Aiiyah!!! The 55th Annual Merit Awards Celebration

by Donna Chan Chu

"Aiiyah!!" That became the cheer for the 2012 Wa Sung Merit Scholarship Awards dinner on Thursday, May 3, 2012. As the photos were being taken of all ten of the award winners, Alan Wang, keynote speaker, Karen Dea and I, the host and chair of the 2012 Merit Awards Committee, Karen told us to all shout out Aiiiyah at the count of three. As you can see the photo turned out pretty good.

There were over one hundred people attending this annual event. We all enjoyed a delicious dinner and it turned out that the prime rib (57 orders) was the favorite over the lamb shank (only 29 orders). We thank Rodney and Betty Gee, Wa Sung members and owners of Pier 29 Restaurant for providing a wonderful meal and a perfect setting.

After the meal, the program began with Karen Dea giving her president's message to the audience. In her message she highlighted key points of each winner's essay. The winners all had to submit an essay on the topic: "You are a nationally syndicated columnist; write an article on any topic that would change the world." Many of the winners wrote about their concerns, but also wrote their solutions. Karen told them community participation is very important. She encouraged them to continue their community service and one more way to do that is for them to join the Junior League of Wa Sung.

Keynote speaker
Alan Wang

Alan Wang from Channel 7 ABC News was our guest speaker for the night. When I first met him, I knew we had met before because he was so familiar. Did I know him from Oakland Chinatown? Did I know him from my church? Then I had the chance to speak to his wife and that's when I realized I had seen him in my home -- on TV -- on the evening news. Crazy, right? People you see on TV so often just become someone you think you know. Anyway Alan grew up in Kingsville, Texas. Being the only Asian kid in town he got many racially ignorant comments and negative stereotypes. But all of this only helped him grow the mind of an analytical journalist. He studied print journalism at the University of Texas until a professor pointed out to him that there were few Asian men in television news. After hearing this and thinking about it, Alan felt the responsibility to step in front of the television camera and report. As a reporter he enjoys hitting the streets and delving into prickly topics on race, gender and other complex issues. As a news anchor he enjoys guiding the reports and keeping it all together in a live newscast that makes it into your home in real time. Other than his job, Alan loves being with his family and watching his three children grow up.

Alan began with sharing some of his stories growing up in Texas. Then he spoke about how Asian parents would say to their children, "if you stay at home, study and make good grades you will be successful." He said this has worked to some degree, but what is happening is a phenomenon called the "bamboo ceiling". A recent study showed a third of all software engineers in Silicon Valley are Asian, but only 10% are corporate officers and CEO's in the Bay Area's top 25 largest companies. These 10% are either ones who started the company or owned the company. They did not come up the ranks. Many Asians are known for being "great workers, not great leaders." Alan told the students this is a huge misperception. They need to break this stereotype. When he began working, he found it very hard to stand up to the supervisor for better wages or better position. Some of the virtues and strengths of the Asian culture can be a stumbling block or weakness to moving ahead. They need to develop great leadership skills such as engaging in conversation, stepping up and taking the reins, and being informed and aware of issues to name a few. He told them there is a need for more Asian leaders. Being a Wa Sung Scholarship winner is a great start to that leadership.

Before the awards were presented, I quoted one more thing from Alan's bio, "with all the athletic and academic pressures placed on young people today, his own parental demands come down to this, do great things for other people." Wa Sung also believes in doing great things for others and we now present the 2012 Wa Sung Merit Scholarship Award Winners.

Scholarship Committee Co-chair Donna Chan Chu

Before the evening ended, Karen made a few announcements of upcoming Wa Sung events -- the Runway Rhythm Fashion Show, the Founders Day meeting next month, our Annual Picnic, and the Just for Fun New England Clam Bake, the Annual Golf Tournament and then Chef's Delight.

After a ton of photos of the winners, the winners with their families, the winners with their presenters, the winners with Alan Wang, the members with Alan Wang, we thanked everybody for coming and bid them safe travels home.

Now to explain why Aiiiyah! In Alan's speech he spoke of his mother and father saying this in the home while he was growing up. He shared one embarrassing story. When his father was home he would always dress comfortably, meaning he wore a hand me down t-shirt, boxer shorts, and his sons' tube socks. One day while Alan had some friends over, his father came out of the garage dressed comfortable, but before Alan's friends saw his father, his mother caught him and told him to change his clothes because there was company in the house. His father looked down, saw what he was wearing and yelled out, "Aiiiyah! I just came back from the post office."

