Author: cnguyen

Congratulations to the 2022 ATG Scholarship Winners!

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly, Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur and the newly founded Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E Scholarships to a select group of exemplary Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduates, and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain.  Our selection committee reviews a combination of criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities, portfolio, essay, letters of recommendation and even video submissions. Top finalists are given a phone interview.  In 2022, ATG will award $12,500 in scholarships to nine outstanding students. Since the program’s beginning in 2011, ATG has awarded $110,000 in scholarships to 70 exceptional AAPI students across the nation.

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, “This was another great year for ATG Scholarships, with nearly 200 applications from all across the country. I’ve been a part of the scholarship committee since its inception in 2011 and still, every year I am moved with a new wave of inspiration from these young leaders. I choose to stay a part of this process for over 10 years now because it keeps me in the loop of ‘What’s next?’ This year we had the new addition of the Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E. Scholarship, which provided an additional avenue for us to give. Our varied scholarship offerings attract an impressive diversity of backgrounds and disciplines. Community is a core value of the AAPI community and these young people are actively participating and creating pathways for us to be more connected. I believe it’s important that we continue to support those who are paving a way for others. Thank you to our donors for helping us make these opportunities possible.

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, “The caliber of the applicants keeps rising every year, and this year was no exception.  I had the privilege of interviewing the 16 finalists and were not only impressed with their academic, artistic/leadership skills, but more importantly, their dedication to advancing their respective AAPI communities. I left the interviews inspired, energized, and hopeful because of the passion this next generation of AAPI leaders bring to making our country a more inclusive place.  Thank you to our donors and scholarship namesakes who support AAPI students who demonstrate exceptional artistic and leadership skills. One of the highlights of every year is reviewing the ATG Scholarship applications and meeting the finalists during the interview process. I continue to be blown away by their academic achievements, but more importantly, what they plan to do with their education. Whether it is through art, leadership, or entrepreneurship, I am grateful to be a part of the scholarship recipients’ academic journey and excited to see what they will accomplish professionally.

Carol Nguyen has served on the ATG Scholarship Review Committee for several years. Said Carol, “I am always proud to be part of ATG’s annual Scholarship Review Committee, because we gain insight about the younger generation, learn what they are passionate about, and what steps they are already taking to initiate change. As technology and open source information continue to advance and grow, it is exciting to see how candidates use these available resources to effectively share their stories and activate others. Our 5 scholarships attracted more than 200 applicants, which reveals how important these funds are to help them apply their critical thinking towards an original thought or to solve a unique problem. We are always happy to give them this podium to share their story and success.”

A longtime Board Member, this was Sharon Chan’s first time serving on our Scholarship Review Committee.  Said Sharon, “This year’s candidates were both diverse and extremely accomplished. It’s a joy to get to be a small part of the scholarship review process and get to learn about some of the amazing work that these student leaders are doing. ATG provides an avenue for funding for future leaders, artists, and groundbreakers in our community, and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for all of our scholarship candidates.”

Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG Co-Founder/President, helped create these unique scholarships more than a decade ago with the intention of supporting AAPI youth and giving hope. Said Tammy, “This year’s impressive winners truly stand out for their level of awareness to their own identity, to the world, and the part that they can play in improving it. They embody the spirit of this organization.  As always, we are incredibly proud of them and look forward to all the great things they will do. I am personally very grateful for the dedication and hard work of our scholarship review committee of Hue Dao, Lisa Tran, Carol Nguyen, Sharon Chan, as well as generous scholarship donors and partners Ranier and Grace Pabilona and Thear Sy Suzuki, and countless supporters who allow us to continue this important work that will impact a generation and help us keep alive the spirit of what it means to go Against The Grain.” 

