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Where EAST meets the Northwest

DANCER & ACTIVIST. Tiffany Nguyen (forefront) reacts during the announcement she will represent David Douglas High School as its 2017 Rose Festival princess. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Nguyen)

Tiffany Nguyen poses with her mother, Hao Le, after being crowned homecoming queen in the fall. The Portland Rose Festival’s Queen’s Coronation takes place Saturday, June 10 at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Photo courtesy of Tiffany Nguyen)

From The Asian Reporter, V27, #9 (May 1, 2017), page 8.

David Douglas princess committed to serving others

By Maileen Hamto

The Asian Reporter

For Tiffany Nguyen, one of the accomplished and confident slate of young women named to the 2017 Portland Rose Festival Court, representing David Douglas High School as its princess is among the highlights of her illustrious high school career.

And Tiffany’s list of accolades is far from modest. She has served as a student council vice president and been on the Honor Roll for four years. She has led community-based projects such as Project Breaker, an industry-led partnership that involves young people solving community livability issues, and is also involved in Youth Ending Slavery, a student-led Portland coalition that raises awareness about modern-day human trafficking.

"I am looking forward to the whole entire experience of a Rose Festival princess," Tiffany said. "I have a chance to educate and inspire others throughout the community. I am a voice for the many things I represent: women of Asian backgrounds, David Douglas, people who share the same interests as I do, and individuals who have experienced similar struggles like I have."

Tiffany’s journey to the Rose Festival Court was far from easy. Starting as a freshman in the largest high school in Oregon came with its own set of challenges, especially for a self-described shy and reserved young woman.

"After my freshman year, I told myself I needed to make some drastic changes in my life. I started volunteering, getting involved in clubs, meeting new people, and more. I broke out of my shell that hindered me from being who I really am," she said.

Hip-hop dance also was one of the ways Tiffany sought to cultivate confidence. She dances at Hip Hop Soulsation Academy, Body & Soul Creative Dance studio, and Vega Dance+Lab. As part of Soulsation, she performed in last year’s Starlight Parade.

Despite her dance performances, nothing could prepare her for being in the spotlight as she sought to be the representative for David Douglas. She admits that overcoming her shy and self-conscious nature continues to be an ongoing struggle, even while competing to become the princess for her school.

"Before this experience, I was so hard on myself. I was so nervous all the time about the way I spoke or the way I looked. I would often compare myself to others and how credible and intellectual they were," she said. "I realized that I need to love myself before anyone else can."

Tiffany credits her family’s unconditional support and love for her success thus far. The daughter of immigrants from Vietnam, she is inspired by the resilience and persistence of her parents to create stable and productive lives in their adopted home.

"My parents lived below the poverty line in Vietnam and endured many struggles throughout their lives before they moved to the United States," she said. "They raised me the way their parents raised them — to be respectful to everyone, especially your elders. To be selfless, brave, hardworking, and kind-hearted."

Lessons in selflessness and serving others have led Tiffany to envision a career in social work. She is committed to raising awareness about human trafficking, with the goal of saving future generations of women, men, and children from abuse and trauma.

"Portland is one of the top cities in the country with the highest rates of human trafficking," she said. "It is one of the biggest industries in the world, and there are millions of men, women, and children who are forced into this industry for labor and sexual purposes. Awareness needs to be spread and changes need to be made in order for results to be seen."

Tiffany intends to leverage her platform as a court princess to advocate for ending human trafficking and slavery. At the same time, she also is looking forward to the many activities in store for the princesses during the weeks leading up to the Rose Festival Queen’s Coronation and Grand Floral Parade.

And more importantly, she never forgets to give credit where credit is due.

"My mom is the main reason why I am a Rose Festival princess," Tiffany said. "She wants the best for me in every aspect of my life. She encouraged me to work hard for what I want."

"Mom struggled all of her life, even to this day," Tiffany continued, "and she does not want me to struggle like she did."

A Rose Festival princess represents her school and acts as the "face of the Rose Festival" at many events in the community, including parades, volunteer activities, luncheons with community and business leaders, and more. The Portland Rose Festival Foundation awards each court member a $3,500 scholarship, courtesy of The Randall Group.

To qualify for the Rose Festival Court, a candidate must be a full-time junior or senior at a 4A, 5A, or 6A high school in Multnomah, Washington, or Clackamas county and have a minimum cumulative grade point average of 3.0. Potential princesses are evaluated on citizenship, scholastic achievement, school activities, civic involvement, volunteer projects, communication skills, and overall impression.

The Portland Rose Festival Queen is chosen from all of the court members at Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 10 from 8:30am to 9:30am. To learn more, call (503) 227-2681 or visit <www.rosefestival.org>.

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