Category: Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship

Dallas Morning News: Nonprofit helps orphanages, awards scholarships

Aileen Nguyen of Dallas visits an orphanage in Vietnam that is helped by ATG, a Dallas nonprofit founded by her daughter 
Tammy Nguyen Lee of Dallas.

by Deborah Fleck

Published: 27 June 2012 10:57 PM

Against the Grain does more than produce films about the Asian-American community. Founded by Tammy Nguyen Lee of Dallas in 2006, the organization is also a nonprofit that uses media projects to raise funds for international orphanages. And last year, ATG added scholarships to support Asian-Americans.

A first-generation Vietnamese-American, Lee has long held an interest in orphans. In 2009, she made the documentary Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam.

Donations to ATG provide food and medical supplies to needy orphanages in Vietnam. ATG has volunteers in the country who distribute aid on a quarterly basis.

Lee’s mother, Aileen Nguyen of Dallas, just returned from her annual summer trip to the country. While there, she distributed nearly $2,500 in aid and supplies on behalf of ATG. This year alone, ATG plans to give $13,600 to orphanages.

ATG is also reaching out to help orphans in Thailand for the first time, with plans to expand to other Asian countries.

Back in the States, ATG just awarded $7,000 in scholarships. U.S. Olympian Rebekah Kim of Fullerton, Calif., received the 2012 ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship. The 2012 ATG Artistic Scholarship went to Thoa Nguyen of Arlington and Britt Espinosa of Kingston, Wash.

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Congratulations to 2012 ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Finalists

ATG was honored to offer a new Leadership scholarship this year, thanks to benefactor Sunna Lee. The winner will receive a $5,000 scholarship — $1,000 of which will be donated to a 501(c)(3) non-profit of his/her choosing to give back.

We received applications from worthy candidates around the country, all of whom impressed us with their exceptional leadership skills, talent, knowledge, passion, charisma and commitment to make a difference. Candidates were scored based on their GPA, leadership/community involvement, letters of recommendation, presentation and essay that demonstrated his/her ability to change the perception of the Asian American stereotype. The top finalists were selected based on these criteria:

1.  Fearless and not influenced by what others say.  Stays true to his/her vision and open to learn.
2.  Has chosen a medium in which to influence change.
3.  Charismatic enough to influence and deliver change.

After interviews, one winner will be selected and announced soon, so stay tuned! We proudly announce the…

2012 ATG Sunna Lee Scholarship Finalists

Cindy Dinh (Houston, TX)

2012 Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Finalist Cindy Dinh

Age: 23

GPA: 3.95

About: Graduate from Rice University (Magna Cum Laude B.A. Sociology; Health Policy Studies) and currently attending Harvard Kennedy School of Government pursuing a Master’s of Public Policy (MPP)

Honors/Community/Leadership Experience highlights: Bill Gates Millennium Scholarship, Harry S. Truman Scholar, Board Member and Student Affairs Liaison (OCA), Volunteer teacher for Huong Vuong Vietnamese language school, External Vice President of Rice University Vietnamese Students Association, Volunteer Deputy Voter Registrar, Leadership Rice

On “What makes a good leader?”

“Leadership inevitably happens at the crossroads of opportunity and dilemma. Great leadership adds in the vision, charisma, organization and ability to inspire others.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“Going against the grain is a personal decision. It’s deciding to take initiative and act based on your beliefs and values. The status quo should not be a limiting factor, but the catalyst to changing the world for the better. “

A Haiku for Asian Americans:

Count us in, not out

We need seats at the table

Go against the grain

How do you go ‘against the grain?’

“Through grassroots initiatives and my future career in public policy, I hope to empower the Asian American community and debunk the stereotypes of an apathetic youth, an unprepared woman in politics, or an uncultured second-generation Asian American. I truly believe that bicultural, bilingual individuals are in the best position to connect the immigrant generation to mainstream America and include them into the fabric of our community. With this in mind, I have led groups of high school and college students to increase the dismally low number of voter registration, to inform people about how to register as a bone marrow donor, and to educate individuals on the importance of filling out the Census 2010 and how this affects our community.”

Rebekah Kim (Fullerton, CA)

2012 ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Finalist Rebekah Kim

Age: 27

GPA: 4.0

About: Graduate of Ohio State University (B.A. Korean) and currently attending the University of Southern California pursuing a M.A. in Teaching

Honors/Community/Leadership Experience highlights: United States of America Olympian (Beijing Olympics Games), 2 Time Athlete of the year, OSU Scarlet and Gray Leadership Award, 7 Time USSS All-American Award; Leadership Team at Sarang Community Church, Bay Area Rescue Mission

On “What makes a good leader?”

