Category: Community Outreach

Congratulations to the 2021 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 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, and letters of recommendation. Finalists are given a phone interview.  In 2021, ATG awarded $14,500 in scholarships to nine outstanding students. Since 2011, we have awarded $97,500 in scholarships to more than 60 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, “We are fortunate to not only witness the talent and creativity of these amazing students but also be proud that these students are representing the Asian American community. They are excellent leaders, present fresh perspectives, and challenge the status quo. Not only are they creating pathways for themselves but blazing paths for others.”

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, “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.

Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG Co-Founder/President, helped create these unique scholarships a decade ago with the intention of supporting AAPI youth and giving hope. Said Tammy, “Ten years ago, we started this scholarship with a small dream to give back to the next generation. After reaching our scholarship’s 10th anniversary milestone, we look back on all the students we have been able to help and see the ripple effect. It is gratifying to see the bravery, courage and innovation in their projects, their career choices, and how they are continuing to pay it forward –  in effect how much they are going Against The Grain.  This year’s winners are an inspiring group – thoughtful, socially conscious, strong, creative, and compassionate. 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, and Ann Chao Sheu, as well as generous scholarship donors like Bruce and Pat McRae, Ranier and Grace Pabilona, and countless supporters for helping us keep alive the spirit of what it means to go Against The Grain. We look forward to the next decade and what good we can do together.”

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

    • Brittney Bautista – Artistic Scholarship
    • Saxon Kennedy – Artistic Scholarship
    • Joe Bun Keo – Artistic Scholarship
    • James Koga – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
    • AnhPhu Nguyen – Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship
    • Isabella Nguyen – McCrae Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
    • Evelyn Liu – #LiveLikeLyly Artistic Scholarship
    • Rose Van Dyne – Artistic Scholarship
    • Olivia Zalecki – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

Brittney Bautista | Lake Hopatcong, NJ | 20 years old | GPA: 3.769 | Pratt Institute | Film/Video Studies | Filipina 

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

“To me, going Against The Grain means challenging the norm, rejecting conformity, and taking risks. As an Asian American, I define this by taking the leap of pursuing an artistic career- a choice that is not normally favored in Asian communities. Going Against The Grain  means going against stereotypes; mustering the courage to reach for anything I desire, and not allowing myself to be defined by others. From an artistic perspective, going Against The Grain means doing the unexpected; being ambitious, and pushing the limits of what I can create. ”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“As an artist, I go Against The Grain by going out of my comfort zone and pushing myself to create art that is completely vulnerable, intimate, and personal. Meshing mediums, combining genres of film, and playing with unconventional framing and lighting are all ways I go against the grain as a filmmaker. Furthermore, as an Asian American woman, I refuse to be classified as quiet, meek, and subservient. Rather, I will continue to amplify my voice through my art, take up space, and encourage young Asian women like myself to take charge in the film industry. After decades of oppression, it is time that we, Asian Americans, stand up for ourselves and encourage our community to pursue a career in the field they are truly passionate about regardless of judgment from others. Through my art, I hope to break boundaries and Asian stereotypes one film at a time.”

 


Saxon Kennedy | Davie, FL | 18 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Berklee College of Music | Songwriting/Music | Filipina 

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

“A person who goes Against The Grain pushes against their personal, physical, and social restraints to attempt something new and impactful. When I make music, I push myself and the people around me to use my art as a medium for helping people—whether that be through socially-conscious messaging in my original music, providing free music to young children, or performing benefit concerts for local charities. In all of my work, I try not only to push the boundaries of my music but to do so in a way that helps my community.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Music is a language that connects communities. My musical perseverance has been a source of joy in my life that connects me to so many people around me. These connections have shaped my presence as a musician committed to going Against the Grain.

My most precious musical memories were made through teaching music to others. In my school’s Sagemont Synergy music program, I realized the powerful role of a musical mentor as I sat down after school to teach my peers musical arrangements for our shows. I am grateful that I was able to take my mentorship to a new level by helping young children grow in the Sagemont Siblings mentorship program. It was here that I grew as a leader and advocate of youth empowerment through education, taking initiative to provide kids with free musical lessons every week.

Through my acts of service to my community, I have learned that one person’s music can be an act of greater community at the local level and beyond. I will forever be a leader, a collaborator, a friend, a mentor, and an artist committed to going Against The Grain to affect positive change.”

