Category: News

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

Congratulations to the 2019 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 $65,000 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. This year, we will award $11,500 in scholarships to 6 amazing 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. “Being a part of this scholarship selection committee and seeing the hard work and talent of these students has been very rewarding. Since the induction of this scholarship eight years ago, ATG has developed a community of leaders, artists and entrepreneurs, who have been struck with the spirit of paying it forward. They have donated their time and talent to fundraising and our projects on the horizon. I am inspired and very fortunate to witness the impact these young people are making and will continue to make for generations to come,” said Hue.

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 quality of our applicants were exceptional this year. We received over 200 applications with diverse backgrounds and intended majors. Serving on the 2019 ATG Scholarship Selection Committee is one the highlights of being the Co-Director of Community Outreach, and I feel blessed and humbled to have met these six amazing young leaders. I have no doubt that a few, if not all, of the scholarship winners will change the world one day.”

Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG Co-Founder/President, participates in finalist interviews and deliberations. Said Tammy, “Getting to review and talk to these young Asian American students is one of the most rewarding and inspiring parts of what we do. We get re-energized by seeing their work, hearing about their passions, and play a part in building that dream. ATG is very grateful to our scholarship review committee of Hue Dao, Lisa Tran and Carol Nguyen as well as 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. Through our scholarship funds, we are investing in these amazing students who will undoubtedly make a positive impact on the world.”

We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners…

  • Alina Dong – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
  • Andrea Liu – Bruce & Pat McRae Artistic Scholarship & #LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship
  • Marty Loh-Deschaumes – Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship
  • Angelina Retodo – Artistic Scholarship
  • Kevin Tyan – Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship
  • Kevin Ung – Artistic Scholarship
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Alina Dong | Houston, TX | 18 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Intended Major: Political Science, Music, Economics | Harvard University| Chinese

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

“To me, going ‘Against The Grain’ is when an individual chooses to resist the conformity of society’s preconceptions and expectations, and instead chooses to take pride in his or her unique passions. Being unafraid to stand out and be challenged in new and uncomfortable fields are what it means to go ‘Against The Grain.’”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“As an Asian American female in opera and politics (fields which are respectively dominated by non-Asians and males), I work to pave new paths in unexplored careers, create new opportunities for those like myself, and remain innovative so that I may serve as an example of someone who is unafraid to break the molds. I take pride in singing on opera stages and speaking at commission meetings in City Hall as an Asian American female.”


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Andrea Liu |Katy, TX | 18 years old | GPA: 3.91 | Intended major: Visual & Environmental Studies | Harvard University | Chinese

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

“To me, going “Against The Grain” means listening to myself and diving head-first into my passion for art. As a mere college freshman, I have yet to determine where exactly this interest will take me, but I know with certainty that I cannot give it up. In the face of defaulting to a future with traditional security, I believe that only by understanding my own truth as a student can I then achieve personal growth. I want to make sure that every day, I challenge not only the “grain” of conformity, but also myself as well to become a better artist—and more importantly, a better person.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“During the winter of my senior year, I took a course called “Imagining Your Future.” To do so, we reflected on what made us the happiest as children and endeavored to look only at our own desires. I soon realized that my past was filled with art; thus, my future should be too. This simplistic, self-centric view of “what’s next?” felt selfish at first, however: would I repay my parents for their sacrifices by entering a supposedly insecure or superfluous field? Thankfully, my time in school has also shown me that art is, in reality, far from selfish. I never considered myself an activist before arriving at Exeter in eleventh grade. Yet, as I settled in to this new community, I realized the importance of having a space to acknowledge the current state of affairs. From designing stickers to build excitement for our school’s Martin Luther King Jr. day of discussions, to helping create the first edition of The Asian—the only Asian(-American) literary magazine on campus—to explore our identity, to founding a publication dedicated to uniting different on-campus affinity groups to start important conversations, I realized that going “Against The Grain” is a mindset: art is empowering.”


