#FinalistFriday: Meet Our ATG Scholarship Finalists!

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership and #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 20 scholarships. In 2014, we awarded a record ten to deserving students across the country – and look forward to doing the same in 2015!

Last year, we added a new scholarship for aspiring fashion and graphic design students: The #LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship in honor of a special member of the ATG family Lyly Koenig Mendez, an aspiring fashion designer who passed away from cancer this January.

Meet Our 2015 Finalists:

    • Milly Cai, Fort Wayne, IN
    • Sophie Chien, Charlotte, NC
    • Elizabeth Chung-Brown, Santa Rosa, CA
    • Katherine Del Rosario, Tempe, AZ
    • Evan Harris, Pasadena, CA
    • Karen Jiang, Birmingham, MI
    • Rialin Jose, Chicago, IL
    • Trilina Mai, Cypress, CA
    • Lauren Padilla, Longmeadow, MA
    • Tiffany Piko, Lancaster, OH
    • Suttinee Hannah Sansavath, Bonham, TX
    • Lauren Suh, Los Angeles, CA
    • Sarah Thong, Fresno, CA
    • Shine Wu, Columbus, OH
    • Angeline Young, Tempe, AZ

Milly caiMILLY CAI
17 years-old, 3.8 GPA, Chinese; will attend Indiana University, majoring in Studio Art with a minor in Art History

“I moved to Canada when I was 5 and moved to the United States when I was 10 and it was extremely difficult to adapt. When I lived in Canada it was familiar because my family and I belonged in this tight Chinese community and I had friends who were also Chinese and we would talk about our strict parents, favorite TV shows, and foods. When I moved to a small town in Indiana in the United States, I found out how DIFFERENT I really was in comparison to my classmates. I felt completely disconnected from my culture and my sense of community. Since I was an awkward middle school girl, I felt the need to fit in with my suburban caucasian friends yet that was not satisfying to me because of the cultural difference. In this new atmosphere, I found myself focusing more on my art. It started out with a sketchpad and some pencils and developed into a complete infatuation with art. Drawing provided me with means of expressing my character and I guess I was alright. In the 8th grade I won the Citizenship award and the Visual Arts award.

I owe my passion for art to the 13 year old that was overenthusiastic while signing up for high school classes and shoved in an Intro to 3D art class because this was the single spontaneous decision that eventually developed my passion for ceramics. It was during my sophomore year of high school how the curriculum overlooks the minority. History classes briefly brush on Asian culture and history, art history classes skip Asian art and focus on the important art movements in Europe and as I took the AP art history exam, I was told to focus my studies on western art and neglect Asian art. Looking back, I think one of the major reasons I love ceramics is because of the Chinese influence in the art. Porcelain vases thrown and glazed during the Ming dynasty are known as the epitome of mastery in ceramics. Inspired by these vases, I experimented with the style of royal blue glaze on porcelain and eventually deviated from this specific style to ancient Japanese raku to the form of Korean kimichi pots.

My senior year, I submitted my artwork to the Scholastics Art competition and earned 2 silver keys and although I was upset, I was reminded that my goal in my artistic career is to improve. That summer I completed an AP studio art portfolio for ceramics and earned a 5. In all honesty, I find my achievements completely irrelevant to my future as of now (other than what credits they can get me in college and etc). I see my freshman year at Indiana University as a blank canvas to try new styles and work with new mediums in not just ceramics, but in all of studio art. This is what I would consider a bio of my life up to now, a collection of confusing events that lead me to where I am now and it might be cliche, but I wouldn’t like to have it any other way.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain”?
“To me, going ‘Against The Grain’ is synonymous to being brave. Currently, I am taking a IFS (Intensive Freshman Seminar) class at Indiana University to get a semester’s credit in 2 weeks and the class intern told me on the first day that in difficult/scary situations, it only takes 20 seconds of bravery to be spontaneous and follow your gut.”

How do you go “Against The Grain”?
“Coming from a strict household (and I do not believe that it is only me), I was drowned in a number of expectations and standards I had to fulfill. I had to get a perfect score on every test, I had to be flawless and graceful during my piano recitals, I had to be clean and quiet and understand when not to talk, and I had to suppress my fears and restrain my laughter. I was a disappointment to my parents. My mom said i wasted my piano teacher’s time, my dad told me I would never understand fractions, and my mother’s friends said that I was practically hopeless. I do not believe in stereotypes and I do not believe in expectations but I do believe that a person has to understand what they value in order to succeed. I say this with ease now because I finally understand that I do not exist for anyone else. My 20 seconds of bravery were deciding to finish an art project instead of studying for a math test, putting in “studio art major” in my college applications, and skipping freshman orientation to go to the art museum. Alike many others, I am terrified of the future ahead but because of my 20 seconds of bravery, the way I go against the grain of standards and expectations, I am filled with enthusiasm and motivation for what obstacles lie ahead.”

Essay excerpt:

“As I stumble through a labyrinth of obstacles throughout my life, I will find comfort knowing that I will always have art. Although I may not able to create perfectly smooth bowls and I may not be able to watercolor without being relatively angry at the paper, I am motivated. There are many great things to achieve yet, and through confidence and perseverance, I believe that attaining my goals will not be far and that the world will be made into a canvas for my imagination.”

18 years-old, 3.85 GPA, Chinese/Caucasian; will attend Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in Architecture

“My name is Sophie Chien and I was born and raised in Charlotte, North Carolina. I grew up surrounded by critiques and discussions about design, as my parents are both architects. From this influence I was drawn (literally) to take IB Visual Art for 3 years in high school, specifically focusing on expressing my ideas through sculpture and photography.

My artwork work has received multiple awards in the North Carolina Scholastics Art Competition including:

      • Gold Key for art portfolio (photography)
      • Gold Key for sculpture
      • Silver Key for architecture model and for photograph
      • Honorable Mention for 2 photographs

Art was not my only outlet in high school, as I was Captain of the Varsity Field Hockey team, manager and member of my high school’s World Quest team (a geography based academic competition), which won the Charlotte regional competition two consecutive years, a feat no other public or private school has achieved. I was nominated to my school’s National Honor, National Art Honor and National Science Honor Societies. Another outlet I found was Odyssey of the Mind (OM), a competition focused on problem solving and creativity. One of my favorite aspects of the OM competitions is the emphasis on creativity and finding innovative ways to repurpose objects to create set pieces or costumes, and our dedication was evident as we placed 3rd, 7th and 13th in world competitions. Though I am most proud of the accomplishments of a non-profit I worked for called Clothes for Change. As a leader on a team of socially conscious students, we organized clothing resales, fashion shows and a gala to support various charities and empowering women locally and globally. Through three years of fundraising, we raised over $20,000 to support these causes. Our last event, the Gala raised over $8,000 alone and went to scholarships for recent female high school graduates to attend local community college, many of them underrepresented minorities.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“To actively pursue an alternate path, to deviate from the norm. By going ‘Against The Grain’ you have to force yourself out of your habits or comfort zone to explore. That includes shedding inhibitions, formed from cultural expectations based on race, gender and other factors.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“For me, pursuing architecture will give me a platform to combine two of my passions, design and human empowerment. I believe that architecture is a career that can very personally impact our lives and the communities we live in and I would like to make a positive impact in people’s lives and the larger community. Architecture (especially in the United States) is an extremely homogeneous field, dominated by Caucasian males designing for the full range of diversity in the US. I want to go ‘Against The Grain’ by challenging this field and contributing my unique perspective, as a woman, as an Asian and as a Southerner studying in the north, taking full advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead of me.”