 


Joe Bun Keo | Hartford, CT | 34 years old | GPA: 3.5 | Pacific Northwest College of Art at Willamette University | Art and Visual Studies | Cambodian/Khmer

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

“I’m not against grain, I love rice! All jokes aside, going Against The Grain just means marching to the beat of your own drum, doing things your way.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“My way is to break the chain of the inter-generational trauma of my upbringing and use the experience to educate my fellow Cambodian Americans about mental health awareness. The task-oriented, rigid, and often cold, distant parenting of Asian parents takes an emotional, mental, and sometimes physical toll on us. With my conceptual work, I try to present issues stemming from the effects of this toxic, hostile, and abusive situation using everyday objects as vessels. The items, commodities, and materials become a lightning rod, a place to have that hard introspective discussion of that is what happened and this is how I can stop it from continuing. It’s being vulnerable for the sake of saving the future.”

 


James Koga | Irvine, CA | 18 years old | GPA: 4.4 | Cornell University | Music & Public Policy | Korean and Japanese American

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

“My family has a history of silence. Silence became a tool of erasure for my Japanese American grandfather who never spoke about his removal from U.C. Berkeley and incarceration at Tule Lake. Likewise, my dad never shared his father’s WWII history. Grandpa Sumio’s generation was called the “Quiet Americans.” I inherited my family’s quiet ways. I’ve been a listener, an observer. For this, my teachers called me a “role model.” Against The Grain means breaking from family history and society’s perspective of the “model” Asian American and speaking up for the issues that I care deeply about.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I went Against The Grain the day I stood up to an abusive teacher and his months of bullying my classmates and me. I couldn’t stay silent any longer. I spoke to my principal. I spoke on record to my resource officer and defended an unfairly expelled classmate. I was no longer the “quiet Asian” kid. With my newfound voice, I became one of the first Braver Angels high school representatives in the country and promoted this grassroots organization’s goal of engaging students in political depolarization through civil discourse. As a Taco Bell Foundation Live Mas Scholar, I’ve become an advocate for connecting people through communication. Most proudly, as the founder of The Hip Hop Workshop, I’ve promoted rap and poetry as an avenue for self-expression for kids and adults alike. Sponsored by The Dragon Kim Foundation, my social entrepreneurship project has helped people tell their personal stories about racial identity, depression, homelessness, and gender identity. Through the medium of the spoken word, I’ve used my voice to give voice to others. By going Against The Grain, I am making a difference as a leader, an advocate, and a positive role model.”

 


AnhPhu Nguyen | Papillion, NE | 18 years old | GPA: 4.491 | Harvard University | Computer Science | Vietnamese

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

“To me, “Going Against the Grain” means to be willing to do things others aren’t willing to do in order to improve yourself and the community around you. It means making the sacrifice, and doing the work in the present, so that your future self and the world you leave behind is better than when you found it.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Being a first-generation student and immigrant to the U.S., my parents can only land low-level jobs as a janitor and a nail tech. Seeing them work so hard, yet still struggling to provide for us let alone buy us electronics motivated me to make an affordable, reliable option to access electronics, and become financially stable. I go Against The Grain by starting my own business, Phu’s Phone Emporium, instead of getting a normal minimum-wage job. I went Against The Grain by teaching myself how to fix phones, and growing my company myself to over $280,000 in sales in less than two years. Going Against The Grain for me also means improving my overall community through my business. I’ve donated phones and tablets to families in need, so they can access online school or contact their families. I’ve donated hundreds of dollars to poor families in Vietnam as well as over $1,000 to nonprofits dedicated to providing free tech access here in Omaha. Improving my community also means making an affordable, quality, and reliable option to access technology for Omaha locals; I go Against The Grain by beating my competitors’ prices $30-150 on almost every repair. *Company Page: fb.me/phus.phones”

 


Isabella Nguyen | Arlington, TX | 17 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Emory University | Pre-Med Biology | Vietnamese

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

“Going Against The Grain means to challenge the standards and expectations imposed on you to express, exceed, and excel. Throughout my experiences, going Against The Grain  was not a picture-perfect process; it required time and discovery to find the road less traveled on where I still felt comfortable. Against The Grain is more than just finding new strengths. It’s forging new paths, redefining yourself, and igniting a passion for future leaders as well.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Going Against The Grain, I was enraptured by the impact my actions have and memories my thoughts can manifest.