Wa Sung's mission is educational services and though in recent past, funds have minimally been generated by the Perpetual Scholarship Fund, but this year we have the scholarships subsidized by our annual fund raising events such as the Golf Tournament, the Crab Feed and the Easter Pancake Breakfast. We thank our members and friends for their generous donations this year which allowed us to give out more scholarships. We give a big thank you to Dr. Janet Lee, Yukiko Sakakura, Mary Lee, Esther Fong-Maynard, Stephen Woo, Lena Fong, Denise Hum, Kathy Jeong, Ken Stillson and Hoover Ginn.

From the beginning of the 2012 scholarship topic to the conclusion with the awards dinner, it took many hands and I would like to thank them all. First to the committee members who helped select the topic for the essay: Rebecca Wong, Cyndee Lim, Linda Quan, Karen Dea and Cheryl Yukumoto. After the applications were received the reading of the essay were done by the committee and essay readers: Deborah Pan, Jeanne Pong, Cimberly Eng-Tamura, Clayton Yukumoto, Gloria Gee, Adrienne Fong and Esther Fong-Maynard. Then there was the committee to select the winners: Adrienne Fong, Karen Dea, Linda Quan and Deborah Pan. Thank you Karen Dea for putting the program together and getting them printed. Thank you Gloria Gee for making the dinner arrangements with the restaurant. Thank you Clayton and Cheryl Yukumoto for donating and wrapping a gift for each winner. Thank you Cimberly Eng-Tamara for getting the flowers for us to wear. Thank you Betty Gee for donating a bottle of wine that went into the gift basket we gave Alan Wang. Thank you all who arrived early to help put signs, programs, candy and snacks on the tables. Thank you Arnold Mew for checking in the members, guests and winners. Thank you Roland Hui, Florence Lau, and Richard and Adrienne Fong for taking photos for all the members to see. Thank you to Alan Wang for being a wonderful speaker and great supporter of Wa Sung. Thank you to Adrienne Fong for all her support and knowledge when it comes to anything scholarship related and for being the best sister ever.

Even though the 2012 scholarship award program is over for this year, we are looking forward to another successful event next year. Your participation is still wanted and needed by donating to the scholarship fund, attending one of the fundraiser events that support the scholarship fund, and/or by participating on the committee.

2012 Merit Scholarship Awards

Gordon and Mary Lee Scholarship, presented by Mary Lee and Harlon Lee
Amy Wong, Oakland High School, University of California, Berkeley, undeclared

Bill Sakakura Scholarship, presented by Nancy Tsui
Prezleigh Teal Moy, Dougherty Valley High School, Azusa Pacifica University, Music

Sidney Fong Scholarship, presented by Ether Fong-Maynard
Vivian Chen, Alameda High School, Pomona College, Economics

Lena Fong Scholarship (donation by Steven Woo), presented by Linda Quan
Denny Zhu, Oakland High School, University of California, Davis, Civil Engineering

Joseph S. Lee Scholarship, presented by Adrienne Fong
Betty Hu, Oakland High School, University of California, Los Angeles, Social Science

Dr. Joshua Fong Scholarship, presented by Lena Fong
Anne Julliene Barcelona, Alameda High School, University of California, Berkeley, undeclared/Pre-Business

Freeman & Mary Chan Scholarship & Susie Oi Young Yip Scholarship, presented by Dennis Chan & Loretta Siu
Esther Han, Castro Valley High School, University of California, Berkeley, undeclared/Business

Richard and Doris Wong Lee Scholarship, presented by Roland Hui
Alexander Chen, Miramonte High School, Yale University, Molecular, Celular and Developmental Biology & Music Performance

Victor and Bessie Mar Scholarship and Friends of Wa Sung Scholarship, presented by Victor Mar & Clayton Yukumoto
Rita Tu, Encinal High School, Dartmouth, Biochemistry/minor Spanish and Chinese

Alfred and Rebecca Wong Scholarship & Nancy J. Lee Scholarship, presented by Al and Becky Wong
Care He, Skyline High School, University of California, Berkeley, Psychology/minor Education

2012 Scholarship Recipients

Back row, from left:
Prezleigh Teal Moy, Amy Wong, Denny Zhu, Alexander Chen,
Vivian Chen, Rita Tu

Front row:
Esther Han, Cara He, Betty Hu,
Anne Julliene Barcelona