Essay excerpt:

“When furthering my education, I plan to focus on sustainability and integrating the built environment with its surroundings. I think architecture is great in that it synthesizes what we see around us and our response to that. It’s an art form that is grounded in real world technical challenges and evolving technologies.”


16 years-old, 3.85 GPA, Korean/Caucasian; will attend Bard College at Simon’s Rock, majoring in Literary Studies

Elizabeth Chung-Brown started college at the age of 15 after her sophomore year in high school. Born and raised in the Bay Area, California, she has always had a passion for the arts, engaging in violin and piano studies at a young age as well as theatre and writing. She has continued her violin studies throughout her life as a past member of the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra and as a student of various professional symphony members.

Although she currently attends college in the beautiful Berkshires of rural Massachusetts, she owes much of her love and devotion for writing to her experiences around the world. In the summers of 2014 and 2015, she visited Haiti and Uganda for service trips, which allowed her to discover her voice for others. By journaling and writing poetry about her experiences, Elizabeth fell in love with the art of storytelling and literary expression. She hopes to pursue journalism as a career and to push the boundaries of storytelling across many mediums including music, radio, and the internet.

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means to be courageous; to have the insight to listen to your inner voice and the bravery to carry it out. I believe that it takes creativity to see options other than the linear path society paves for us and going against the grain is just another way of cultivating an organic way of life. By being vulnerable and turning that vulnerability into a strength, you choose to pave your own way, no matter what anyone else tells you.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“When I decided to attend college early, I got one of two responses. Either, ‘Why would you want to do that?’ or ‘You must be so smart!.’ Truthfully for me, going to college was not a matter of intelligence, but rather a matter of will. I was actually so afraid of leaving home that I waited till the last minute to pack my bags, scrambling to find more jackets for the New England winter. But I knew that I needed a leap of faith no matter how scary or intimidating it was because I was searching for another piece in the puzzle of my academic journey. Now as a sophomore at Simon’s Rock, I understand what it means to be a part of an academic community; a group of people as equally dedicated as I am to that powerful magic called passion. When people say, ‘the world is your oyster,’ they’re not lying! There are so many things possible no matter your age, ethnicity, or passion in life just as long as you are not afraid to stand up for yourself or fight against the things that hold you back. Even though finding my own voice took some difficulty, I think it’s something that could have only come from my failures and struggles as well as the right people to help me pick myself up, and I am still growing and discovering my voice. With an open mind, I think going against the grain is something that will continue to carry me far and will keep on teaching me how to be a meaningful member of this ever-changing global community.”

Essay excerpt:

“Each time I go out to chase another opportunity, I return with precious sound bytes of memories and visual images of someone else’s tale. Writing has given me the voice to express these very vivid memories, to construct a meaningful message to an audience, and to shed light on the uniqueness, but universality found through identifying ourselves in one another.”

16 years-old, 3.38 GPA, Filipino; will attend Arizona State University, majoring in Painting

“My name is Katherine Del Rosario. My family consists of my mother, father and two older sisters, which makes me the youngest. I was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. In the summer of 2006, my father received a job promotion in Tempe, Arizona. Leaving my original home was a serious change because I had to say goodbye to my large, extended Filipino family who helped raised me. However, I have learned to love my new desert home and realized the blessings that it has brought me. Both of my older sisters are mothers, making me an aunt of three nephews and one niece. I have formed myself to always look after my family, and dedicating my time towards them

Currently, I am a sophomore at Arizona State University. I am majoring in Fine Arts with a concentration in Painting. At an early age, I discovered that art was a passion of mine. I drew detailed drawings in my homework in grade school. Since then, I have always self-taught myself in my craft. As I grew as an artist in high school, I still wanted to explore different interests, which led me to join Model U.N, Academic Decathlon and Speech and Debate. These school activities sparked my thirst for knowledge and made me more confident in public speaking. Although studying global politics and memorizing court cases was interesting and informative, I knew my love for art was the only dream I wished to pursue.

As an artist, I have been able to find freelance work and utilize those skills collectively. As an assistant graphic designer, I enjoy working with Photoshop and ensure that my designs are attention-grabbing and finished within a strict deadline. I will say commercial art is enjoyable, however my love for painting has given me the chance to communicate to large audiences. Through assistant teaching art classes, I have become familiar speaking with confidence to different age groups by providing help and guidance to create and improve their artwork. The future looks very bright to me and I cannot believe some of my dreams are already coming true.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“I believe that going ‘Against the Grain’ means that you have to rely on yourself to have thick skin and achieve your wildest dreams. Great talent does not happen overnight, but through endless hours of work, practice, discipline and focus. It is a matter of finding trial and error into your work, and never being discouraged. It is always trying to work with what you have and loving the amount of effort you put into a body of work. It is learning to silence those who do not believe in your goal, but reminding yourself that your passion will be worth it all. Lastly, it is knowing the value of your dream and asking those around you to help you on your journey.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“I go ‘Against The Grain’ by practicing every day on my artwork and never settling for less. I try to stay encouraged by surrounding myself towards people who are pursuing artistic careers, and being inspired by their dreams. I do my absolute best to use my artistic ability in any type of situation or service for others. I attend and volunteer events in order to get my work out there and finding connections. I am still finding out ways to be successful. I am simply making my own rules and grabbing onto any opportunity.”

Essay excerpt:

“Despite any discouragement, being an artist has makes me live with no limits; I can create work that benefits my internal battles and allow people to feel inspired and blissful.”