Founding a non-profit, I advocate/combat stigmas surrounding women’s health by providing free period products to low-income women. Earning numerous leadership positions in 12+ school organizations, I optimize responsibility to foster communal growth. Leading volleyball teams, I encourage communication as captain. Coaching middle school/club volleyball, I utilize experience to build character/skill in ambitious players. Establishing my core mediation research, I promote environmental sustainability. Administering care at health camps and to impoverished communities in Vietnam, I implement my passion on a global scale. Volunteering 200+ hours and founding my own Asian heritage club—Summit Association of Asian/Middle-Eastern Scholars—I forge connections.

Change requires action, change requires perseverance, and change requires an idea; as I grow I hope to expand the script to include the voices of the unheard I’ve experienced as an Asian-American woman. As I go Against The Grain I work to become an ophthalmologist and researcher to lead global expeditions to serve those in need.”

 


Evelyn Liu | Parsippany, NJ | 27 years old | GPA: 3.4 | New York School of Interior Design | MFA Interior Design | Shanghainese-Taiwanese

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

“To go Against The Grain is about confronting the status quo. It means on top of identifying and magnifying an issue, one must also take action in the face of possible rejection or lack of interest. Going Against The Grain is not a comfortable choice but the rewards that lie beyond the initial discomfort are certainly worth it. And what is “worth” the challenge is rising above those that haven’t seen your vision and confidently taking your own stand on an issue- that is how you create change, no matter how small it may be.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“While I am certainly not the first to pursue sustainable interior design (nor am I the last) by actively choosing to place people over profit, I am going Against The Grain. In what I have observed from the deepening industrialized global state, it is very easy to forget that the end-user is a living, breathing human being in the pursuit of power, money, or status. We not only lose our connection to and compassion for each other, but we also ultimately lose our humanity. Despite all that’s happened within these past few years, I still believe that we as a society do have a chance to overcome these challenges. By integrating “slow design” into the public consciousness and by actively promoting the use and development of renewable materials in commercial interior design projects, one can still prioritize human-environmental harmony. Furthermore, as an artist, I have plenty of experience as an outsider and create works that document emotions that are taboo or unconventional. My work may not have mass appeal, but I continue to make those works in the hope that my art can be relatable for those who have had similar feelings or experiences.”

 


Rose Van Dyne | Fort Collins, CO | 25 years old | GPA: 3.89 | Boston Conservatory at Berklee | MFA MT Vocal Pedagogy | Korean-American

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

“Going Against The Grain means to have the courage and bravery to forge a new path ahead, even when it seems like all odds are against you. It means to acknowledge the lives of those who came before you who wanted to take the road less traveled, but couldn’t. It means to choose joy and compassion in all components of the life you are creating for yourself. Defying the status quo is both a privilege and a duty; an everlasting pursuit to be true to ourselves! May we all be so lucky to go Against The Grain.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go Against The Grain by amplifying the voices of historically marginalized communities in an industry that has long favored the stories of the colonizers. We often hear that art is a reflection of society, but I believe that the opposite can be true. Art can serve as a catalyst to change the minds and hearts of those who make up our society. Through continued work to provide greater representation and education of our Global Majority populations on the silver screen and Broadway stage, we inch closer to a more equitable and empathetic culture that includes ALL people.

As an educator, it has become ever more apparent that the Western ideal is the standard from which all other perspectives and cultures deviate. By changing the narrative of what constitutes as standard casting, repertoire, representation, etc. we allow space for new voices to be heard and finally have a seat at the table. Particularly as an Asian American and the daughter of an immigrant, I am honored to play a part in the changing of the telling of the American story; one that finally can include and center people who look like me.”