We are thrilled to announce this year’s exceptional nine winners…

    • Gina Bae – Artistic Scholarship
    • Annika Crawford – Artistic Scholarship
    • Jackie Hung – #LiveLikeLyly Artistic Scholarship
    • Shreya Shivakumar – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
    • Peter Pham – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
    • Brooke Chow – Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship
    • Lily Chen – Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship
    • Danica Leung – Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E
    • Leo Zhou – Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E

Gina Bae | Palo Alto, CA | 18 years old | GPA: 3.88 | Rhode Island School of Design | Illustration | Korean American

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

“Growing up surrounded by cautionary tales about starving artists, I nearly succumbed to the common mindset that labeled art as a hobby, a line in a well-rounded resume at best and a waste of precious time at worst — until I joined a nearby art studio. There, conversations with art history professors, aspiring animators, product designers and gallery artists opened my eyes to a new world of possibilities. Going Against The Grain means challenging the traditional thinking that I grew up with, seeking other perspectives to broaden my worldview, and taking risks to pursue what I truly love.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“In addition to challenging a typical career path, I go Against The Grain by amplifying disadvantaged voices and different viewpoints through my journalism and artwork.

In every article I wrote in my school’s newspaper, I discovered a human story worth telling and exposed readers to the diverse perspectives of university student activists, veterans, student sexual assault survivors, and countless other members of our community.

As I created journalistic illustrations, I found that a canvas or Procreate file was just as effective at telling such stories.

Through my art, I spread awareness about issues I was passionate about, whether with an editorial cartoon depicting Hong Kong’s deteriorating press freedom or a newspaper spread design/illustration discussing our school’s Title IX process.

And with pieces exploring topics like cultural dissonance, the oversexualization of teenage girls, and the complexity of race as both a unifying and divisive factor, I embraced the vulnerability of sharing my own experience as a second generation Korean American girl growing up in a divided nation — after all, how could I advocate amplifying Asian voices in the arts if I didn’t join in myself?”

 


Annika Crawford | Washington Crossing, PA | 18 years old | GPA: 4.11 | Tufts University | Studio Arts + Undecided | Taiwanese/Caucasian American

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

“Going Against The Grain means forgetting the grain entirely. Believing in roads paved by stereotype—whether hating or loving them—maintains their existence. I rebel through indifference.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go Against The Grain by disregarding expectations. I serve at my local fire department as the only Asian woman. I witness about my Christian faith in my secular classes. I pen a myriad of articles in my school newspaper — the ethics of holograms, prison art, and Tropicália — the latter of which won “Best Culture Article” in the Yale Daily News High School Symposium.

Most of all, I go Against The Grain by pursuing truth through art. I seek the unseen parts of life and paint my impressions. My art therefore gives viewers a lens to better see the world and themselves — and consequently, through the aesthetic of an Asian girl in suburbia. I know this aesthetic is rare in the art world, but not unusual in life. For too long, the mainstream has hesitated to feature Asians, under the notion they are uninteresting and unrelatable to Americans, but the face of America is changing. As I pursue studio arts at Tufts University, I hope to create art that resonates with this change, and reflects our ambiguity, depth, and shared humanity.”

 


Jackie Hung | Rolling Hills Estates, CA | 18 years old | GPA: 4.0 | University of Southern California | Design | Chinese American

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

“Going Against The Grain means having the courage to pursue a path that deviates from conventional expectations. It means to set an example for those that follow and to welcome any backlash that may come with going against what is considered the “norm.” These actions mean standing firm behind my convictions, even if they do not align with the majority. Going Against The Grain does not necessarily mean seeking controversy, but allowing yourself to see the world in a different light and acting upon it.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“As a girl who always sought out adventure and challenge, I decided to join the Boy Scouts of America when the program first opened to women in February 2019, over a century after the organization’s founding.

I was excited to be a part of this transition despite the many who disapproved. I experienced hostility from male Scouts, male leaders, and most surprisingly, from many women. Upon founding our all-girls troop, we immediately felt the pressure to keep pace and perform better than our male peers, despite not having the same foundational training. At times, this pressure to perform perfectly seemed to undermine my efforts to simply represent this organization.

As a member of the first ever class of female Eagle Scouts in the nation, I cannot help but take pride in my efforts that got me here. My initiative, leadership, and determination to reach Eagle rank were essential for me to succeed in this organization. My work, alongside the contributions of every member regardless of gender, has undoubtedly helped to reshape the BSA into the inclusive program it is today.”