17 years-old, 3.75 GPA, Japanese/Caucasian; will attend Chapman University, majoring in Screenwriting for TV and Film

“I was born in Jakarta, Indonesia and I lived in that country for the majority of my life. My family were some of the only foreigners in a city built on stilts over a swamp that would experience religiously-motivated riots, months of choking smoke from annual burning of the recently harvested rice fields, as well as seasons of relative normality, such as going to the mall we finally got in our city about eight years ago. My parents worked in social and educational development as well as peacemaking, trying to build bridges between the dominant Muslim and minority Christian groups in the area. My sister and I couldn’t help but be involved. We helped with an inter-faith house of prayer and setting up a ‘Peace Café.’ I also found other ways to help my city, volunteering at a free clinic for the poor and at the only English library in town. Throughout this time I was home-schooled and always busy with after-school endeavors. In spite of the challenges, my city had a certain charm, and I miss it.

I feel very grateful for time spent in Indonesia, America, Japan, Singapore, as well as visiting several other nations. Growing up multi-cultural actually gave me a strong sense of my own identity. It also provided a wide variety of experiences and a rich tapestry of stories. In my final year in Indonesia—my junior year of high school—I decided to set my sights on screenwriting. After consuming as much American television as I could in Indonesia as well as some local programming, I fell in love with the art form and most importantly the storytelling behind it. By the time I came back to the U.S. for my senior year, I had already filmed multiple serials, a documentary, a couple short films, and written numerous scripts as well as newspapers and comic books. In American school I immediately pursued further writing opportunities by getting on the yearbook team and newspaper staff, where I volunteered to be copy editor and was later promoted to editor-in-chief. My school offered me chances to write articles for local newspapers and they published everything I wrote. I was also furiously writing college essays and scholarship essays until the end of the year when I finally graduated and committed to Chapman University before taking a summer job at Elite Prep.

At Chapman I hope to bring my unique background and passion for storytelling to my studies. I love films and television and I want to elevate the medium while honoring what’s come before. A good film can impact you intellectually and emotionally, bring focus out of chaos, or bring a sense of fulfillment. It can remind you about what’s truly important in life. And I need reminders like that for myself so that I will make the most of this life-journey.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“Each culture has its own norms and expectations. The most common track laid out before young Asians (especially from the northeast Asian countries) is hyper education, overwork, and over achievement in one specific area, striving to be the best in that field. Finding your identity in such an ambitious endeavor is an illusion. In the words of the best student to ever grace the silver screen, ‘Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.’

For me, going ‘Against The Grain’ is not measuring your success or failure based on being the best in your field (or the best Asian-American in your field). Going ‘Against the Grain’ is not only becoming the person you were meant to be and trying to do YOUR best at what you love, always pushing yourself to be better. It also means spending some time on non-achieving activities that bring beauty and fullness to your life. You should come to the end of your life reflecting on how many people you loved, or helped and how much you enjoyed every moment of the journey.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“I think it’s important for me as an Asian American to aspire to live a balanced, healthy life. I want to discover and do what I love, and do it creatively, with consistent quality, contributing my own unique expression. However, I also want to value relationships with those around me along the way, not using other people to reach my goals, but taking time to enjoy them and help them reach their goals.

I want to make films that inspire and television that grabs the viewer and hooks them in. But I also want to establish a life pattern that allows me to explore and do a variety of things. I want to help and teach others such as I did last summer with Chinese exchange students. I want to learn marketing and advertising which I’m planning to minor in. I want to make my loved ones proud and become the man I aspire to be. None of these are easy and they all take hard work. But I don’t want to be that workaholic that burns out in the third year of college and collapses under the weight of my own deadlines and unreachable goals. I want to be true to myself and find fulfillment in every area of my life not just as an Asian American but as a human.”

Essay excerpt:

“Where I would like to bring my influence is in the realm of emotions and feelings, opening people’s hearts in a new way, or even just entertaining those who need a break from the harsh realities of their world. No matter what type of community my audience is from, there are deep human connections that bind us all. Everyone has a story that deserves to be told.”

17 years-old, 3.7 GPA, Chinese; will attend Rhode Island School of Design, majoring in Graphic Design and concentrate in English literature

As a child, Karen Jiang’s parents never sent her to learn art because they never imagined that their daughter would one day be inspired to become an artist. Despite the late nights and aching bones that often accompany the many weeks that she spent drawing and painting during this past year, Karen never stopped dreaming and wanting to spread the beautiful smiles that she shares with complete strangers when she is able to do what she will forever enjoy doing, that is, art. With only a pencil and an eraser and a few tubes of paint, Karen worked very hard her junior year to create her art portfolio while balancing a challenging school work load, sports and her role as the Yearbook club’s co-editor-in-chief. As a senior, she was highly honored to be selected by her teachers to become a member of the Cum Laude Society, which is modeled after the college level Phi Beta Cappa.

Karen has won an abundance of artistic awards and recognition, including a Gold Key art portfolio from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards along with several other Gold Key, Silver Key and Honorable Mention individual pieces. As a two time Celebrating Art published artist and poet, many of her pieces have been displayed at her town art exhibit by the Friends of the Arts Association in Michigan. During the summer of her sophomore and junior year, she studied abroad in Italy as part of the Spoleto Study Abroad three-week intensive with a concentration in the fine arts. At school, Karen also took charge for a Mural for Brooke’s Dream and Children’s Hospital of Michigan where her fellow peers and Karen designed a privacy curtain for use in the hospital’s treatment rooms, which will help to create a child friendlier environment by distracting young patients that have to undergo serious and often uncomfortable procedures.

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“Personally, I strongly take to heart the concept of going ‘Against The Grain’ because to me it means more then just being different. Going ‘Against The Grain’ takes a lot of courage, strength, and perseverance to change what has been ingrained into our society for hundreds of years. That is why I am truly grateful and fortunate to have the support and love that my family provides for me. Nevertheless, I also understand that not everyone is as lucky to have this kind of support. This is why that I am adamant in that I give back what has been so graciously given to me. No matter how small of an impact I make on this Earth, as long as I can help at least a few individuals, I hope to change the world for them.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“It’s so common that no one understands you anymore. Being Asian American, I used to struggle with my personal identity. In America, I’m considered to be “Chinese” whenever people question my ethnicity, whereas in China, I’m ‘American.’ In reality, I’m only a teenager with an Asian face and a personality shaped by the American culture, so the real question is: Who am I? In this way, I’m more than just a Chinese-American, I’m me and that means I have and will do what I enjoy as part of being myself. Only now do I realize that it’s not about where I grow up, or who I look like that identifies me, it’s about who I am and what I will do that will ultimately shape me and the people around me. “

Essay excerpt:

I realized how art could be used to bring even a little spark of happiness into the stressful lives that each and every one of us leads. Though I cannot ideally bring about change to the whole world, at least in the future, I want to be able to bring about change or perhaps become the light of inspiration for even one stranger that I come across through my works of art.”

