic designer to provide a platform for discourse surrounding marginalized bodies.”

Isaiah Wu | 18 years old | GPA: 4.25 | Eastman School of Music – Cello Performance and Music Education | Taiwanese American

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

“Going ‘Against the Grain’ means standing firm in your beliefs, regardless of what the rest of the world thinks. It also means living out those beliefs in a way that positively influences the people around you, encouraging them to make a difference in the world too. People who go ‘Against The Grain’ are contagious; when one person takes the time to make an impact on the lives of people, it causes them to do the same for others too.”
How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“I go ‘Against The Grain’ by integrating faith with music and community service. While many people separate their work lives with their faith, I focus on letting my beliefs drive my musical work. I acknowledge that God gave me the gift of music, and I am dedicated to developing that gift in order to most effectively serve God and my community. I just finished a 6-week summer festival called Credo Music. Credo’s mission statement includes acknowledging God as the source of musical gifts, developing the gift, and responding with service. Every Thursday, we went out into the community and brought music to hospices, nursing homes, prisons, and inner-city youth centers. Credo’s dedication to community service has empowered me to make a difference in my hometown, Columbus, OH.
In high school, I joined a program called Chamber Music Connection wherein my string quartet and I received frequent opportunities to perform at community outreach events similar to Credo’s service days. One experience I will never forget is going to the local elementary school for children with special needs to expose them to classical music. Witnessing these students respond to music with energetic dancing and joyful laughter reminded me of how powerful the universal language of music can be. Leaving the school, I felt empowered to continue my calling to incorporate community service into every aspect of my musical development.
I want to further refine my skills as a cellist so that I can bring music to more people who might not otherwise get to experience it. I want to empower others through the notes, the rhythms, the colors, and the emotions created by my music. I want to change the world one concert at a time.”
Essay excerpt:
“Every time I lead worship, I am reminded of my desire to connect people to something greater than themselves. Serving people through music has allowed me to unite people from all different backgrounds and reach seemingly unexpected

Aaron Geldert | 20 years old | GPA: 4.0 | University of Miami – Music Engineering | Taiwanese/Caucasian American

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ is the mindset of someone who connects new dots and creates new paths. It takes visionary thinking in order to apply diverse abilities in new ways. It requires learning through experience; getting hands on, adapting to changes, and persevering through failures. And most of all, it depends on embracing our innate human artistry and creativity.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“A personal attribute I dearly value is my passion for learning. I am always trying to understand topics as fully as possible, giving me many wildly diverse interests: astronomy, computer programming, music education and much more. In that sense, I’ve become used to going ‘Against The Grain,’ having been dedicated to music in a STEM focused public high school, and now pursuing engineering in a collegiate music school. As part of going ‘Against The Grain,’ I highly value applying myself to my interests – such as training dogs, arranging music, and taking on video editing projects. Working on these applications can be social and fun, and crucially they allow me to find new paths to intertwine my passions. And with all of my ambitious projects that came to a frustrating end, I try to turn that failure into fuel to learn more, do more projects, and find more perseverance in myself. I believe that my studies in the arts and the sciences, while different, are very much complementary, and music engineering takes someone who can envision and create new pathways. I hope to combine my musical and technical skills to create a career that can contribute to the artistic community at large in a meaningful way. ”

Essay excerpt:

“I have found that the healing power of music is not a cliché or superficial concept. It does not require a massive international backing or the greatest musical virtuoso to be effective. Following tragedy, heartbreak, or in fear or loneliness, music can be the best reassurance that we are not alone in our thoughts and feelings.”

Isabella Li Kostrzewa | 18 years old | GPA: 3.82 | Parsons the New School of Design – Fashion Design | Taiwanese American

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

To go ‘Against The Grain’ means you really have to create your own path and do things differently, in ways that no one else has done before. Through deciding to go against the grain and not follow the status quo, but to really dig deep and find one’s own voice, comes a unique perspective that really reveals itself in an artists work and even the way that they can view the world. It’s definitely not easy, but because of the hard work and creativity involved in the process of going against what everyone else is doing, often history has shown us that the best creators, designers, innovators, and leaders were ones that thought out of the box, created their own paths and indeed went ‘Against The Grain.'”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Working towards being an environmentally friendly designer in the world’s second most wasteful industry,(fashion) has me set going against the grain from the start. It’s so easy for people to turn a blind eye towards the waste and pollution that mass textile production has on the environment, and to continue contributing to the ways of fast fashion, but that’s where I come in. I have always thought out of the box, especially when it came to design. As I continued to study the design process, many of the not so glamorous effects of fast fashion were revealed to me, in turn inspiring me to use my passion for fashion to help better the world. By creating new designs that result in less than 1 percent waste, working with recycled and non raw materials, and calling for a shift in buying habits, I stand ‘Against The Grain.’ It is through my work that I hope people can start to see that there are other options than going with the flow of fast fashion. Working to create zero waste designs has been one of the most challenging and rewarding endeavours of my life but for that I am all the more thankful and proud of what I do.”

Essay excerpt:

“I believe innovation in design production is the only way we will ever help the world and make a brighter tomorrow. This is the reason I choose to study fashion design, so that one day I may have the tools, knowledge, and network helping me to find a way to help heal the world, leaving a mark for the better.”

Jasmine Cho | 34 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Carlow University – Art Therapy | Korean American

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means to pursue a path you know to be true for you in your heart regardless of external conventions and norms. It means to develop an ability to filter through various influences and to meet resistance with persistence; it requires courage, grit, and vision to go ‘Against The Grain.'”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I have gone ‘Against The Grain’ by combining my passions in pastry and social justice to create an online bakery business known for using cookie art to speak on matters of representation. I am going against the grain now as a non-traditional undergraduate student who will be a first-generation college graduate by the age of 35. I hope to continue to go against the grain, as I pursue studies in art and expressive therapies to pioneer the nation’s first research-based, trauma-informed bake therapy program and offer a creative form of healing and empowerment to marginalized communities. “
Essay excerpt:

“I quickly realized that I had the ability to capture and direct people’s attention through the type of art I was creating and decided to use my newfound talent as a way of educating the public on the lack of minority representation in our media and in our history.”

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