 


Shreya Shivakumar | Edison, NJ | 19 years old | GPA: 4.08 | Barnard College of Columbia University | Political Science | South Asian (Indian) American

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

“To go Against The Grain is to lead with purpose, spearheading efforts to make a positive impact while staying true to one’s essential values. My passion for public service has led me to advocate for the needs of under-resourced communities while inspiring others to prioritize inclusivity and kindness in their community involvement. Effective changemakers use the unique perspective of their life experiences to fuel their actions. My work as a social entrepreneur has motivated me to pursue a career as an attorney and use the law to advance meaningful social change by defending civil rights.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Founding Nourish America was my first step in going Against The Grain to create a movement that would make nutritious and allergy-safe food available to all. I centered my nonprofit organization around providing enough healthy food to families and children and being considerate of their unique needs in the process. Additionally, my work in the anti-hunger sphere inspired me to found Allergies For Kids, a project to educate children about food allergy safety. Any initiative that aims to go Against The Grain requires demonstrating genuine care and consideration for the sustained well-being of others, and I hope to inspire this value in young people through my work.”

 


Peter Pham | San Jose, CA | 23 years old | GPA: 3.73 | University of California, Berkeley | Molecular Environmental Biology &  Public Health | Vietnamese American

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

“For me, going Against The Grain means building up the courage to make difficult but ultimately the best choices, even if it is unpopular, goes against the norms, and is contrary to what feels safe in the moment for a person. It means understanding the values and rules we live with, rather than being complacent, and being willing to work to change the rules when they no longer work. We ought to reflect on our place and actions, stand up for what we believe is right, and be ready to face the forces moving against us.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Before I found the words “Against The Grain,” I’ve been practicing this motto throughout my life.

After graduating from a competitive high school where everyone was expected to attend a four-year university, I chose to attend a community college. To my immigrant parents who never made it past grade school, this decision felt like a death-knell for my success. I didn’t go straight to a four-year university to get a good job. I took an alternate route that allowed me the space to support my family, become a community leader, and shape our world through changed policies, emergency authorized vaccines, and touched lives.

More recently, while the youngest redistricting commissioner on a panel of 15 people that included a former Vice-Mayor, healthcare CEO, and school board trustee, I was known to ask the toughest questions to members of the public, which triggered frustration and chagrin. In one case, a major interest group proposed a map that seemed to violate the Voting Rights Act. While other commissioners stayed quiet, I challenged them to clarify their process, which the chair (and former Vice-Mayor) said saved the commission from lawsuits and accusations of bias. ”

 


Brooke Chow | Raleigh, NC | 20 years old | GPA: 3.8 | UNC Chapel Hill | Business Administration and Management | Chinese American

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

“Going Against The Grain is identifying issues around us and actively working to address them, even if it means going against the status quo. It means speaking bolding and unapologetically, and recognizing that you have the power to shape history — and not be passively shaped by it.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“After noticing many local businesses struggling to stay afloat during the pandemic, I knew I wanted to help. The businesses that struggled the most were typically local businesses and we wanted to support these business owners, especially because many of them were unique to North Carolina. By working specifically with a target market that didn’t have much prior experience navigating the digital landscape, which was especially important during the pandemic, we successfully helped dozens of businesses stay afloat by consulting with them and providing digital solutions that would solve their problems.

I go Against The Grain by bringing local businesses into the digital generation and providing long-term solutions that ensure their longevity.”

 


Lily Chen | Basking Ridge, NJ | 19 years old | GPA: 4.0 | MIT | Mathematics with Computer Science | Chinese American

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

“To me, going Against The Grain means pushing relentlessly to create changes that you believe in, regardless of obstacles.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go Against The Grain by building free technological solutions and apps for others and by empowering women in technology!”

 

 


Danica Leung | Portland, OR | 18 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Emory University | Political Science and Anthropology | Chinese-American

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

“Going Against The Grain is about defying expectations and choosing your own path. It’s sticking true to one’s own values and pursuing a passion even if it’s not conventional.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I’m pursuing my dream of political advocacy both through my studies and my extracurricular efforts. It’s important to me to lead any and all initiatives for change with a humanistic, equity-focused perspective. My activism, whether it’s getting out the vote or lobbying for immigration reform, is informed by my intersectional identity; and rather than see that as a minus because I am a minority, I see it as a plus for making me a better, stronger advocate.”