Rialin Jose

18 years-old, 3.9 GPA, Filipino; attending Columbia College Chicago, majoring in Cinema Art and Science

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Rialin (pronounced rye-lin) has always been passionate about art, and has immersed herself in it ever since she learned how to hold a pencil. However, as a first generation Filipino-American, this admiration for art was initially overlooked by her parents, as they believed that she would pursue the medical field once she was of age. In spite of her parents’ expectations, Rialin continued to experiment and work with different mediums of art, from watercolor and acrylic, to photography and graphic design. Now a recent summa cum laude graduate of Lane Tech College Prep, Rialin has decided to concentrate on film and will be attending Columbia College Chicago. Although it is not exactly medical school, Rialin’s parents have respected her decision to major in Cinema Art and Science, as she has shown great potential and promise over the years.

Rialin’s interest in film was initially triggered by hours of watching short films and sketches online, particularly those made by the YouTube channel, Wong Fu Productions. With this filmmaking group becoming one of her biggest influences, Rialin made it her lifelong goal to create films herself in an effort to communicate with large audiences, and to transform lives as much as Wong Fu had affected hers. During her sophomore year, Rialin entered and won  Scenarios USA’s: You’ve Got To Do Something! short film contest. In the same year, Rialin founded her school’s first film club, which was dedicated to creating short films and collaborating with fellow students. Through maintaining the role of club president, and later being hired to work for the Chicago Tribune’s teen publication, The Mash, Rialin was then recognized as Chicago’s 2014 Female Leader in Media in the annual 18 Under 18 contest. Additionally, in her time at The Mash as a writer, photographer, video creator and social media enthusiast, Rialin received two New Media awards.

In her final year of high school, Rialin won second place in the AATSP’s Chicago Chapter Poster Design Contest. Upon entering the 2015 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Contest, Rialin also received a Silver Key award for her art portfolio.  Subsequently, she was inducted into the National Honor Society and was later invited to join Columbia College’s Honors Program. Through all of her achievements, they have ultimately helped Rialin to decide what career path to pursue and to acknowledge her true calling. She hopes that by pursuing a higher education in the arts, she will not only be able to fulfill her own personal goals, but to also empower others to follow their dreams as well.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“To go ‘Against The Grain’ means to take control of what is mine; it is having my life as I know it, and taking full ownership of it while achieving the unthinkable. As a young Filipino American, it is often expected that I pursue the career of nursing. As a woman, I am expected to ‘stay in my lane’ and to never leave my comfort zone. Going ‘Against The Grain’ means moving past expectations like these and focusing on my own; it is breaking barriers and transforming the world for current and future generations.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“For years, I have been told that my love for art would never take me anywhere; that unless I pursued something more secure and ‘realistic,’ I would end up an overall failure in life. Because of this, I spent a lot of time in fear and doubt, while devoting myself to only pleasing others. Today, I go ‘Against The Grain’ by breaking free of such uncertainties, and basing my definition of success on my own terms, not anyone else’s. I strive to revolutionize the roles of Asian Americans and women in the film industry, and hopefully in the rest of the world, as well. In a society that often pressures our youth to “fit in,” and to conform to specific ideals, I find that it is especially important to spread the message of risk-taking and self-acceptance.”

Essay excerpt:

“As an aspiring filmmaker, I would love to redefine what it truly means to be an artist, and to be given the power to revolutionize the world…I hope to ‘nourish the roots of our culture,’ by delivering positive messages and nothing but love to our ever-­changing world.”

18 years-old, 3.98 GPA, Vietnamese/Chinese; attending California State University in Long Beach,  majoring in Animation

From a young age, Trilina Mai has had an adept interest towards music and visual arts. As a result, she has won numerous local competitions for visual art and music composition since the age of five. Graduating with Honors at Cypress High School, Trilina is a receiver of the Semper Fidelis Award for Musical Excellence as well as the Departmental Student of the Year Award for Visual Arts. Among other honors, she also participated in the Anaheim Union High School District Honor Band as a trumpet player for four years, redesigned her high school marching band insignia, and won “Best Picture” with a group animation short in the Cypress College Film Festival.

When she was in high school, Trilina participated in her high school marching band as one of the top trumpet players in Wind Symphony. Her junior year, she was chosen as one of the band’s three drum majors, and represented her school and the United Spirit Association in the 2014 London New Year’s Day Parade. The following year, she occupied the leadership positions of Head Drum Major, Band President, and Principle trumpet, which gave her the opportunity to lead the Cypress Centurion Imperial Brigade in the 2015 Tournament of Roses Parade.

Outside of academics and extracurricular activities, Trilina devotes much of her time towards the Vietnamese Evangelical Church of Long Beach where she plays piano for her congregation. She remains avid in her art, and is currently working on various animation shorts. Trilina spends her summers as a United Spirit Association Drum Major Instructor, and will be pursuing Animation in the fall at Long Beach State University.

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’, to me is essentially going against the tide. Within the plethora of leadership styles these leaders have established their own styles and foundation for others to use, like a pathed road. Leaders who go ‘Against The Grain’ are equivalent to an untraveled path. These leaders are not afraid to stray away from the leadership status quo in order to find a more dynamic and productive method, because in the end, there is no improvement without risk. ‘Against The Grain’ leaders are those who set themselves apart from the rest through actions, morals, and words.”

How do you go ”Against The Grain”?

“Leadership is an action, not a position. Within the long history of Drum Majors and leaders at Cypress High School, I am the first to hold Head Drum Major and Band President. Going against that predetermined grain, I set myself aside from past leaders by action through understanding and acceptance of mistakes. I learned early on that there’s this inferred stigma that leaders should look and be perfect all the time, when in reality that is impossible. From my perspective, I believe that it’s not how many mistakes a leader makes, but how they recover and learn from it. The leadership responsibilities that belonged with my positions were numerous, but having stark realization that I am human and that mistakes are okay, made my growth all the better. By learning and recovering from my errors I was not afraid to take risks and experiment different methods in order to improve my band and myself. Leadership isn’t about the power or titles, but through my actions, and that’s how I go ‘Against The Grain.’”

Essay excerpt:

“As the musical side of me incorporates itself into my art, so does my artistic style impact the way I live and perceive life. Music is the living breathing engine that kick starts my imagination to creating my colorful, intensive, and interpretive project.”

Lauren Padilla Senior Picture 2LAUREN PADILLA
18 years-old, 3.9 GPA, Chinese adoptee; attending Johns Hopkins University majoring in Writing Seminars

Lauren Padilla is a Chinese adoptee, writer, and fashion-fanatic from Longmeadow, Massachusetts. She graduated from Longmeadow High School in 2015. Her goal is to work as a fashion editor, and she plans to pursue a major in Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University this fall.

