2023 Underprivileged Children and Orphanage Aid Update: Cambodia

Cambodian Aid Report

January 2023

Dear Tammy and ATG Team,

We commend the hard work of the ATG team and volunteers to raise funds to assist orphans in Southeast Asia. Your hard work is critical to show the orphans that someone is thinking about them and that their lives are valuable.  It has been nothing short of amazing to see the ATG team band together to engage our community in philanthropy. In 2023, ATG’s funding of $4,500 enabled our on the ground volunteers to distribute food and school to 150 children across 3 remote villages, approximately $30/child.  These children live with grandparents and relatives.  They have very little means, lacking basic needs such as food, school supplies and clothes. Aid from ATG is the only source of support for these children.  The children are very happy and grateful to receive help from ATG. Because of ATG they experience kindness from strangers.

I am reminded of Luke 12:48, “For of those to whom much is given, much is required.” It is clear that members of the ATG community live by this teaching…using your talents, time and wealth to benefit others.  Furthermore, you are spreading this message through your actions, both in the US and across the world.  We would like to extend a heartfelt thanks to the leadership of the ATG Board, volunteers, and donors for giving so generously of time, energy, and financial resources without expecting anything in return.

In service Together,

Thear and volunteers in Cambodia

Cambodian orphans grateful for aid from ATG

On the ground volunteers who helped to disburse aid to Cambodian orphans



2023 Heritage Camp Recap – “Creating Connections!”

2023 SEAPI Camp Recap by Hue Dao

Dear Friends,

Last month, a small crew of our ATG Tribe was in Estes Park, Colorado at Southeast Asian/Pacific Islander (SEAPI) Heritage Camp, where we taught 6 workshops to Pre-K children all the way up to adoptive parents. This is a camp for families who have adopted kids from countries in Southeast Asia, an opportunity for the families to connect to the heritages of Vietnam, The Philippines, Thailand, Cambodia and the Pacific Islands.

ATG has been supporting and coming to this camp for over 10 summers now. We love seeing the familiar faces of families and reconnecting with our ATG friends near and far. Carol, Loan, Tammy, George and their 3 children flew in from Dallas, Jared from New York, and Hue from Seattle.

The first night where we celebrated Jared’s birthday.

Day 1:
It’s heartwarming to see that parents care so much about their adopted children that they are willing to spend part of their summer immersing themselves in various cultures. The theme at camp this year was “Creating Connections,” so we engaged the 11th and 12th graders at our “Spice Connections” Workshop, where we discussed the influence and history of the spice trade and hand-painted lì xì, which are special red envelopes given during Lunar New Year to children for luck.

We also taught “Gettin’ Saucy with ATG” to the parents, because what better way to bring together a meal than through sauces? The parents had the opportunity to whip together and taste the sauces:
Savory Ginger Scallion, Salt Pepper Lime, Peanut Hoisin Sauce, Nước Chấm and Sweet Coconut Sauce with Sesame Seeds and Peanuts.

Day 2:
We taught another session of sauces with the parents, and then it was off to “Imagine Lil Dragons,” where we told folk stories and crafted dragons with Pre-K and Kindergarteners.

After lunch, we hosted a workshop with 1st-4th graders called “We See You,” where we read and had a deep discussion of the book “What I See: Anti-Asian Racism from the Eyes of a Child” written by Christine T. Leung. It was deeply emotional and heartwarming to hear their thoughts on what they would do in a bullying incident. Together, we drew and put together a banner using symbols of each of us.

Afterward, we cooled off in a fun Songkran water fight, which is a Thai New Year tradition.


That evening we had a gala where we wore our SEAPI finest and presented ATG Heritage Camp Scholarships. Here’s George, Tammy, and their children wearing the traditional Vietnamese áo dài.

Day 3:
We attended the closing ceremony and said our goodbyes.

“I am always grateful to the volunteers and presenters who come to camp. It’s been nice to see that as my kids get older, they become aware of the work and energy that it takes to make camp happen. I feel like ATG and others give so much to our kids by accepting them. I think there are often moments when our kids feel the need to explain their Asian identities, their families, or situations. Having presenters who teach them to be proud of their complicated and nuanced identities is so refreshing for them.” – Kristi Beckman Moya, adoptive parent and SEAPI camp coordinator

“ATG is an organization that we feel unbelievably fortunate to have connected with all those many years ago. Tammy and all of you who are ATG members, have truly made a positive impact on our camp, and such a difference to our campers! Every year that you all attend, what you bring to our camp programming, is incredible, and authentic, and you do an amazing job of working with each of our cultural groups, and all ages of kids (and parents!). My hope is to have ATG involved for as long as SEAPI is standing! In fact, I think ATG will help keep us going strong in the future! We are so grateful to you all!” – Pam Sweetser, Executive Director, Heritage Camp for Adoptive Families and adoptive parent

ATG is honored to be part of this camp and cannot wait to be reunited with our adoptee families again next summer!

