2015 AANAPISI Scholar Profiles


Karen Chi
APIASF/Walmart AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Dorchester, MA
Institution: University of Massachusetts, Boston
Major: Nursing

I am a 1.5-generation Chinese American woman pursuing a nursing degree with a double major in ethical, social, and political philosophy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. I have experienced throughout my life the negative things that come from being an Asian American from a poor first generation immigrant family. My family and I have been stigmatized for this fact. Those experiences inspired me to want to advocate for those who have and are experiencing the same things I did. I decided on pursuing nursing after shadowing a nurse at my local hospital while I was a student volunteer in high school. I got to see all the behind the scenes work a nurse does on a day-to-day basis. They appeared to me as a kind of secret heroes and helping others through some of their hardest challenges. I realized that that was something I wanted to be apart of. The volunteer experience and my personal experiences inspired me to want to make healthcare more accessible for underrepresented communities. I have been discriminated against for being Asian American as well as for coming from a low socioeconomic background. These challenges aren't always bad though, they have helped shape me to be the person I am today. By dealing with these challenges I have become a more humble person. I understand the worth of a dollar and a college education. These challenges have shaped my goals because I have experienced the discrimination first hand. I want to help others so that they don't have to go through the same discrimination by being a nurse who is culturally competent to help minority patients as well as those who are from low socioeconomic backgrounds.


Suitonu Ofisa
APIASF/Wells Fargo Foundation AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Pagp Pago, American Samoa
Institution: American Samoa Community College
Major: Engineering

I am Suitonu Anthony Ofisa and was born on June 20, 1996 at the LBJ Hospital in American Samoa. I am the proud Samoan son of Meridian Ofisa. Raised in Fitiuta, Manu'a, I am the 6th of 8 children who were born in American Samoa. I attended ECE (Early Childhood Education) in Fitiuta and Matasaua Elementary School later on. I attended South Pacific Academy my first three years of high school and transferred to Tafuna High School my senior year where I graduated with honors. In high school, I was a member of the Tafuna High School Varsity Football Team amongst others. Throughout high school the biggest highlight there was for me was joining the football team. I learned a lot from this one amazing sport. I learned that if you want to be successful in whatever you are trying to accomplish, you have to have commitment, determination, sacrifice, hard work, and effort. This helped me shape my life up into where I am right now, which is pursuing my Associates' Degree at American Samoa Community College (ASCC). My interest in Civil Engineering developed when I was in high school. I understood that Civil Engineers were great in math and made huge guaranteed salary. This caught my attention since I was good with numbers and I simply wanted to be materially successful. Math was and still is my favorite subject because I always find great satisfaction in developing critical-thinking skills that Math requires. This is what led me to become interested in Civil Engineering. Experiences from football were another big influence to the building of myself as an educator. My desire to have a good paying job and passion for math were other considerations that impacted my long-term goal in life, to become an engineer. Continuing to strive for the best in school and still developing as a person, I believe I will achieve my goals established in mind. Now, currently enrolling at ASCC, I am a member of the American Samoa College Research Foundation Club and a peer tutor of the Student Learning Association Center-Annex. I am determined to graduate in Spring 2016 and then transfer to California State University-Sacramento abroad in search for my Bachelor's Degree and further my education.


Jennifer Dela Cruz
Hometown: Saipan, Northern Mariana Islands
Institution: Northern Marianas College
Major: Business Management

My name is Jennifer Atinisom Dela Cruz and I am 18 years old. I am half-cast Chuukese/Filipina. I was born in Saipan, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. I grew up with the island culture. I wasn't very familiar with the Chuukese or Filipino culture because both my parents have also adapted to the way of life here. Although we were faced with many financial challenges, we were still able to make everything we had enough for us, my family and I. I can say my parents raised me well because I was always a good student with good grades. All my life I aimed for better grades. It was a great feeling to graduate and get a diploma. My parents and siblings all graduated from high school, but they weren't able to go to college because they were not financially stable. I am lucky enough now to be able to qualify and apply for scholarships that can pay for my tuition, textbooks, and other fees. I want to make my family proud and be the first to get a degree. Through my college experience, I would like to encourage them to continue their education, both my parents included. It is never too late. I plan to get an Associate in Applied Science Emphasis in Business Management Degree two years from now. I am also currently working a full-time job as an Engineering Administrative Assistant, but I have to admit that it really is a challenge to be working and to be a full-time student. I believe education should be prioritized first because that is what enables us to get high ranking jobs. I dream to become a business manager one day, a very successful one. I will do whatever it takes to pursue in my dreams. I understand that life itself is not perfect and no matter how hard we try, nothing will ever be perfect. Throughout my whole life, I've always expected things, but now I've learned to take whatever it is that life throws at me, and make the very best of it.