For as long as she can remember, Lauren has possessed an intense interest in style. When she was eleven, Lauren began to instructing herself in fashion design, illustration, and sewing; once reaching high school, she started entering her works in regional and national competitions. Lauren has received both a Gold Key and an Honorable Mention from the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards for her dresses. Additionally, her illustrations have won several contests, including a national sketch competition sponsored by the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising and an international costume design challenge backed by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Lauren’s drawings have been acknowledged online by influential dancers, designers, and bloggers— including Miko Fogarty, Kenley Collins, and Betsey Johnson. During her junior year, Lauren’s artistic efforts were rewarded when she was selected to attend the Gifted Art Program at Amherst College.

In response to the lack of fashion programs in her area, Lauren started her school’s first Fashion Club. With assistance from her other club members, Lauren helped coordinate several charity events including an art gala, which raised over 500 clothing and accessories donations for her local Dress for Success, as well as a jeans drive, which helped collect over 125 pairs of jeans to aid homeless teenagers in nearby shelters. During the spring of her senior year, Lauren was selected to participate in Teen Vogue’s 10th Annual Teen Vogue Fashion University, an international fashion conference held at the Condé Nast Headquarters in New York City.

In addition to her fashion activities, Lauren is an involved writer and scholar. For the past three years, she has written a fashion column for her local newspaper, The Republican. Her reviews have been published in Teen Ink Magazine, and her articles and commentaries have garnered both regional and national attention after being featured on National Public Radio. While attending Longmeadow High School, Lauren received first honors throughout all four years, served as a member of the National Honor Society, and twice received her school’s English award.

Lauren looks forward to building upon her abilities in college and pursuing many new fashion and writing opportunities in Baltimore!

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
To me, going ‘Against the Grain’ means defying normalcy. It means doing whatever is necessary to forge your own paths in life and always remaining true to your personal passions. Quite often, it involves thinking with your heart and feeling with your head. Going ‘Against The Grain’ requires you to constantly push boundaries and refuse to settle for what is simply average or acceptable. Above all, it means believing, with everything you have, that nothing is impossible.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“Going ‘Against the Grain’ is an integral part of who I am. For over a decade, I have lived in a small town in Massachusetts, where the vast majority of students are white and come from traditional two-parent households. As the adopted Asian daughter of a multi-cultural single mother, I have always been inherently different from my peers. Over the years, though, I’ve learned not only to accept my atypical upbringing, but to embrace it.

Not surprisingly, my professional goals are just as unconventional as my cultural background. Ordinary jobs like nursing or accounting have never appealed to me—they seem so dull and uninspiring and tedious; by contrast, fashion editing, my desired field, is the exact opposite—it’s crazy and creative and constantly changing. When I first realized I wanted to work as an editor, there were no available fashion programs in my area. In response, I discovered ways to make my own opportunities. I traveled to the city to take courses in style history and publications; I taught myself design, sewing, and illustration; I started writing my own fashion column for my local newspaper. Through it all, people constantly told me to give in—that pursuing a career in the ultra-competitive fashion industry would be impossible. They instructed me to choose a safer option—become a doctor, or lawyer, or engineer. At first, their unsolicited critiques frazzled me, but with time, I’ve learned to cope with them.

Today, whenever someone attempts to dissuade me from opting for an editorial career, I tell them simply, ‘Fashion is what I love. If I were to pursue a conventional job, ignore my passions and live life by someone else’s standards, I really wouldn’t be living at all. Would I?’

Usually, they have no response.

Oftentimes, going ‘Against The Grain’ is incredibly difficult. Following your inner desires while ignoring logic can be fatiguing and stressful; it is easy to think of giving up. However, I believe that ultimately, remaining true to your own aspirations will lead to a much more fulfilling and meaningful life.”

Essay excerpt:

“Some people want their name in lights; I want my name in Vogue. Pursuing a career as a fashion editor is complicated and risky, but I am ready for the challenge.”

18 years-old, 3.89 GPA, Tahitian (Chinese, French Polynesian descendant); attending Parsons the New School, majoring in Sustainable Fashion and Design

“I am Tiffany Piko. I am an avid runner who is passionate about many things including local history education, kind people, and good literature. In the fall, I will be studying sustainable fashion and design in hopes of gaining the knowledge necessary to engineer environmentally friendly garments. I detest “fast fashion” as it produces an incomprehensible amount of waste, low quality garments, and poor treatment for workers and intend on making this process better for all those involved. I want to change this by making it known on a larger scale and to advocate the education of knowing where things come from.

During high school, I had a very successful career. I was involved in three honor societies, various choirs, the arts, several clubs and participated in track and field. During these activities, I also juggled my studies, my volunteer duties at the local genealogical society, my self-employed job, and my growing documentary about my hometown. I was one of the founding members of my high school’s Philosophy Club. I was Vice President of National Art Honor Society and President of French Club. For two years in a row, I was the Team Captain of track and field during my junior and senior year and received my Four Year Varsity Letter Award and the Doug Henwood Award for leadership, along with several other awards. The Organization of American Kodaly Educators selected me to be a part of the 2014 National Youth Choir held in Atlanta, Georgia. My artwork has been featured in the Ohio Governor’s Youth Art Show and was selected for the top 250 of 12,000 submissions. Although I did not experience the stereotypical high experience that is portrayed in many iconic films, I did create an experience that helped me discover myself and some truly incredible people whom I have the privilege of calling my mentors. I believe that what I have achieved so far will be a reflection of the years to come. I am ready for the adventures ahead and all that it entails.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“During an OAKE youth choir conference, the head conductor gave a notable speech to the young singers. Standing only five feet tall, she very boldly, in a slight Canadian accent, said she loved that she was short and tiny and yet commanded so much attention in a male dominant profession.  Going Against the Grain means to drive innovation. By being unlike expectations, one has the ability to think and act differently without hesitation or questioning. In order to advance and better humanity, it is necessary to have individuals who exemplify the idea of doing what is not expected. Ultimately, Going Against the Grain means to create positive change. By applying unique thinking, there is the possibility to create happiness through its solutions.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“I have been documenting Lancaster, in the attempt to learn more about it, and the people I admire who are the foundation of the city. I love hearing people talk about themselves or listening to them tell stories. But when this happens, I create my own image of what is being said. With my documentary, I want to pass down my stories and be able to give an accurate visual aid. This is my way of preserving a historically rich and fascinating city, while documenting my own adolescence. I have learned of Deward Watts’ long fight to save the Mithoff House, the passion of Mike Tharpe and Bill Vernick on education, and the exceptional people of Ohio who, as the film Ohio: 200 Years suggests, ‘are extraordinary people, who have done nothing less than change the world.’ This is just one example but still exemplifies the essence that shows how I go ‘Against The Grain.’ I have gone out and accomplished something many of those my age would not concern themselves with and have created a tool that has frozen the present to be studied in the future. I have concerned myself with the historical well being of my town, and all that has been forgotten. All of those involved always seem to mention the phrases, ‘I haven’t told that story in years’ or ‘I had a great time reliving my past.’ As a teenager, I have reconnected the tired relationship between the young and the old, doing something unlike what is expected of those my age.”