 


Olivia Zalecki | Charlotte, NC | 24 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Columbia University | Sociology | Chinese

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

“To go Against The Grain means to acknowledge and ‘sit with’ societies’ discomforts, fears and injustices- then confront them. It is a path built by constructing your sense of self-worth, critically and thoughtfully examining the world in which we inhabit and challenging all the assumptions we have. Going Against The Grain means speaking out and standing up for a more just world, despite our fears, and with unwavering hope for a brighter future. As an Asian American woman, it means taking up the space I deserve and demanding for my community to be heard for our humanity.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I was in middle school when I was told that I ‘wasn’t really Asian’ for the first time. I began to go Against The Grain when I realized that no one has the power to challenge my identity and authenticity as an Asian American transracial adoptee. I have grown a space for myself within the Asian American community through leading Asian American student conferences, interning with OCA National in D.C. and working as a program director at North Carolina Asian Americans Together. I have found spaces filled with love in the Asian American community. I have had friends guide me through learning and more importantly, unlearning. Addressing my positionality as an adoptee born of China’s repressive One-Child policy, while also acknowledging my own privilege has expanded and challenged my worldview. I continue to go Against The Grain through my advocacy for the Asian American adoptee community. addressing the subjects of cultural erasure and white saviorism that are often considered too uncomfortable to address. My work and thoughts on international adoption have been published by Eleven University of California Berkeley’s undergraduate journal of sociology, and the blog, ReAppropriate.”

Announcing the Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E Scholarship

After awarding nearly $100,000 in scholarships to more than 60 worthy AAPI student artists, leaders and entrepreneurs over the past decade, Against The Grain Productions is proud to announce the addition of The Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E. Scholarship to its scholarship fund for 2022. Recognizing Asian American high school seniors, college, or graduate students who have exhibited an ability to rise above circumstances, demonstrated the ability to lift up others, and shown exemplary servant leadership in the Asian American community and beyond, the new scholarship will provide a scholarship between $1,500-$2,500 for AAPI student leaders attending accredited American universities.

“Upon commemorating our scholarship fund’s 10th Anniversary milestone and seeing how much our scholarships have impacted our youth over the last decade, collaborating with an exceptional Asian American leader like Thear Suzuki who has been an advocate for positive change in our community makes so much sense,” said Against The Grain President and Co-Founder Tammy Nguyen Lee. “Thear has served as ATG’s Aid Advisor to Cambodia for many years and been a longstanding supporter of our organization. Her special way of giving while lifting up others around her is what makes her so special. She exemplifies what it means to go Against The Grain with hope, courage, and humility. We are truly excited about this next step for our non-profit to help inspire a legacy of leaders like Thear.”

Thear’s personal purpose is to inspire courageous actions in others so they can lead more impactful lives. Thear is a Global Client Service Partner at EY with 25 years of professional services experience. She served clients at Accenture for 16 years and joined EY in 2012, where she has served as Regional Advisory Managing Partner and Americas Consulting Talent Leader. At EY, Thear serves on the Americas Inclusiveness Advisory Council, and she champions leadership development programs that build inclusive, innovative, and courageous leaders for the 21st century.

Thear is passionate about increasing leadership and philanthropic capacity in herself and others. She is active with organizations that develop leaders and lift up others. Thear currently serves on the Communities Foundation of Texas Board, SMU Lyle Engineering School Executive Board, the SMU Tate Lecture Series Board, the Boy Scouts of America National Executive Committee, the National Asian/Pacific Islander Chamber of Commerce & Entrepreneurship Board, and Co-Chair for the 50/50 Women on Boards – Dallas initiative. Thear is a member of the International Women’s Forum and United Way Women of Tocqueville. With the Texas Women’s Foundation, Thear served on the board for two terms, co-chair of the Economic Leadership Council and a proud founding member of the Orchid Giving Circle. Thear also served two board terms with the Dallas Holocaust & Human Rights Museum.

Thear is a Presidential Leadership Scholar and has received several awards, including the DCEO Corporate Excellence in Leadership, the SMU Women’s Symposium Profiles in Leadership, Women Leaders in Consulting Award, NOMI Abolitionist Award, Asian Chamber of Texas Humanitarian & Community Services Award, WING’s Mentors & Allies Award, and Thear was named one of the most powerful business leaders in North Texas 2021 and 2022 by DCEO. Thear is featured in President George W Bush’s new book, Out of Many, One – Portraits of America’s Immigrants and a contributing author to Passionately Striving in Why – An Anthology of Women Who Persevere Mightily to Live Their Purpose.