Meet Our 2023 ATG SEAPI Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners!

SEAPI Heritage Camp: (L to R) Josh Glassberg, Andrea Glassberg, Alexi & Rami Glassberg, Tammy Nguyen Lee, Hue Dao Miner, Carol Nguyen, and Minh Miller


ATG is Proud to Announce our 2023 SEAPI Heritage and Culture Camp Scholarship Contest Winners!

Alexi Glassberg (4) and Rami Glassberg (7) 

Charlotte, NC

What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?

Going against the grain means standing up for what you believe in. It means protecting yourself and your friends.

How do I go ‘Against The Grain’?

If a friend is being bullied, I say “not cool, man”! If I want to wear “girls clothes”, I don’t let anyone make me feel bad.




Minh Miller, 18

Longmont, Colorado

 What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?

Against the grain to me means being able to identify who you are. Against the grain is like my own independent path and the challenges that I’ve faced and the ones to come.
How do I go ‘Against The Grain’?
I go against the grain by working towards figuring out what I want to be and what I’m interested in. Especially in high school it’s hard figuring out what you want and who you are. I’m working towards receiving my Visual Performing Arts and STEM capstones at Skyline High School. I’ve found many challenges with wanting to make practical and scientific designs visually pleasing by applying artistic methods. Through my high school’s programs I am going against the grain by combining these unlikely two things.
How has Heritage Camp changed your life?
Heritage camp has changed my life in many ways. For example, I’ve made lifelong connections and met tons of people through camp. Not just friends but adults that I can trust and look up to for advice. It’s also helped me learn.




Apply for 2023 SEAPI Camp Scholarship

The 2023 Against The Grain Southeast Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Camp Scholarship application process is officially open! Following our support of orphanages and underprivileged children in Asia, Against The Grain provides scholarships here at home to young Asian American adoptees to attend culture camps such as Catalyst Foundation’s Vietnamese Culture Camp and Heritage Camps for Adoptive Families SEAPI (Southeast Asian Pacific Islander) Heritage Camp to spend a few days in the summer connecting with their heritage, bonding with new and old friends and participating in enriching activities. This year, ATG will present workshops and sponsor $500 for five $100 camp scholarships toward the cost of camp registration for 2 New Campers and 3 Graduating Seniors.

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

FINAL Due Date: Friday, July 28, 2023

New Camper Scholarship* ($100 to be applied toward the cost of camp registration)

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

* Only youth campers new to SEAPI Camp are eligible.

Graduating Senior Camper Scholarship** ($100 to be applied toward the cost of camp registration)

  1. Name of Applicant
  2. Age of Applicant
  3. City and State
  4. Photo of Applicant
  5. Intended College/University and Major
  6. How many years attended camp
  7. Question 1: What does ‘Against The Grain’ mean to me?
  8. Question 2: How do I go ‘Against The Grain?’
  9. Question 3: How has attending heritage camp made a difference in my life?
  10. Proof of HCAF SEAPI Camp Registration

** Do not have to be new to SEAPI Camp to be eligible.

Congratulations to the 2022 ATG Scholarship Winners!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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

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

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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

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

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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



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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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


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

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

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

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

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

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

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

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

2022 Heritage Camp Recap – “CELEBRATION!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Support our efforts at Camp by donating today!


Recap written by Carol Nguyen

Congratulations to the 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  American

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 American

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 American

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 American

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 American

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 American

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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Congratulations to the 2020 ATG Scholarship Winners

Through our Scholarship Program, ATG proudly awards Artistic, Groundbreaker Leadership, #LiveLikeLyly and the Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarships to a select group of amazing Asian American high school seniors, college undergraduate and graduate school students who are shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. Since 2011, we have awarded more than $76,500 in scholarships. Our selection committee reviews a combination of criteria: GPA, extracurricular activities, portfolio, essay, and letters of recommendation. Finalists were given a phone interview. During this pandemic year, ATG awarded $6,500 in scholarships to 5 outstanding students.