 


Leo Zhou | Sugar Land, TX | 18 years old | GPA: 3.95 | University of Texas (Turing Honors) | Computer Science | Chinese American

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

“Going Against The Grain means taking risks, trying new things, and pushing your limits to create something beyond anyone’s expectations. To me, “the grain” is the box I’m contained in, the box of my comfort zone I must break through to achieve my true potential. Although it was frightening, learning to go Against The Grain is something that has been a critical component of my growth as both a leader and an individual.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Due to COVID-19, the last quarter of classes during the 2019-2020 school year was canceled. Moreover, classes moved fully online, and instruction was shortened significantly for the entirety of the following school year, causing 60% more students to fail compared to pre-pandemic.

Seeing this downward shift in academic performance, in July 2020, I decided to go Against The Grain. Having no leadership experience, the thought of management terrified me, but I knew I had to try. I researched ways to help and discovered Aerovate, a small nonprofit organization offering free online 1-1 tutoring, and started my own chapter. Over the next two years, I grew as a leader, became confident in myself, and learned to always take the jump.

During this time, I took part in my most ambitious project yet: an international AMC 8 (contest math) virtual summer camp. During the camp, I and my team taught students major contest concepts, walked through problems, and implemented a mock contest for prizes.

Today, Aerovate Houston has grown to 200 members and has given over 15000 volunteer hours, leaving an everlasting impact. By going Against The Grain, I have become an assertive leader and role model.”

2022 Heritage Camp Recap – “CELEBRATION!”

“CELEBRATION” – the perfect theme for this 2022’s Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Camp (SEAPI). On July 28 – July 31, 2022, ATG Ambassador Carol Nguyen and previous ATG Service Sponsor Luwan Hy traveled to the YMCA in Estes Park to be presenters at the 24th anniversary for the Vietnamese and 6th SEAPI camp. After 2 years of virtual gatherings, they were finally able to reunite with our family at Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families.
Opening Ceremony air was electric, as 82 campers, 22 counselors, parents and presenters gathered face-to-face to begin the weekend’s adventures. The excitement, joy, and anticipation in everyone’s eyes were endearing and contagious.

Carol and Luwan presented an arts and crafts workshop entitled, “Knot Again.” Seven groups of campers, from pre-kindergarten through high school, were guided through the art of creative stone wrapping. Binding smooth rocks with colorful twine allowed them to be creative, but it also required mindfulness and focus, bringing life and levity to an elementally grounded object.

For 50 minutes, they experienced a progression of emotions, as designs were considered and problem areas were solved. Eagerness to start led to frustration as they learned to work with the materials for the first time.

Then, focus would turn to despair as their waxed twine would inevitably slip off the smooth edges of their stones, finally culminating in the “aha!” moment, once they figured out the correct tension to use. The pride they displayed for their finished products was heartwarming.

The ATG duo were kept busy at every moment, but they were able to keep their energy up with the Vietnamese coffee they enjoyed daily out of mugs that were hand painted by one of the campers. They even made time to attend and assist other presentations, especially the dancing workshops. Sharing a cabin with the Kaba Modern “KM Legacy” hip hop team from California meant they even got a preview of some of the performances!

The most memorable moments were the  Boodle Fight – hosted by the Filipino-American Community of Colorado, and the epic Songkran – the splashy Thai New Year celebration and final activity during camp. After a long weekend of hiking and learning, the campers were quick to target their counselors with water balloons and water canons. Not a shirt was spared during this outdoor battle!
Saturday night’s Gala brought everyone together again for dragon, lion, and hip hop performances, a dance party, and a super competitive silent auction. The team even won a few of the larger prizes and gifted them to the aunties who prepared the Boodle Fight.
On our last morning, a few campers helped us repurpose leftover stones into a mini zen garden. The Closing Ceremony ended with the traditional Happy Adoption Day song sung by all the campers and followed by a slideshow of the weekend’s activities. Poignant and candid, there was not a dry eye left the stage. Incredibly fun and impactful, gears are already spinning on what to expect next year!

Support our efforts at Camp by donating today!

 

Recap written by Carol Nguyen

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.”