Thear earned her Bachelor of Science in Electrical Engineering with Biomedical Engineering Specialization from Southern Methodist University. She lives in Plano, Texas with her husband and their four sons.

Thear Sy Suzuki

Please share the inspiration behind the Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E. Scholarship.

“At an early age I was displaced from my home in Cambodia and my family survived the Killing Fields after 4 brutal years of not knowing if we were going to live or die. Coming to a foreign land as a refugee and not speaking the language or knowing anyone, I struggled to find my identity. Though I was loved, I had negative beliefs about my value, my worth and my capabilities. I was stuck in a victim mindset and adopted a story that kept me small. It would take many years of development and with significant help from others before I unlocked my true voice and discovered how I can be an agent for positive change. I found my power. I’m speaking of the power to choose my path and live a life of commitment, meaning and purpose, focused on others. I envision a world in which all people feel free and safe to be themselves and use their gifts and talents to help others. My personal purpose is to inspire courageous actions in others so they can lead more impactful lives. The inspiration behind this scholarship is based on my own personal experience of taking actions to rise above my circumstances and negative beliefs in order to live my full potential and play a part in helping to change the world for the better.”

What do you hope to accomplish?

“I hope to encourage others towards a life of kindness, of giving back and paying it forward.”

Why is this scholarship important?

“What helped me on my journey was having people who believed in me more than I believed in myself. There are times in our lives when we need that from others. None of us makes it alone, we need each other. I owe my successes to people (many are strangers) who chose to invest in me without expecting anything in return for themselves. Rarely are we able to pay it back but we can always pay it forward.”

“We make a living by what we get. We make a life by what we give.” ~ Winston Churchill

For more information on the scholarship and to apply, visit our Thear Sy Suzuki R.I.S.E Scholarship Page.

If you would like to support our R.I.S.E. efforts, please donate and email outreach@againstthegrainproductions.com to designate your donation to this scholarship fund.

About Against The Grain Productions
ATG Against The Grain Productions, a Dallas-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, promotes Asian American cultural awareness through compelling media projects and raises funds for international orphanages and underprivileged children. In addition to hosting outreach events, it also awards annual scholarships to exemplary Asian American student artists, leaders, and entrepreneurs. ATG produced the feature documentary, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, which has screened at more than a dozen film festivals nationwide and received the Audience Choice Award for Best Feature Film at the Vietnamese International Film Festival and the Documentary Audience Choice Award from the Philadelphia Asian American Film Festival. For more information, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com or www.TheBabylift.com.
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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

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!

Postcards from 2018 SEAPI Camp

In mid July, our ATG Tribe flew to Estes Park, Colorado to present at Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander Heritage Camp as a part of Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families. We are proud and honored to help adoptee youth spend a few days in the summer connecting with their heritage, bonding with new friends and participating in enriching activities.

Here are some of their memories about this wonderful trip:

“Stronger side by side was the theme of the camp this year. We represented that theme weaving in the food, dances, culture and traditions at Southeast Asian Pacific Islander Heritage (SEAPI) Camp. The parents and students all thoroughly enjoyed ATG’s cooking workshops taught by Carol, Hue and Jennifer. It was a hands-on approach that unified and differentiated the significant beef dishes of each country where campers are most represented at the camp – Bo Luc Lac from Vietnam, Bistec Tagalog from the Philippines and Nam Tok from Thailand. They also presented the class with alternatives to address food allergies and dietary restrictions. ATG team members Jimmy, Lisa and Hue also taught the “Honoring Your Child’s Vietnamese Culture.” With Hue’s adoption background, she was speaking to the parents from personal experience. Hue brought up things that she felt students wished they could tell their parents, from a place of cultural understanding and vulnerability. After coming seven years, she has been watching students grow from young campers to counselors and presenters of workshops themselves. It was fulfilling to see them pay it forward. ~ Hue Pederson (Co-Director of Community Outreach)

“Attending SEAPI Heritage Camp with my husband and three young children for the first time was a privilege and blessing. My husband, Jimmy, and I helped facilitate the cooking workshops as well as Co-presented on the topic of ‘Honoring My Child’s Vietnamese Heritage.’ Through those experiences, we were able to connect with adoptive parents who are invested in ensuring that their adoptive and biological children have an understanding and appreciation of their birth cultures. As the Co-Director of Community Outreach and Country Advisor to Thailand for ATG, this experience impacted me greatly and reignited my passion for serving an organization where one of its goals is to provide aid to orphanages in Southeast Asia. My husband and I are already committed to volunteer at next year’s camp!” ~ Lisa Tran (Co-Director of Community Outreach, Advisor – Thailand

