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Where EAST meets the Northwest

LEADERSHIP & SERVICE. The 2018 Portland Rose Festival princess representing Wilson High School is Anna Kien. Leadership and service have always been among princess Annaís core strengths. (Photo/Brian Geraths/Photo Media Productions)

At Wilson, Portland Rose Festival princess Anna Kien is one of the founders of the schoolís first Asian Pacific Islander Student Union. She said she was inspired to start the club from her exposure and experience with the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference, which draws more than 500 API students from across the Portland metropolitan area to enhance leadership and communication skills, as well as strengthen pride in their cultural identity. (Photo courtesy of Anna Kien)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #11 (June 4, 2018), pages 10-11.

Wilson princess leads with gratitude, commitment to service

By Maileen Hamto

The Asian Reporter

Wilson High Schoolís Rose Court princess, Anna Kien, turned an episode of loss and grief for her family into an opportunity to serve the community.

In 2016, Anna travelled with her family to Vietnam on the occasion of her grandmotherís passing. The outpouring of support and love sent many gifts of flowers and food, much of which was donated generously to a local organization serving children who were born with visual impairment.

Anna said she "fell in love" with the mission and purpose of the Residential and Educational Center for Visually Impaired Children, and she decided to volunteer to teach English for the young people living there. The center serves children suffering from blindness who come from impoverished families.

Anna learned that some of the children were given up by their families because they could not afford to support a child with a disability. "Many were abandoned by their families because of the stigma for being blind, of being born a mistake," Anna said. "Many of the children have been by themselves since they were very young."

The challenge of teaching language without visual aids was one that Anna took to heart. She found new and creative ways to communicate, and did so with much humor, humility, and patience. "I am not as fluent in Vietnamese as I would like," she explained. "The experience allowed me to appreciate communication and flexibility."

Anna worked with children as young as four years old. Volunteering at the center for a few weeks, she said she developed a deeper understanding of the struggles people living in poverty face everyday.

"They were so young, but the children I met were the most polite, most caring, and sweetest kids youíll ever meet," Anna said. "They donít have many visitors, especially someone from another country."

Leadership and service have always been among Annaís core strengths. At Wilson, she is one of the founders of the schoolís first Asian Pacific Islander (API) Student Union. She said she was inspired to start the club from her exposure and experience with the Asian American Youth Leadership Conference (AAYLC), which draws more than 500 API students from across the Portland metropolitan area to enhance leadership and communication skills, as well as strengthen pride in their cultural identity.

Anna first learned about AAYLC as a freshman at Wilson. Attending a predominantly white school, she said she was working on overcoming self-hatred when she attended her first AAYLC conference.

"AAYLC was the first place where I felt proud to be who I was as an Asian American. I was in a space where I was not the minority," she said. "Even though I feel isolated and alone at school, I know there are many students out there with whom I can fit in, and who can understand the issues I deal with on a daily basis."

To build community with API and mixed-race students at Wilson, Anna worked with Jaime Suehiro, her Advance Placement (AP) English teacher, to establish the API Student Union. "Weíre all here to share culture and build space for Asian-American students to get to know each other."

Beyond her impeccable track record of volunteer commitments, Anna has managed to maintain a 4.0 grade point average. She is looking forward to majoring in business in the fall at the University of Oregon Honors College on a Presidential scholarship.

Anna credits her parents, Chau Nguyen and Tung Kien, for stressing the importance of a solid education. Immigrating to the United States from Vietnam, her parents didnít finish their studies because of financial difficulties. Still, they were committed to ensuring that Anna had a strong foundation for college.

"We live in northeast Portland, but my parents drove me everyday to Robert Gray (Middle School) and Wilson because those schools are known for their TAG (talented and gifted) program and AP classes," she said.

"They wanted me to be challenged academically and to get a lot of support so I could be a better student."

In representing Wilson on the Rose Festival Court, Anna is mindful of her opportunity to serve as a role model to her peers. She also serves on the Student Advisory Council for Portland Public Schools.

"I am both proud and thankful to have a platform as an Asian-American student to inspire other minority students to embrace their differences and take a leadership role."

* * *

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 <www.rosefestival.org>.

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