“Every leader must be raised and taught and must therefore, be teachable…A leader with a teachable heart, regardless f the shortcoming she may have, will in the end bear life lessons which can transform and make great impact on people’s lives…A good leader must know exactly where she is coming from…must know where she is going…is aligned with her passion and goals. She knows where she is effective and where she is not…Furthermore, a good leader knows when and how to say ‘no.’A leader should have a giving and servant-like heart, [but] is not merely a slave to be pushed around…and knows the boundaries of her own and those of others….A good leader never ceases to motivate and encourage others, especially when people are lost without hope. [A leader is ] a seeker of the truth [who] not only accepts herself, but accepts the society she lives in. She holds true to what is right and just in her own heart through her actions, as well as her actions in life. Therefore, it can never be the title, rank or position that makes a good leader, but rather the character of the person that does.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“A person ‘going against the grain’ is not only a trailblazer, but is also someone who dares to thrive on unfamiliar grounds.  Their drive is passion, empowerment, and a whole lot of “everything is possible” attitude.”

How do you go ‘against the grain?’

“I think I go against the grain by believing in the truth that I’ve been entrusted with certain talents and abilities to dream and to be a part of something that is bigger than myself. I am teaching, equipping and empowering our younger generation to conquer their own dreams and fears – not letting them justify their shortcomings or circumstances – and doing it all so that they can do the same for others.  The other week I was invited to a school dance (one of the schools I’ve been speaking at) and I had a fifth grader come up to me and thank me because I helped her overcome her fear of dancing in front of people.  It forced me to bust out some of my special moves that I thought were long gone, but it did the trick!”

Jeffrey Sun (Cambridge, MA)

2012 ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Finalist Jeffrey Sun

Age: 26

GPA: 3.64

About: Graduate of Yale University (B.A. Political Science) and plans to pursue a MBA at MIT Sloan School of Management

Honors/Community/Leadership Experience highlights: Yale Topol Fellow, National Sigma Chi Leadership Award; Program Associate of One Acre Fund; President of Silliman College Council, Founder of Yale Club Sports Advisory Board, Elected Representative of Yale College Council, Elected Representative of Yale Alumni Association

On “What makes a good leader?”

“A leader must know oneself. Without having an understanding of one’s identity – and being confident in it- one cannot  hope to succeed…A good leader must have a vision and goals…A good leader will work for the change he or she wants to see…Good leaders are individuals who draw from their internal strength to motivate themselves to work hard to achieve a vision.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“To me, ‘going against the grain’ means questioning the status quo. It means having the vision to innovate and see the world not for what it is, but for what it could be.”

How do you go ‘against the grain?’

“As an aspiring social entrepreneur, I’ve spent much of my life trying to understand how we can solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. To this end, I’ve traveled the world as an ambassador for my Asian-American heritage, living and working in seven countries across four continents. These experiences have shown me the ways in which humanity lives in an unsustainable imbalance with the natural world.

I go against the grain by questioning this status quo. I truly believe that the issue of environmental sustainability will be the defining issue of this century. Thus, after business school, my goal is to one day launch a social venture that partners with governments to bring to scale innovations that address these environmental challenges. Through this, I aim to continue to represent the Asian-American community in the social entrepreneurship field.”

Yvonne Tran (Oakland, CA)

2012 ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship Finalist Yvonne Tran

Age: 26

GPA: 3.04

About: plans to pursue a MBA in Design Strategy at California College of the Arts in the Fall

Honors/Community/Leadership Experience highlights: California State Assembly Recognition of Leadership, University Service Award, Cross-Cultural Bridges Award, Senior Co-Excellence Award; Member of ReWrite Collective, Member of Oakland Sisters Collective, Board Member of Californians for Justice, Intern for USAction, Co-Facilitator of Students for a Progressive Asian American Movement

On “What makes a good leader?”

“A strong leader needs to laugh often and at themselves frequently. A capable and accountable leader is important but not sustainable if they do not harbor also compassion. It is a sense of loving kindness for themselves when they make mistakes and for others when they do the same. It is not about excusing poor behavior but also to see it for what it is and moving forward without creating a worse situation. It is the ability to see the connections we all have with each other so that when we lead, we lead from our hearts and not from our ego. Our character is defined by our actions, so we must move in the world as leaders in ways that we would be proud of.”

What does ‘going against the grain’ mean to you?

“Going against the grain means being aware that the conventional and the expected never leads to greatness. It is the passion to re-imagine the way we can relate to each other and convey the possibility of another perspective, view, or world that creates impact. That new world is going against the grain of the old, established, and institutional.”