“This was my 1st Heritage Camp and I enjoyed meeting people from many diverse perspectives — adoptees, siblings, parents, community volunteers and alumni (to name a few).  At some point, all our backgrounds blended into one another, allowing us to soak in the beautiful environment and the company of those around us.”  ~ Jimmy Tran (former Director of Community Outreach)

“It was so wonderful to have the ATG tribe back at SEAPI Camp. A diverse group of Asian Americans fit perfectly with this year’s camp theme, “Stronger Side By Side.” Over a span of four days, the tribe presented 10 workshops including cooking, dancing, Vietnamese culture and parenting. Thank you to Carol Nguyen, Hue Pedersen, Jimmy & Lisa Tran, Jennifer Devay and Bryan Florece. You are all the role models our kids need to help build their self esteem and educate them on their heritage.” ~ Jared Rehberg (Advisor and Vietnamese Adoptee)

ATG also gave two Heritage Camp Scholarships to Mai Miller and Alex Jantzen.

 

You can help us continue this important work by donating to help offset the costs of our team’s travel and expenses.

 

Meet Our 2018 ATG Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners!

SEAPI Heritage Camp: (L to R)  Mai Miller, Carol Nguyen, Alex Jantzen, Jennifer Devany and Hue Pederson

 

ATG is Proud to Announce our 2018 ATG Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners!

Alex Thanh Jantzen, 11

Overland Park, Kansas

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?

It has several meanings. One of them is standing up for what you believe in – no matters what the others may think. Also, standing up for what is right. When you sand or saw wood, you can go against the grain. It’s OK to be different from others.

 

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’?

In my family, I stand out because I look different. Some kids who don’t know my family don’t realize that my sister and I are actual siblings – because I’m adopted.  Not following the crowd when they laugh at another kid is another example of going against the grain. Standing for what’s right.

 

 

Mai Miller, 17

Longmont, Colorado

 What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?

To me, ‘Against The Grain’ means not letting others stop you from being yourself. This includes standing up for what you believe in and not being afraid to be different.

 

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’?
I go ‘Against The Grain’ by embracing my Vietnamese heritage. I am very proud to have been adopted from Vietnam and am always eager to share Vietnamese culture with others. Additionally,  I go ‘Against The Grain’ by not letting the opinions of others affect what I enjoy doing. I feel comfortable with being myself and will continue to be who I am without worrying about following trends.

 

 

 

Samuel Dieu Schlumpf Butler, 10

Chicago, Illinois

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?

What “against the grain” means to me is feeling and being free to love myself without any urge to follow the crowd ; a feeling of freedom and happiness of who and what I am inside and to express the true “me.” It means that I am the only person that I truly want to be.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’?

I can be, and am going against the grain by being myself and being happy and proud of what I think of myself instead of what others think of me. I can be who I want to and stick to it by being happy of myself. Then, I will make long lasting friendships with people who respect and appreciate who I am.

For example, a kid who used to think that I was “nerdy” and “weird” ended up actually rethinking and wanting to be my friend after I started dressing goofy because it tends to make me happy and comfortable throughout the day. The next day, he walked up to me and asked if I wanted to play with him and his friends at recess. I was amazed at what being myself could change other’s perspectives and feelings about me and how wonderful it felt to be myself. In conclusion, these long lasting friends over time can help others find themselves as well. So I guess I can say that being against the grain has changed my life and how I view myself.

Apply Today for the 2018 ATG Culture/Heritage Camp Scholarship

The 2018 Against The Grain Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Camp Scholarship application process is officially open! Following our support of orphanages and underprivileged children in Asia, Against The Grain also provides scholarships here at home to ten young Asian American adoptees each year to attend culture camps such as Catalyst Foundation’s Vietnamese Culture Camp and Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families SEAPI (Southeast Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Camp). Last year, we raised $1,000, allowing ten youths to spend a few days in the summer connecting with their heritage, bonding with new friends and participating in enriching activities for this year’s Heritage and Culture Camps.