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Marty Loh-Desschaumes | Brisbane, CA | 24 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Intended Major: Real Estate & Built Environment | Harvard Graduate School of Design | Chinese/Thai/Indonesian

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ to me means creating nontraditional solutions to complex issues. The act of going against the grain usually involves completing something truly unconventional and perhaps even doubted by many. Moreover, going ‘Against The Grain’ refers to a leader or entrepreneur’s ability to proactively innovate solutions and think ‘outside of the box’ in the face of doubt and tradition. “

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go ‘Against The Grain’ by pursuing entrepreneurial solutions to complex issues. My ‘Against The Grain’ journey began in a volunteer role with the LA Conservation Corps to support their mission of empowering at-risk young adults and minority groups within the LA region through conservation workforce development. I brainstormed a native plant nursery concept, intended to supplement the city’s landscaping demands while also creating another LACC revenue stream. This would allow the organization to streamline their current operations with the City of LA and increase funding for their workforce development efforts. At first, various members within the management team were doubtful, citing the stringent rules that govern nonprofit organizations and the apparent operational risk. However, through integration, cooperation, and communication with stakeholders, the LA nursery garden concept became viable. What started as an experiential learning activity transformed into a business plan and then a pitch to social enterprise funds. Through these fundraising events, the nursery concept netted the venture over $150,000 in startup seed capital and proposed social impact lending.”


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Angelina Retodo | Castro Valley, CA | 18 years old | GPA: 4.26 | Intended major: Animation | California College of the Arts| Thai/Filipino

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?

“To go ‘Against The Grain’ is to challenge the expectations of society by carving your own path and taking risks so you can fully express an experience that is individual to yourself. Those that go against the grain often evolve into architects of our future, since they have the willpower to sculpt society to their vision and introduce the world to a new perspective. The battle against complacency is often difficult, and requires innovative thinking and experimentation without fear of failure. It is those that overcome this battle that become remarkable people who truly go against the grain.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“Throughout history, artists have remodeled their interpretations of the status quo into new ideas that reflect their own reality. In effect, the work of artists often sparks new ideas for the world and future artists to indulge in. Through this creative process, artists become natural forward thinkers who make it their prerogative to go against the grain and truly introduce themselves to the world. It is through this continuous staircase of artists building upon the vestiges of the past to create the new that has allowed art to cultivate the world that we live in today and the future we will live tomorrow. As an artist myself, I plan to leave my own footprints within society, by combining my own inspirations and experiences with the fascinating magic of animation. By pursuing a career that allows me to create stories and entire worlds for others to enjoy I hope to use animation to share my own wisdom and project my own interpretations of the human experience to others. As an aspiring animator, I hope to dedicate my life to creating something special and true to my own identity, while empowering future generations as well.”  


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Kevin Tyan | Somerville, MA | 25 years old | GPA: 3.84 | MD | Harvard Medical School | Taiwanese/Singaporean

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means innovating in a space that is resistant to change while maintaining steady faith that your work will ultimately benefit the lives of many. It requires one to have the audacity to disrupt traditional industries, shed light on fundamental flaws in the system, and advance new solutions. Going ‘Against The Grain’ embodies the ethos of what I have strived for through entrepreneurship, and is the mindset that has helped me overcome failures, grow beyond inexperience, and contribute my unique perspective to some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“My experience as an inventor and founder of Kinnos has been intensely formative. From working to protect Ebola fighters to expanding our mission towards reducing healthcare associated infections, these past few years have allowed me to learn and grow beyond the traditional classroom. By inventing a new color-changing disinfection method and helping to deploy it on the front lines of Ebola epidemics, I have gone ‘Against The Grain’ through eschewing a traditional career path and bringing change to outdated methods in dire need of innovation.

Through this entire experience of starting Kinnos, both my perception of the healthcare field and my self-expectations have evolved. Initially, I viewed the physician’s role as the important, yet singular task of healing patients. Now, I see that I can contribute to medicine not just by treating my patients, but also by devising solutions to challenges in healthcare. Few are better equipped than physicians to live through and diagnose the shortfalls of the healthcare system. I hope to go ‘Against The Grain’ in the medical profession by not only treating people and saving lives, but also improving its methods and tools through entrepreneurship.”  