2020 Virtual SEAPI Heritage Camp Recap

This year, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Southeast Asian Pacific Islander (SEAPI) Camp in Colorado ran a little bit differently. From August 7-8, 2020, ATG Ambassadors Nikki Duong Koenig and Carol Nguyen presented a virtual workshop for high school campers that centered around Art Therapy. It was wonderful to see many returning families during the opening and closing ceremonies – families joined from all over the United States, as well as from Hawaii and France. Founding Board Member/Advisor, Jared Rehberg, performed a special song that he wrote for camp this year. During our 1.5 hour workshop, we spent the first part catching up with the campers and what they did, what they accomplished, and what they enjoyed over the summer. We then discussed the Elements and Principles of Design to help them to express their feelings through a timed art session, while we discussed tougher topics pertaining to the current pandemic. Every camper was assigned a word, and after the art session, we asked them to guess the 2 full phrases, “Use your voice to speak up for others,” and “Every voice is an important part of the conversation.” We had 2 lucky winners!

During the last portion of our workshop, we showed examples of how our previous featured entertainers and designers have been using their time/talent/resources to give back in this time of quarantine and isolation. We also included ways the campers (and their parents) can help in a tough situations related to bullying, as well as list resources they able to read in order to educate themselves on the issues of racial equity.

At the end of camp, the organizers were proud to conclude by sharing the collage we made during our workshop, which was a wonderful way for the high school campers to act as role models for younger campers and give everyone a quotable takeaway. Below are a few screenshots we took during the weekend!

Opening Ceremony

 

Location of Campers

Jared Rehberg Performing

High School Art Therapy Workshop – Final Collage Piece

Meet our 2019 ATG Scholarship Finalists

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 $65,000 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. Winners will be announced here and on Facebook, so stay tuned…

Meet Our 2019 Scholarship Finalists:

  • Alina Dong
  • Katherine Hui
  • Andrea Liu
  • Marty Loh-Deschaumes
  • David Malinowski
  • Juliet Ortiz
  • Angelina Retodo
  • Jeiying Tong
  • Kevin Tyan
  • Kevin Ung
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2019 Heritage Camp Recap – “Sights and Sounds of SEAPI”

Opening Ceremony at Assembly Hall

ATG Co-Director of Community Outreach Hue Dao and Ambassador Carol Nguyen returned to participate as workshop presenters at the Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Camp (SEAPI) on August 1-4. This is their shared experience at camp and how the ATG team made an impact on this year’s events.

“We were given such a warm welcome on our return to SEAPI Heritage Camp this year. Many organizers and parents were excited to be assigned to help us teach NINE workshops throughout the weekend. We were told that being ATG assistants are a coveted role each year! This was the first time we were teaching in the Longhouse cabin, which was a challenging space due to it not being a true kitchen. However, our coordinator Kristi Kremer made sure we had everything we needed way in advance, and the space was set-up with butane burners, pans, and all the cooking utensils for class.

We taught a diverse range of ages, 1st graders to high schoolers, and a few cooking classes for adults. The theme for 2019 was “Sights & Sounds of SEAPI,” so we spoke about how along with our sense of taste, the senses of sight and hearing also play important roles in how we enjoy eating food. The goal was for everyone to make and decorate a stuffed rice balls that would then be judged on use of color, texture, and creativity. Some of the techniques we taught were how to flip food in a pan, seasoning the filling, stuffing the rice balls, and prepping veggies a variety of ways to enable fun decorations. We were even taught our adult campers how to make puffed rice noodles! The process for each workshop included: 1) make the stuffed rice balls, 2) decorate the base and anchor of the plate, 3) decorate the rice balls. We were so impressed by all the fun creations (many cute animals)! We were touched when several parents came to us afterwards to say that their kids were excited to try making them together at home. After our final workshop, we still had toasted almonds left, so we taught an impromptu class on how to make a smoky/salty almond brittle.

Songkran Time!

The schedule on Saturday allowed a few free hours for Hue to participate in the annual and epic Songkran (water balloon fight)! The ability to breathe in fresh air, view mountains in the background, and delightfully chuck a water balloon at your camp bestie as they are distracted while refilling their water canon — pure delight.