 

Eligibility: Proof of camp registration with Catalyst Foundation’s Vietnamese Culture Camp and HCAF SEAPI Heritage Camp. Sorry, past recipients are not eligible for this year’s scholarship.

Due Date: Saturday, July 1, 2018

Application: Simply submit the following in an email to outreach@againstthegrainproductions.com.

  1. Name of Applicant
  2. Age of Applicant
  3. City and State
  4. Photo of Applicant
  5. Question 1: What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?
  6. Question 2: How do I go ‘Against The Grain’?

 

 

2017 Underprivileged Children and Orphanage Aid Update (Holiday): Thailand

Thanks to the help of our Ambassador, Nong Thangsaksathit, ATG was able to finish our final disbursement for the year to Thaplamu Safe Haven and Learning Center in the Phang-Nga province in southern Thailand. We were able to provide aid to 71 children from the ages of 3-10 years old. Aid was given in the form of clothes, nutritious food for school staff to prepare school lunch, milk, drinking water, supplementary food for small children, first aid kits and learning materials (stationary, textbooks, etc).

Nong’s report:

The pre-school in Thaplamu provide day-care and early education opportunity for undocumented Myanmar migrant children in Thaplamu district in Phang-Nga province. It is estimated that at least 10% (4 to 5 million people) of the Thai workforce are migrants, the majority coming from Myanmar. Myanmar migrants often bring their families with them and sadly, many children have been left behind when their parents get arrested and deported. Thai policy allows migrant children equal access to compulsory education; however, in most instances, migrant children are discriminated against in the Thai education system (mainly due to language barrier) and many parents cannot afford to enroll their children due to their economic difficulties. Most parents are working in fishing and construction sectors. The school depends on workers’ charity and partially parents’ contribution which are insufficient and not sustainable to even cover basic service. Children don’t have enough books and stationary for study. The school doesn’t have a proper classroom and in some months the school cannot afford to provide milk or lunch to children (in which normally children spare some lunch from school for their own dinner at home). This pre-school does not only provide education but also protection to the children as they will be very vulnerable at home when their parents are at work.

The kids were very happy and teachers and parents highly appreciated support from ATG. There was a little conversation, which I think it was cute and would like to share. We told children a bit about ATG in a very simple way, like they also helped other children in other countries… and there was a little girl said “now I know who ATG are; they are kind people from the other side of the sky.” 

Meet Our 2017 ATG Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners!

 

The ATG is proud to announce the 2017 Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners.

Check out the winners.

 

Kaitlyn Fisher, 11, Parker, Colorado 

Against The Grain means to me, people asking questions regarding me being adopted, about my birth mom, and being Micronesian.  My life is not the same as my friends and I often times have to explain how it’s normal having an adoptive mom and a birth mom, and explain how despite I am Micronesian by ethic background, I was born in the United States. So many people think I am “from” somewhere else.

I am explain and teach people about my ethnic background and how I am really American because I was born in the United States, and how it’s okay to have both an adoptive mom and a birth mom.  I can love them both.  Attending Heritage Camp has taught me that I am not the only person adopted and have white parents.  I really am not different because there are many others just like me.

 

Madison Fisher, 11, Parker, Colorado 

Going Against The Grain means to me, doing things that other don’t expect me to do.

As a Micronesian American, I do a lot of sports and things that I don’t see other kids of my background participating in.  I have been swimming on a swim team since I was six years old and surprise people how well and how fast I swim.  Also, this year at school I tried out for Wendy in Peter Pan.  Despite I didn’t get the role, I didn’t let it stop me from trying.

 

Christian Nguyen Ebel, 11, Sulphur Bluff, Texas 

“Against The Grain” means to me, pushing it to the limit and going to the top of the mountain where there is a pot of gold, or falling to the bottom, where there is lava. It means trying your best and not giving up. It is also how you try. You have to put in a lot of effort, otherwise, it doesn’t work. If you fall in the lava, you FAIL, but in failing you learn succeeding. You learn to rethink it, to try again and to do it right. It’s like when you are progressing in life, you are becoming rich, not only in money, but rich in love and connecting with people. When you are not progressing, you are feeling depressed and sad. But you have to try, to keep going, keep moving forward. It’s like try, fail, try, fail, SUCCEED! Don’t be like everyone else, being you is right.

