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Where EAST meets the Northwest

MUSICIAN & ACTIVIST. The 2018 Portland Rose Festival princess representing Madison High School is Stephanie Vo-Nguyen. In the top photo, Vo-Nguyen (right) is seen with her cousin Michelle (left) at a Lunar New Year celebration. In the bottom photo, princess Stephanie poses with classmate Jonathan while holding a spirit trophy the senior class won at a pep assembly. The Portland Rose Festivalís Queenís Coronation takes place Saturday, June 9 at Portlandís Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Photos courtesy of Stephanie Vo-Nguyen)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #9 (May 7, 2018), page 9.

Madison princess makes a difference by focusing on policy, activism

By Maileen Hamto
The Asian Reporter

Rose Festival Court princess Stephanie Vo-Nguyen has played a key role in shaping and implementing an ethnic studies curriculum at Portland Public Schools (PPS). She represented Madison High School in PPSí Student Advisory Council, which was formed after the school district approved a resolution to have at least one ethnic studies class in all Portland high schools.

"The council ensures the presence of the student voice in the implementation process. It has been incredibly rewarding to be a part of the journey in bringing equity to our classrooms," said Vo-Nguyen.

Students who were part of the council provided feedback on planned curriculum for social studies classes. They worked on outreach and curriculum framing and created learning objectives for the ethnic studies classes, which will focus on the untold history of African Americans, Asian and Pacific Islanders, Latinxs, and indigenous communities in the United States.

"It was a great experience, especially for me as an Asian American. I didnít see myself represented in history or social studies classes throughout elementary school," Stephanie said.

"Iím excited that through this work, Portland students will have teachers who share our roots, so we can make sure our stories are heard and our voices represented."

Stephanieís experience with the Student Advisory Council reinforced her interest in activism and public policy. More specifically, she intends to work with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Oregon after completing her studies at the University of Oregon.

"My experience made me realize that directly putting in work for change makes me feel like Iím really changing things for the better," she said. "I believe the ACLU is a great platform for activists who truly want to end disparities."

A self-described extrovert, Vo-Nguyen is honored to represent Madison High School on the 2018 Rose Festival Court. She revels in Madisonís spirit-filled culture, as demonstrated by lively and dynamic pep rallies, including at homecoming and athletic events. At Madison, she is a cheerleader and serves on both the Madison Singers Choir and Chamber Choir.

"Iím honored to represent Madison because I feel like I manifest my schoolís values," she said. "Iím so happy for all the support Iíve received, and Iím grateful for the community of students, teachers, and administrators who are so supportive of my journey."

In addition to activism, academics, and athletics, Stephanie is also very involved in music. She enjoys singing and playing instruments and has spent six years involved in her middle school and high school music departments.

"My love and appreciation for music and the arts has only grown from the time I spent in school bands and choirs," she said.

In her Rose Court speech, Stephanie shared the gift of her lively, animated personality and her long-standing need to be of service to others.

"I like to make people laugh, and I like to know that everyone has a good time," she said. "I think the reason I am this way is because Iíve always felt like exerting happiness onto my environment and to those around me also brings me happiness."

Her connection with Madison is a family affair, as Stephanie has numerous cousins and two older sisters who attended Madison. Her younger brother is currently a sophomore.

"Being Madisonís princess is significant for me and my family. Being crowned, I made my family proud," she said, beaming.

Stephanie says she is fortunate to have strong family and community support. Her parents are first-generation immigrants from Southern Vietnam who are devoted to the success and contentment of their three children.

"I celebrate my ethnic background by being with family. We speak Vietnamese, eat Vietnamese food, and practice our traditions," she said.

"When Iím spending time with my family, Iím also celebrating my ethnic identity. These are two great values coming together ó my family and pride in my heritage."

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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 Portlandís Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 9 from 8:30am to 9:30am. To learn more, call (503) 227-2681 or visit <>.

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