The Scholarships Committee was led by Co-Directors of Community Outreach Hue Dao and Lisa Tran. Hue Dao has served on the Board since she was a college graduate. Said Hue, “We received over 300 applications this year. The quality of the applicants is the most competitive we have seen in the nine years since we started the program. These students are vibrant, hardworking and inspirational. This year, more than ever, students are seeking out scholarship opportunities. We are thrilled to help meet some of this demand with the help of our generous donors and supporters.”

Lisa Tran also serves as ATG’s Advisor to Thailand and professionally as Managing Director of Corporate Engagement and Strategic Partnerships at SMU Cox School of Business. Said Lisa, “We had a record number of applicants this year, and the high caliber of talent continues to inspire me every year. As I reviewed the applications, I am confident that many of the students will be leaders one day. Knowing that ATG has played a part in the students’ educational and career successes is why I love serving as a board member. Thank you to our generous donors who allow us to offer scholarships to Asian American students. ”

Tammy Nguyen Lee, ATG Co-Founder/President, created these unique scholarships with the intention to support AAPI youth and give hope. Said Tammy, “Each year, getting to see what our AAPI youth have done and dream to achieve is truly inspiring. From my own experience, I know how much a scholarship can impact and provide meaning to a young student’s confidence and future. I have every faith that these exceptional students will make positive contributions to our community in ways that we can only imagine. Through our scholarship fund, we are making an invaluable investment in our future and changing our narrative. ATG is very grateful to our scholarship review committee of Hue Dao, Lisa Tran, Carol Nguyen, and Nikki Dương Koenig, as well as our generous scholarship donors like Bruce and Pat McRae and Ranier and Grace Pabilona for helping us keep alive the spirit of what it means to go Against The Grain.”

We are thrilled to announce this year’s winners…

  • Esther Cha – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship
  • Emma Ne – Artistic Scholarship
  • Jenny Lin – Bruce & Pat McRae Groundbreaker Scholarship
  • Socheat Tauch – #LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship
  • Elizabeth Duong Lê – Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

Esther Cha | Carrollton, TX | 21 years old | GPA: 3.82 | University of Southern California |Business Administration | Korean

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means to take action in the now and not wait for circumstances to become easier or better. It means to boldly and wisely use my resources and privileges to give a voice to those in my community. To me, that has meant to go beyond the traditional paths of business and explore innovative solutions for our world’s most pressing social issues.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“After learning of the rising college homelessness issue in Los Angeles, I began my ‘Against The Grain’ journey by asking one simple question: ‘What can I do to help?’ Since then, I co-founded Trojan Shelter, a homeless shelter specifically for college students by securing a location in LA’s Koreatown, recruiting over 50 volunteers and raising over $150,000. This experience has had an indelible impact on my life and showed me that I can create social impact in any position, field, or circumstance. As a student, I have done this by advocating for BIPOC talent and writers, while working at top entertainment companies, studying social entrepreneurship, and providing pro-bono consulting to nonprofit organizations. I want to continue to be a groundbreaker in my community by pursuing my dream of starting a social enterprise business that employs those experiencing homelessness, while providing them with resources such as food, housing assistance, job training, and mental health resources. Using my marketing and entertainment background, I hope to change people’s perspectives by leveraging my passion for storytelling to make stronger arguments for combatting homelessness.”

Emma Nebeker | Austin, TX | 18 years old | GPA: 3.92 | Art Center College of Design | Animation & Digital Arts | Taiwanese/Caucasian

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means never leaving one grain of rice in the bowl, and it certainly never means rejecting the rice scooped into it. It means swimming against the tsunami of stereotypes, pridefully carrying alongside us the noodles, rice, dumplings, or curry that our parents made us, while we work hard to undo the coursing tidal waves of prejudice against us Asians and Asian Americans. It means introducing our newest works to the world, thanking our parents and our greatest challengers for the firmest iterations of where we come from, and why we are so driven to succeed.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I go ‘Against The Grain’ by breathing my life into my work. I am an animator: I bring motion to still figures and emotion from my greatest personal struggles into my characters. I do not stay complacent with the far and few animated features that include Asians and Asian Americans. I will not rely on others to include a culture often excluded from mainstream media. I continue to work hard to feature characters of Asian descent and their experiences: with culture shock, with a parent’s struggle to assimilate into the society they immigrated to, a child’s struggle to learn their mother tongue, of adolescents wrestling with what lunch to bring to school—’a bland and non smelly PB&J? Or the shui jiao that my mom worked so hard to cook for me last night?’—all of these experiences, I will include. I will not stop until the whole world understands why a bowl of fruit or the phrase, ‘Come eat!’ can double as an apology. I will go ‘Against The Grain’ of western entertainment to introduce the sharp realities and subtle beauties of Asian culture.”