I went “Against The Grain” by taking an educational trip to India last year. I wanted to help the kids in the slums by raising money for them. It took a lot of trying – 3 whole months to make the campaign video. I fixed my mind on it and raised $6,000 for the trip and donated money to Manav Sadhna at the Gandhi Ashram. They serve underprivileged kids in Ahmedabad. I changed India by a small portion. I just wrote a book about my experience in India and will donate proceeds from my book to my friends’ film http://stoppingtrafficfilm.com/ to stop human trafficking.

 

Maeve Doubleday-Bush, 11, Glenwood Springs, Colorado 

Going Against The Grain means to me, that you don’t always have to fit in. You can be different from the others and you don’t have to listen to the mean things that other people are saying about you or your friends. This is not easy, but you need to trust and follow your instincts even if it is tough. You can work it out. Find a way to have fun even if others don’t want to hang out with you. You know you are doing the right thing. It really is their issue not yours.

Do the right thing and follow my instincts even when it is truly difficult. I don’t break the rules. I like to follow the rules. If the rules make no sense or seem overly strict, then rather than break the rules I will figure out a way to get them changed or make them work. Sometimes my friends and the other kids will break the rules, it doesn’t mean that I will, even if my friends are upset with me. I won’t bend to peer pressure. I don’t let my friends talk me into doing something I know is not right. Sometimes it means I have to be alone or go play with different people but I know I am doing the right thing.

 

Ian Gahagan, 10, Wales, Wisconsin

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? To me, against the grain means people should not care what heritage other people are from. It’s what’s inside that counts. If you see someone being racist, ignore them. They don’t know who you really are like the famous saying you can’t judge a book by its cover. That means you don’t know someone ’til you know them as a person, in person.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? How I go against the grain, is if I see someone being racist, I would say “How would you feel if someone did that to you and are you really making the right choice?” If it gets physical, use the self-defense we learned at Culture Camp. In all, go against the grain, don’t go with the crowd, but stand up for what is right.

 

Aran Balzer, 11, Aurora, Colorado

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? It means being different than other people.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? I can live my life according to what I think and know is right instead of worrying about what others think of me.

 

Maekhala Balzer, 9, Aurora, Colorado

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? To make a difference in the world.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? I can be myself.

 

Tassanee Balzer, 9, Aurora, Colorado

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? To be different in a good way

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? I can make a difference in the world by helping people.

 

Keira Gahagan, 7, Wales, Wisconsin 

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me? If people are doing something that’s not right, don’t do it and tell them they are making the wrong choice and why. If they don’t listen, I would get the adult that’s in charge and tell them that those kids are making the wrong choice.

If kids are doing something unsafe, I would tell them they should stop doing that because they could hurt themselves or trip and fall. If they don’t stop after I ask them twice, I would report it to a teacher because it was the wrong choice and it was unsafe.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’? If someone is making fun of someone I would say “Hey, I think you’re hurting that person’s feelings. I think you should stop.” One day at school, my friend L. was having trouble pronouncing the words thirty-five. Six people were making fun of her pronouncing those words. I said “I think you are hurting her feelings. I think you should stop. I don’t think she likes it”. They didn’t stop. They kept making fun of how she was pronouncing it. My friend acted like she didn’t care and kept working. I told the teacher a few minutes later that I told them to stop, but they did not. Whenever I was around my friend L., and other kids were around her, I never heard or saw kids make fun of her for the rest of the year.

 

Meet Our 2016 ATG Scholarship Finalists

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly 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 30 scholarships. In 2015, we awarded ten to deserving students across the country – and look forward to doing the same in 2016!

Meet Our 2016 Scholarship Finalists:

ATG Artistic Scholarship

  • Angeline Young
  • Jamie Nguyen
  • Jihyun (Michelle) Kim
  • Kiana Ziegler
  • Maya de Leon
  • Mei Lu Barnum
  • Michelle Dominado
  • Sarah Yap
  • Tan Vu
  • Xian Boles

Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

  • Nicci Kelly
  • Angeline Young
  • Ben Chu
  • Ishan Sharma
  • Kristina Nguyen

#LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship

  • Hao Trieu
  • Hsin-Roe Pan

Read more