Essay excerpt: 

“By studying fashion and design in college I am advocating the education of ethical consumerism and clothing production while promoting better treatment of workers.”

21 years-old, 3.1 GPA, Thai/Laotian; attending Austin College, majoring in Music, minoring in Public Health

“My name is Hannah Sansavath and I am a native born Texan. I started my musical journey from a young age learning piano when I was four along with music theory. I constantly played in piano competitions growing up and in high school went to UIL State for piano and violin every year and came back with one ratings and earned the coveted UIL Solo Outstanding soloist for piano twice. At the age of 12, I joined the school orchestra and played violin, where I was concertmaster throughout high school. In addition to school orchestra, I became the youngest person to audition into and be accepted into the Sherman Symphony Orchestra where I still continue to play. I am currently fourth chair in the first violin section. At the same time, I also learned traditional Thai instruments and regularly performed.

When I entered college I knew for sure I wanted to keep music close to my heart while also pursuing a career in the health field. My freshmen year I joined Delta Omicron, the international professional music fraternity where I was first vice president and later president. During the summer of my sophomore year, I decided I wanted to try the Miss Asian American Texas pageant, and that year, I brought home the title of Miss Asian American Texas 2013-2014. I was also awarded the Laura Shoap’s Fellowship my sophomore and junior year, an honors music award given to the most outstanding music student chosen by the Austin College music faculty. After I graduate this fall, I plan to pursue my Masters in Public Health while continuing my love for music by hopefully performing in local orchestras and giving lessons to future aspiring musicians.

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?””
“Going ‘Against The Grain’ for me means doing something different from the general public. Something unique while following your own goals.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?
“I went ‘Against The Grain” by choosing to be music major while pursuing a pre-health path. Most pre-health students choose to major in STEM subjects, whereas I chose music. Yes, I had to take more classes than most pre-health science majors but I still held on to my love of music while pursuing my goal to enter the public health field.”

Essay excerpt:

“While some are unable to see art past its identity as a ‘piece’ or a product of one’s creative mind, I see it as a force to be reckoned with. Art is more than just a subject in school or a painting in a museum; art is what can change lives ­and quite conceivably, the world.”

17 years-old, 3.92 GPA, Korean; will attend Art Center College of Design, majoring in Illustration

Lauren Suh is a first-generation Korean-American and recent high school graduate from Los Angeles, California who has been creating for as long as she can remember. Fueled by an overactive imagination, the pencils and pastels given to her as a child became her weapons of choice in attacking her Hello Kitty sketchbooks with nonsensical drawings and stories. Every birthday and Christmas became a chance to ask for more art supplies from the kids’ arts and crafts store, and art would become her constant companion for the next 17 years. She was elected Commissioner of Public Relations, the person responsible for any posters or other visual aids and communication, for both her school’s Earth Club and Senior Board in her Junior and Senior year. Lauren designed and won the sweatshirt designs for her school’s annual fundraiser 3 years in a row. She won entry and scholarships for both Ryman Arts and Art Center’s Saturday High, where she took weekly classes for 3 years. Lauren exhibited work at her school’s yearly art show, the Affair of the Arts Show and Auction, the California African American Museum, the Metropolitan Water District, and most recently the nation’s Capitol for winning the Congressional Art Competition.

Somewhere along the way, she also discovered a love for learning, and coupled with her innate competitive nature, she has done her best to achieve academically throughout schooling. She graduated in the top percent of her class, she was a CSF member for all 4 years of high school, and she is an AP Scholar with Honor. She has won multiple Certificates of Honor at her School’s annual Awards Night, where one or two students who have excelled in a class are selected by each teacher. Lauren has volunteered at the Santa Monica Pier Aquarium since the end of her Sophomore year, contributing about 200 hours of interacting and educating the public about marine life, and she was also selected to be a tutor at my school’s Writing Center, where she volunteered twice a week since Junior year to help fellow students with their writing.

Currently, Lauren looks forward to studying Illustration at the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California. She plans to dedicate the same energy and passion she had for all her studies and extracurricular activities in high school to learning and growing as much as she can in college in order to become the best artist she can be.

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“A couple of days ago, my friends and I played the ever so popular, classic game of LIFE. In the game, players eventually have to choose a career, whether it is after or without going to college. Now let’s be honest, this game is nowhere near an accurate depiction of actual life—can one really graduate college within one or two spins of a wheel? However, the incongruences do reflect some patterns and stereotypes in our society. First of all, almost everyone who has played the game knows that when choosing a career, the “doctor” card is most prestigious. On the other hand, when my friend chose the “artist” card, my other friend stated, ‘that’s the worst choice.’ Now this is nothing against her because most of us think this way—it’s just how we’ve been programmed to think. Another thing is that while becoming a doctor requires a degree from the game’s fictional college, becoming an artist does not. While this is in some cases true, now more than ever, a college education is as imperative in the art industry as it is in the medical. The funny thing about all of this is that an artist can still make as much money in the game as a doctor, if not more. It’s simply a matter of what salary card you choose.

Similar to how there are various forks in the 2 dimensional road of the game, our own lives also consist of these choices. But in contrast, we have many more of these decisions to make, and many of us choose to veer off onto a path not exactly portrayed on the physical game board. When we do this, the predictability and comfort found in the game’s set routes are lost, and the listed rules of LIFE can no longer apply to us because we consciously have gone against them to create our own paths and destinations outside the safety of the norm.

Going ‘Against The Grain’ implies adversity. It means acknowledging the set course that would be easiest to embark on and choosing instead to go another way. When you go against the grain, you accept the adversities and face it head on in order to reach your goal, a place often far off and indiscernible when you begin your journey.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“In 4th grade, my parents went bankrupt, separated, and my 9-year old world had basically imploded. I grew up linking all my bad memories and experiences to money and the lack of it—my dad’s alcoholism, his constant gambling, my mom’s emotional stress, living in a different one-room apartment every few years, etc. etc. So I guess it made sense that going to a good college and getting a ‘well-paying’ degree—something neither of my parents did or had—seemed like a surefire equation to solving any and all problems.