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Kevin Ung |San Jose, CA | 30 years old | GPA: 3.43 | MFA Film & TV Production | University of Southern California | Chinese-Cambodian

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ is doing something that scares you, because it isn’t expected of you. Asian Americans are supposed to be America’s ‘model minority’: smart and obedient to a fault. I reject this—this is not who we are—we are unique individuals with fascinating stories. With this scholarship, I will show the world that Asian Americans have unique stories that deserve to be told.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go ‘Against The Grain’ by never giving up my filmmaking dreams after almost a decade of working and always keeping film close to my heart. It is a dream that isn’t typically expected of a child of refugees, but it is one that I am intent on pursuing. There needs to be more Asian American representation in Hollywood and that is exactly what I plan to do. The Asian Americans before me paved the way, and I plan to further their progress so that future generations will be confident that people care about our stories. I will try to break down barriers to show the world that Asian Americans can and will be a driving force in cinema and entertainment. There are very real racial barriers in Hollywood, and there is a lot of work to be done. I’ve been warned by others from working in Hollywood because of my ethnicity, but if not now, then when? It’s about time the world sees Asian American stories, and I aim to help make this a reality.”

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!

Celebrating a Decade of Impact at ATG’s 10th Fashion for a Passion Finale

    Photo | Paul Mai – Dia Media

Oct. 5, 2018 (DALLAS) – Dallas-based non-profit Against The Grain Productions celebrated its milestone 10th and final Fashion for a Passion presented by Audi Dallas on Saturday, September 22nd at sixty five hundred, giving longtime and new guests alike a memorable experience and intimate glimpse into how the organization has affected change for over a decade.  Through sponsorships, ticket sales, live and silent auctions, a raffle and additional donations, more than 350 glamorous guests gathered together to raise more than $40,000 net to benefit ATG’s giving budget in 2019, which includes supporting orphanages and underprivileged children in Asia, a scholarship fund, media projects and community outreach programs. Over the past decade, ATG has given more than a quarter of a million dollars to help these causes.

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Announcing the 10th Fashion for a Passion Artist Line-up

Dallas-based non-profit ATG Against The Grain Productions is proud to announce its 10th Fashion for a Passion line-up of Exhibiting Artists. The roster of Asian American artists practice a variety of media and includes a mix of emerging talent and established legends. Fashion for a Passion, which serves the organization’s mission to support and provide a platform for emerging Asian American artists, will take place Saturday, September 22, at sixty five hundred near Love Field Airport.

Guests of Fashion for a Passion will have the opportunity to bid on each artist’s work through a silent auction. Proceeds from the silent auction and tickets to the event will benefit ATG’s supported orphanages and underprivileged children in Asia, artistic and leadership scholarship fund and community outreach programs.

This year’s Fashion for a Passion emcees include veteran Ben Smithee (CEO of The Smithee Group), Hillary Kennedy (Emmy Award winning Host and style blogger) and Allyn Hoang (Emmy Award winning Journalist).

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Meet Our 10th Fashion for a Passion Performers

Dallas-based nonprofit Against The Grain Productions is proud to announce the line-up of entertainers for their 10th (and final) Fashion for a Passion charity event, which will hosted on Saturday, September 22, at sixty five hundred near Love Field Airport. This year’s charity event will feature the talents of three strong American musical performers who are past audience stand-out favorites.

This year’s Fashion for a Passion emcees include veteran Ben Smithee (CEO of The Smithee Group), Hillary Kennedy (Emmy Award winning Host and style blogger) and Allyn Hoang (Emmy Award winning Journalist). The evening includes a fashion show with live auction, raffle, art exhibit, tasty bites by Chef Uno of Chino Chinatown & Red Stix and sips by Roxor Gin.

Proceeds from the evening’s ticket sales, art and lives auctions as well as generous sponsors benefit ATG’s supported orphanages and underprivileged children in Asia, scholarships for student artists and leaders and community outreach programs in the U.S. to inspire, educate and entertain the community.

General Admission and VIP Reserved Tickets range from $75 to $150 and are on sale at www.AgainstTheGrainProductions.com/events/ffap.

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Meet our 2018 ATG Scholarship Winners

 

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly and most recently the Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur scholarships to a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. Since 2011, we have awarded more than $60,000 in scholarships. Our selection committee reviews a combination of criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities, portfolio, essay and letters of recommendation. Finalists are given a phone interview before deciding who will be our actual winners.  We are truly proud of this exceptional group and look forward to all that we know they will accomplish for their vocation and for the Asian American community in the future.

Meet Our 2018 Scholarship Winners:

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

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