How do you go ‘against the grain?’

“I go against the grain by not only the work I do in the community, but I’ve also learned that how one moves in the world can be just as impactful. I struggle everyday to live true to the selves I’ve discovered within around my politics, my gender, my queerness, the stories I want to tell, and the type of change I want to make in this world. Re-imagining the communities we live and work in and cultivating vision to follow through with it is the ultimate symbol of going against the grain.”


For more information on the ATG Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship, visit the Scholarship Page.

Against The Grain Productions Announces Additional Leadership Scholarship

Non-profit to Award Three Scholarships to Exemplary Asian American Students

DALLAS, TX – Dallas nonprofit ATG Against The Grain Productions proudly announced the addition of the Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship to its already existing Artistic Scholarship, to be awarded to Asian American students who are breaking the mold through their work in the arts and/or leadership in the community.  Last year’s Artistic Scholarship winners were Texas students Monika Hoang and Dorcas Leung. Both Hoang and Leung were awarded a $1,000 scholarship for their exceptional artistic ability, talent, community involvement, leadership and academics. The addition of the Sunna Lee Leadership scholarship is a $5,000 commitment from business executive Sunna Lee, a powerhouse in the business and fashion world who previously attended ATG’s Fashion for a Passion charity event as a guest and was moved to do her part by motivating and celebrating a young Asian American leader who is changing the stereotype of Asian Americans.

2011 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Dorcas Leung
2011 ATG Artistic Scholarship Winner Monika Hoang

ATG Founder/President Tammy Nguyen Lee is excited to include this Leadership Scholarship as an extension of the organization’s already strong commitment to community outreach. Nguyen Lee said, “We created the Artistic Scholarship as an extension of what our organization is already doing to promote and support Asian Americans in the arts, and we hope that the Leadership Scholarship continues to cultivate those in our community who are finding unique ways to express themselves and create stories for us to share.” Nguyen Lee continued, “ATG is very fortunate to partner with pioneers in the Asian American community like Sunna Lee and be the organization chosen to broaden our scope to select and promote a leader among the Asian American student population.  It’s a huge honor and responsibility. Our hope is that that this will send an impactful message and continue to inspire others to affect change and leadership in others.”

Leadership Scholarship Founder Sunna Lee

Sunna Lee is a first-generation Korean American with 25 years as an executive in product development, which includes trends, design, marketing and sourcing for brands and retailers small to large, private and publicly traded companies with $7 million to $2.5 billion in revenues. She has served as Vice President of Marketing for Priss Prints and NoJo, Vice President of New Business Development for Crown Crafts Infant Products, Vice President of Merchandising for Riegel, Director of Fashion for Dorel Juvenile Group and is currently the Director of Product Development for Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. At Cracker Barrel, she leads the women’s group, Woman’s Connect, as a member of the steering committee to develop future women leaders of the organization. She previously founded her own line of high-end handmade handbags, which were sold at Stanley Korshak and Neiman Marcus. Lee said, “Being a female Asian growing up in the Deep South, I have had to overcome double the challenges of prejudice and ignorance and have chosen to convert what others may perceive as a disadvantage to a competitive advantage.” Lee is passionate about empowering others to tap into their own potential. “Teach someone to fish instead of giving them fish.  Fish can feed them for one meal.  The skill to fish will feed them for a lifetime.”

Lily Yang, ATG’s Director of Community Outreach, spearheads the review process for both scholarships and highlights the principles of the funds. “The Artistic Scholarship embodies ATG’s mission of promoting awareness of art in all media and a commitment to the community. The scholarship program is not limited to only financial assistance, but also provides the winner with mentorship, exposure and a support group both within and outside of the art community.” Yang continues, “The addition of the Leadership Scholarship allows us to reach out to an even wider group of Asian American students who have demonstrated exemplary leadership skills and made a difference by challenging the conventional Asian American stereotype.  We are looking for candidates who truly embody the spirit of “going against the grain.”

Both the Artistic and Sunna Lee Leadership Scholarship applications are online at, and the application deadline is April 15th. Scholarship winners will be invited to attend ATG’s 4th annual Fashion for a Passion charity event, to be held on Saturday, October 13, 2012, at the Dallas Contemporary in Dallas, TX, where they will be presented with their scholarship, as well as showcase their talent amongst other Asian American artists.

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 outreach. Their first project, Operation Babylift: The Lost Children of Vietnam, has 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 scholarship details, visit www.AgainstTheGrainProductions/scholarship. For more information, visit or