Come high school, I filled my schedule up every year with as many honors and AP classes I could take and excelled, but as my list of academic achievements and extracurriculars grew, so did the stress and all-nighters. Now don’t get me wrong; I liked the challenge and learning was fun, but by the time my mom and my counselors started asking me what I wanted to do with my life, I still didn’t know. One counselor in particular during my Junior year straight out refused to let me apply to only art schools because if that’s what I planned to do, ‘What did I take all these classes for? Why did I do so well on the SATs? Why did I have such good grades?’

Basically what it comes down to is this societal dichotomy between the arts and academics. They cannot coexist, and when paired together, one must always triumph over the other. The common misconception is that they can’t possibly be equally matched. Another is that art is most often, the loser. Science or math is almost never considered a ‘hobby,’ and this is even more true when art is the chosen ‘career.’ When I stood up to my counselor and against the rational part of myself telling me to go to a more prestigious and cheaper school like UC Berkeley, I went ‘Against The Grain’ in the hopes of remedying this fallacy and to help bring these two worlds together into one.”

Essay excerpt:

“I believe that my own personal connection between science and art can be used to create a similar connection in the larger community around me. I hope that not only will my art honestly reflect the human experience, but that in doing so, I will be able to inspire and encourage our abilities to understand it.”

18 years-old, 4.0 GPA, Chinese/Caucasian; attending Clovis Community College Center, majoring in Graphic Design

“Born and raised in Fresno, California, I’ve had a passion for all creative things for as long as I can remember. From crafting custom bookmarks for my elementary school classmates and making jewelry at home, to designing all of my own party invitations and experimenting with upcycling clothes, I’ve never turned down a chance to flex my artistic muscles. In sixth grade I was cast in the lead role of Gabriella in our school’s production of High School Musical. After singing in choir throughout elementary and intermediate school, I took high school electives in art and drama while testing the waters of photography and fashion design on my own. It wasn’t until my first semester of college, however, that I was able to narrow down my widespread creative interests to the pursuit of Graphic Design.

In 2014, I graduated from Clovis North High School as a California Scholarship Federation Lifetime Member, an AP Scholar with Distinction, and a National Merit Scholarship Program Commended Student. My most notable extracurricular achievements as a Clovis North Bronco included medaling at the 2014 NorCal State Science Olympiad Competition, earning the Fresno County Youth Court Program Outstanding Senior Award, serving as Key Club Historian, and being selected for the Clovis Unified School District High School Art Exhibit as a freshman. I also served as an advisor in the Principal’s Advisory on Student Affairs, earned a Varsity Letter in Girls Badminton, performed in our district’s Drama Festival, and presented work at my school’s annual Art Fair for three years.

Over the course of my first year of college, I delivered a solo mixed genre performance at our very first interpretation festival, got elected Secretary of the Clovis Art Collective, and had numerous works displayed at both ArtHop and my school’s Student Exhibition—all while devoting several hours a week to tutoring students from elementary to high school level. My current artistic endeavors include interning at the Arthouse, designing t-shirts for my alma mater, and simultaneously pursuing an associate’s degree in Art and a bachelor’s degree in Graphic Design. I look forward to expanding my repertoire and experience as an artist, as well as continuing to use my creativity to give back to my community.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain”?
“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means having the courage to be ourselves and to chase our dreams in the face of hardship, opposition, or judgment. There will always be someone or something trying to hold us back in life, but prioritizing guts over fear and breaking the mold of societal expectations is what distinguishes us as the leaders, artists, and innovators of today and the creators of a better tomorrow.”

How do you go “Against The Grain”?
“For most of my life I rejected the notion that I was an artist. I considered art a hobby, something I dabbled in when I got struck by sudden bursts of creative energy. By the end of high school, my walls were covered with abstract paintings, mixed media pieces, and collages and all the work I had shown at exhibits was piling up in a corner. Yet I still contended to myself and to others that I was not an artist. My lack of conviction stemmed from two things: 1) No one else around me seemed to care about art. And 2) Society had subliminally instilled in me those familiar stigmas and misconceptions about being an artist. I struggled to see the value in it as a career, especially when all of my friends were looking to enter STEM fields and when there isn’t a single career artist in my family.

Once I entered college, however, I was finally open to the idea of following my long-held interests in art and creative problem-solving to a career in Graphic Design. Daring to defy my own doubts as well as the norms of society was an instrumental step in accepting myself and my aspirations. Since then, my confidence as an artist and my acceptance of that title have grown immensely. Surrounding myself with fellow artists has reassured me of the legitimacy of creative pursuits and of my own artistic merit. Finally I feel a deeper sense of belonging.

Even in this niche where I have found acceptance, though, I continue to go Against the Grain. When the more “practical” people in my life doubted the purpose of interning at an art gallery, I ignored their lack of support and snatched up the opportunity to gain exposure to the local art scene. Furthermore, being one of two Asians in my first college art class did not deter me from my course. In fact my passion and determination to constantly produce my best work drove me to dedicate extra hours after class and to push the boundaries of what I thought I was capable of.

My efforts in going ‘Against The Grain’ paid off greatly: I had more pieces adjudicated for the end-of-semester Student Exhibition than any other artist at my school. I now stand less than a year away from earning an associate’s degree in Art, the first checkpoint in my educational journey. As I pursue higher degrees and use my work to bring attention to social issues, I will continue to think, act, and live life outside the box—the only way to truly reach one’s creative potential and make an impact on the world.”

Essay excerpt:

“As creators, we have the ability to craft ideas into realities and to influence the minds of the masses with our work. With every click of the mouse and flourish of the pen, graphic designers produce marks that have the potential to affect change. By the end of the long and vibrant career ahead of me, I hope to look back at the trail I helped blaze for fellow Asian Americans and smile at having reached my dreams while inspiring others to chase theirs.”

21 years-old, 3.4 GPA, Taiwanese; attending The Ohio State University College of Nursing, majoring in Nursing and The Ohio State University School of Music, majoring in Piano Performance

Shine Wu is currently a rising senior at The Ohio State University dual majoring in nursing and piano performance. She is involved as a section leader with the OSU Women’s Glee Club and enjoys singing in the select group within the Women’s Glee Club called the Women’s Chamber Ensemble. Shine was born to Taiwanese parents in the United States. She is currently a member of and leader at the Columbus Chinese Christian Church in Columbus, Ohio. She enjoys serving in the music ministry there and building up other ministries in hopes that the new Asian American community will rise up to make a positive change in the community with their own diverse sets of abilities.