As the camp continues to grow and incorporate more culture from other countries in Southeast Asia and Pacific Islands, we continually meet and connect with other organizations and families that help bring authenticity to the camp. On Friday night, we were invited to the Thai cabin, and were treated to a delicious homemade meal of larb and Thai beef jerky. After a lovely conversation that lasted well into the evening, their generosity extended to giving us their extra garlic for our workshop, and a full bag of homegrown mint. On Saturday, we were invited to the Filipino cabin for a traditional boodle fight. The preparation for this bounty had taken all day and included fresh fruits (pineapple, jack fruit, mangos), fried fish, panic, chicken adobo, beef and vegetable stir fry, lumpia, purple potato, stews, cassava cakes, and fried coconut mochi. It was a feast for our eyes and our souls. 

Packed room for the dragon dance!

The final night was as festive as ever. The gala showcased a huge team of dragon and lion dancers, a hip hop dance troupe from California, and a hilarious skit performed by the campers. The goodbyes were emotional as we see them all growing up each year, standing taller, and asking more poignant questions. As always, we were humbled to be asked to share our knowledge with Heritage Camp. But we will always lovingly play our part in teaching and encouraging pride in heritage and identity.”

Support our efforts at Camp by donating today!

Going Against The Grain: Yasmeen Tadia

Yasmeen Tadia Photo

Yasmeen Tadia is a 32 year-old single mother, with more than 10 years of Human Resources and Business Management experience. In her last role, she was the Corporate Director of Human Resources for the largest hotel management company in New York City, where she managed hotels all over the world from an HR perspective.

Yasmeen Tadia has transformed standard-issue, carnival cotton candy into a completely new and gourmet, flavor-packed experience—and a low-calorie, vegan and gluten-free one, at that. The entrepreneurial vision behind the sweet Fluffpop pouf was actually born out of her desire to provide a healthier candy alternative for her sugar-loving young son Zain—which also instantly made this single mom the CEO of fun for her son. Read more

Going Against The Grain: Cynthia Yung

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Cynthia Yung, Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation

Cynthia Yung currently serves as Executive Director of The Boone Family Foundation, a resource for social change. In this role, she is responsible for identifying and recommending grants for nonprofit organizations that focus on supporting programs which advance equity for women and girls, improve quality of life for children and promote environmental stewardship.

Ms. Yung also serves on advisory boards for The Real Estate Council Community Fund and Texas Women Ventures, Austin College GO! Forum Advisory Council, Dallas ISD Literacy Campaign Committee and steering committees for the Zero to Five Funders Collaborative and Commit! Early Childhood Council. More than a decade of volunteer work on international mission trips and serving on nonprofit boards have paved the way for Ms. Yung’s transition from the corporate world to the nonprofit world.

A Telecom industry veteran, her previous corporate career includes roles in sales, strategic marketing, manufacturing operations and finance for Nortel Networks. Ms. Yung earned a Chartered Professional Accountant designation at Ernst & Young and a Bachelor of Commerce degree in Canada.

Check out news on Ms. Yung’s latest work:

Full Name: Cynthia Yung
Hometown: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
Current City: Dallas, Texas
Ethnicity: 34th generation Chinese

What does it mean to you to “Go Against The Grain?”

Journey outside your “lines” be it gender, culture, tradition, stereotype, etc.

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Asia World Media: Fabulous Fashions For Charity At Fashion For A Passion

by Anthony Tran, Asia World Media | November 3, 2014

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The Three Three Three First Avenue was the place to be on Saturday night, November 1, 2014.  Dallas Fashion enthusiasts flocked to the sixth annual ‘Fashion For A Passion,’ eager to bid on a line-up of designer dresses up for auction in support of Against The Grain Productions (ATG), a non-profit organization raising awareness for orphanages in Asia, scholarships for Asian American students and brings together the talents of emerging Asian American fashion designers, artists and musicians.  In its sixth year, ‘Fashion For A Passion’ event provided a place for the community to celebrate up and coming talents and at the same time, raised money for a worthy cause.  Some designers have launched careers with the event, including Khanh Nguyen of Nha Khanh, who started as a UNT graduate and within a few short years, her brand has been featured in Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus.  Another talented designer, Hanh Dang of Lucy Dang, went on to win the title of ‘Texas Next Top Designer’ and is currently at retail giant Belk, with the potential of landing a million dollar contract with Belk.

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