Jenny Lin | Los Angeles, CA | 30 years old | GPA: 3.65 | School of Visual Arts | Design for Social Innovation | Chinese

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

“To go ‘Against The Grain’ means to build your self confidence: that despite what others see, you might see something different, and that difference is worth pursuing. It is easy to doubt yourself when the world doesn’t reflect your vision. You begin the journey by understanding who you are and by standing up for your self worth. Grounding yourself is absolutely essential, because even if you fail, you never know who you will inspire along the way.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“For a long time, I did not trust my own voice.

My upbringing as a Chinese American taught me the traditional values of obedience and filial piety. While my parents are loving people, their world view was molded by a troubled society. When I left my upper-middle class family to attend college, I learned about the injustices happening to others less fortunate. I saw gentrification, criminalization, and dead ends for brilliant people. I started using my voice to speak up and act. I became active in my local Chinatown grassroots organization to fight against Wal-Mart and greedy developers. I used art to share stories and build new narratives. I learned UX to understand how we can use technology to build tools for change.

For me, choosing to go ‘Against The Grain’ means to actively challenge my parents’ and societal norms to pursue justice. Today, I trust my voice, because I see the change it can bring. I continue to build my voice by pushing my boundaries, building my leadership skills, and investigating the possibilities of better worlds.”

Socheat Tauch | Troutdale, OR | 28 years old | GPA: 3.61 | University of Oregon | Sports Product Management | Cambodian

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

“Going ‘Against The Grain’ means to individually and spiritually break free from the constraints of cultural, societal, and family norms. It’s about breaking your safety and comfort barrier, standing up for what you truly believe in, and striving toward your dreams. It’s challenging the status quo, empowering others, while giving back to the community, and acting as an agent of change. Moreover, it also means taking a risk to address the underlying issues with a systems-thinking approach, fused with creative, sustainable, and innovative steps in developing fair and equitable solutions.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I am the friction within the Cambodian community in Oregon. Everyday, I challenge the Khmer expectation and the model minority myth that Asian Americans are good at math, musically-inclined, and have life-long careers as doctors, pharmacists, attorneys, and business people. There isn’t much room for creativity, art, or design within my community spaces. However, through several graphic design projects over 5 years, I represented myself as a designer within my community, and through my professional role, I was able to serve as an example that creativity does hold value and merit in society.

I am also the very same designer that creates friction within the sports product industry, too. Entering the apparel industry confronts the stigmatization that Khmers are known as “cheap and expendable” garment labor. Because of the exploitative practices in Cambodia, we have always historically been at the bottom. This representation is very important to me because I strive to be the example that uplift Khmers as more than factory laborers, but show that we can hold creative decision-making roles as apparel designers, product developers, and mid-to-senior level managers and directors, too.”

Elizabeth Duong Lê | Capitol Heights, MD | 22 years old | GPA: 3.77 | George Washington University | Security Policy Studies | Vietnamese 

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

“To me, going Against The Grain’ is taking the road less traveled and withstanding the pains of criticism as well as fears of unfamiliarity, while paving a path for the generations who come after. Going ‘Against The Grain’ means striving to be the difference, even if it means standing alone. Those who go ‘Against The Grain’ accept risk and are willing to sacrifice completely for the opportunity to pursue a more authentic life, achieve excellence, be truly free, and fulfill what is unique to their soul and purpose.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“I went ‘Against The Grain’ when I understood that healing transgenerational trauma and understanding familial history were both prerequisites to breaking the cycle of poverty for my refugee family. I’m the youngest of five, born fifteen years after and the first to graduate college, completing undergraduate with a 4.0 GPA and earning a fellowship to pursue graduate studies. I broke ground by dedicating myself to a purpose larger than myself. Growing up, my household’s dysfunction made it difficult to believe in a world outside of one plagued by self-destruction and unhealthy survival tactics. However, with an innate compulsion to bring betterment where I notice a lack thereof, I challenged myself to rise above the emotional and intellectual naivety present in my milieu. Doing so allowed me to undertake a rigorous journey, in which I would break ground, examine the conditions my family has survived, and dedicate myself to conflict resolution efforts and the alleviation of human suffering. I didn’t make it to where I am today because of where I come from; I made it despite where I come from.”

2020 Virtual SEAPI Heritage Camp Recap

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

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

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

Opening Ceremony


Location of Campers

Jared Rehberg Performing

High School Art Therapy Workshop – Final Collage Piece