This past spring, Shine was a winner in the Ohio State University School of Music Undergraduate and Master’s Degree Concerto Competition in which she performed Movements Two and Three of Piano Concerto Number II by Dmitri Shostakovich. She is the recipient of the Connie Hahn Sharpe Nursing Scholarship, Undergraduate Keyboard Achievement Award and The Ohio State University Women’s Glee Club Scholarship. 

Shine has established a private piano studio and inspires her students to explore music’s deeper meanings and the idea of good work ethic. She wishes to continue in pediatric nursing work and hold recitals around the world as a concert pianist. Furthermore, she hopes to occasionally embark on medical mission teams to Asia or the Middle East when the opportunity arises. Shine is immensely grateful for her unique heritage as an Asian American because she can draw from her cultural experiences from both and influence those in both cultures.

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“To go ‘Against The Grain’ means to draw on one’s unique heritage, experiences, and values to impact the dominant culture or society.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“Personally, to go ‘Against The Grain’ has deep roots from my faith and unique educational experiences.  I seek to serve others by putting their needs first and love and respect those who may disagree or attack what I believe in.  I enjoy being an example of my Christian faith to my peers and professors by showing them honesty, love despite favoritism, joy, peace in adversity, patience, kindness, goodness,  faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. I also draw many values and ideals from my Asian American experiences when I make decisions and associate with others; I enjoy sharing my own fun experiences growing up in an Asian family with other cultures and I enjoy encouraging those from Asian families to step outside their comfort zones and immerse themselves in the dominant culture in a healthy way.”

Essay excerpt:

“I believe the music I perform can inspire the community, instill hope, and heal people. Music has the ability to inspire people to act for a cause greater than themselves; when musicians perform alone or together for the benefit of a greater cause, it moves listeners to do something greater.”


34 years-old, 4.0 GPA, Chinese; attending Arizona State University, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, working towards an MFA in Dance

“I am an artist from San Francisco, California. I grew up in Chinatown and the Haight-Ashbury, and I believe that my early exposure to cultural diversity in my environment helped to broaden my perspective of the world and enrich my approaches to teaching in the performing arts. As an arts educator and advocate, I am interested in the ethos of cultural performance practices that evolve as a way to cope with traumas of poverty, cultural displacement, and political, social and economic inequities. Themes of community, empowerment, and self-agency influence my work.

I have worked in youth-focused arts education with the Alvin Ailey Performance Camp, The San Francisco Mime Troupe Youth Theater Project, Out-of-Site Center for the Arts, Dance Mission Theater, Rhinoceros Theater and the Tenderloin YMCA.  I taught dance, piano and English in two continents.  When I lived in Rome, Italy, I lead tours of the Vatican Museums.  In my cultural studies, I have traveled to China to photograph orphanages of indigenous children.  My interest in political science and post-colonial studies brought me to study on scholarship at the University of the West Indies in Barbados.  My very liberal arts education at the University of California, Berkeley also helped to form my radicalism and rally Against The Grain. I earned my Bachelor’s degree in Music at the University of California, Berkeley where I also minored in Theatre, Dance and Performance studies.

I am now a MFA Dance candidate at Arizona State University (ASU) in the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts (HIDA).  I had the good fortune to receive generous support and encouragement from the university in the way of scholarships and grants.  I received a Dean’s Fellowship ($10,000) and the ASU Gammage Scholarship, which provides tuition funding and career mentorship for emerging artists. Most recently, I was awarded two university grants to present my dance research abroad.  I traveled to Athens, Greece to present at the Society of Dance History Scholars/Congress on Research in Dance Conference.  There, I assisted a professor in presenting research we gathered on global dance collectives that are thriving in this age of austerity for the arts. Afterwards, I journeyed to the island of Oahu, where the World Dance Alliance invited me to perform my dance ritual, Reaching For My Father Beyond the Bamboo Curtain. This October, I will travel to Singapore to present a digital video presentation of my performance, unBecoming, an interdisciplinary collaboration with a visual artist that explores Western and Eastern perspectives of taboo.

My other interests include auto-ethnography, critical analysis of Asian-American self-representation in performance, devising alternative approaches to dance pedagogy, exploring the intersection of dance/music/drama as an integrated healing modality, performing ritual in dance performance, creating film in space, identifying Eastern ontological approaches in dance research as a form of advocacy for the dancer and for Asians and bringing creative movement opportunities to under-served populations.”

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”
“There is a little voice inside that navigates us through life – if only we will listen. This little voice helps us make choices in the face of adversity and the many other life challenges we encounter.  This little voice is different from the chatter we hear on the television, different from the stories we read in the paper, and often, this little voice carries messages that seem very different from the advice of our family and our friends.  Sometimes this little voice is not so little and it shouts and growls and calls and pleads to us until we do what it says.  And why do we choose to ignore this voice that tells us to go ‘Against The Grain’?  It is because we all long to be seen, to be recognized, and to be acknowledged.  This longing to be accepted is sometimes so strong that we forget to do what the little voice says.  To go ‘Against The Grain’ is to listen to this voice, to follow it through with progressive action and unwavering courage.  Going ‘Against The Grain’ is not one simple task but a series of choice-making in the face of life’s challenges turned opportunities.  Going ‘Against The Grain’ means listening to ourselves and it is this listening that allows us to move to action in a way that we can represent our communities and ourselves with authenticity, integrity and justice.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”
“As an artist, I dance, undulate, slice, swoop, arch and carve ‘Against The Grain’ everyday in my work as a dance educator.  By designing and implementing alternative approaches to dance education, I am representing the art community as a cooperative of innovative practitioners that apply their creativity and intellectual rigor in ways that benefit underrepresented communities such as women, people of color and the differently-abled. How many times have you encountered adversity and wished that you could have done something or said something to change the outcome for yourself or for someone else? Most of us experience adversity everyday. Sometimes I just want to run and hide.  But instead, I choose to dance, to teach, to write, and to ask questions that challenge adversity. I push ‘Against The Grain.’  I teach ‘Against The Grain.’  I dance ‘Against The Grain.’  Why dance?  Because dance brings people together in a unified rhythm of movement.  Dance builds community.  Communities are mighty and can move together ‘Against The Grain’ to accomplish much more than just one person. Teaching dance is a not a solo practice – it requires skill, courage, patience, an element of risk, and most of all, it requires a community. All we can do as a community is to ask questions, to do the work and to be ready for positive change.”

Essay excerpt:

“The impact of acknowledging the value of ones personal history affects the communities in which the students thrive by instilling within the student, a sense of self-worth and purpose. In this way, dance affects change in communities by enlarging the scope with which dance students view the world, view themselves and the people around them.”

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