Hin Wing (Florence) Tse
APIASF/Coca-Cola AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Institution: City College of San Francisco
Major: Psychology

Who am I? My name is Hin Wing, Tse (Florence). I am not only a well-prepared college student, but also a youngster with a C.L.E.A.R. goal-pursuing a teaching career in the special education area. I graduated from high school in Hong Kong last year, and have moved to live in San Francisco for more than half a year. I am now studying at City College of San Francisco. I plan to transfer to UCLA in 2017 fall to major in psychology with a specialization in developmental psychology and a minor in education. I would like to be a special education teacher because of my experience in high school. The first contact with young children with special educational needs made me realize that we should treat them with respect and sincerity rather than sympathy since our encouragement could boost their confidence and lead them to succeed. Therefore, in my future career, I hope I can put my greatest effort into helping those who are left behind the education system. In high school, I was awarded various scholarships such as the Dr. Sindy Lee Scholarship in recognition of my performance in extra-curriculum activities, and the Miss Bernadette Lau Scholarship due to my highest G.P.A in Chinese Language. Outside school, I was awarded the 5th Kowloon Region Outstanding Student, in recognition of my academic, activities and conduct achievement. Moreover, I also won the Hong Kong Upward Mobility Scholarship. In the U.S., at college, I also received the Mosaic Scholarship. Therefore, I feel confident in studying psychology, which is full of complex ideas and concepts. Since I am a first generation immigrant in the United States, I have faced different personal and financial challenges there. Cultural shock is the major one. Not only that English is my second language, I am basically a shy girl who easily feel nervous to express myself. Nevertheless, things are getting better since I try my best to get used to a new environment, and actively join more activities and clubs to make more new friends, and exchange unique culture and knowledge. Instead of considering this personal experience as a challenge, I think it will help me understand the feelings of the disadvantaged groups I would like to serve in my intended career. Lacking financial resources is another challenge for me. I come from a low-income family which my father has retired and the whole family has largely relied on the little income of my mother. Therefore, I am now doing some part-time jobs to reduce the financial burden of my family. Although sometimes I feel tired to balance the time of studying and working, this challenge makes me become more persistent to strive for my goals and to earn a college degree. Besides, this unique experience has inspired me a lot because I can understand more the situation of the less disadvantaged in society, who may face similar challenges as I do. With this special experience, I am confident in becoming a good special education.


Farm Saelee
APIASF/Hilton Worldwide Scholarship
Hometown: Sacramento, CA
Institution: California State University, Sacramento
Major: Hospitality/Event Planning

I am a first generation college student and the first in my family to attend a four-year state university. My parents emigrated from Southeast Asia as refugees of war, to the United States in 1991. I knew that my parents wholeheartedly supported my choice to go to college and pursue higher education. I also knew that they would not be able to support my decision financially. Due to the fact that there were no precedents in my family, I had little to no guidance from my family on my academic journey to higher education. It was difficult and stressful to balance family matters, work, student organizations, and classes but I do not regret becoming involved with my campus and my local community. I feel as if I have thrived in the college environment and have made strides in my professional and personal development. I was able to meet inspiring leaders and find mentors at Sac State in programs like the Full Circle Project (FCP). I am also blessed to be able work alongside individuals that believe in me and share my volunteerism passion. Statistically speaking, I know that Southeast Asians have lower college retention and graduation rates and as a senior, I feel fortunate to be near the completion of my college education. I am grateful that there are scholarships and grants such as APIASF and AANAPISI that serve as available support for students like myself. It is encouraging and this scholarship will allow me to go on and work towards the betterment of the community and empower others to pursue higher education. This journey has not been an easy one but I am positive and I look forward to the many opportunities that await me.


Paul Lancero
APIASF/General Mills AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Lake in the Hills, IL
Institution: University of Illinois at Chicago
Major: Kinesiology

My Journey began during my Senior Year in Bartlett High School when I was an Executive Board Member of Health Occupational Student of America. I competed in the HOSA State Conference and specifically participated in the Physical Therapy event. This even required knowledge of rehabilitation exercises, hands-on execution, and proper evaluation. After relentless work, dedication, and using my brother as my "patient", I won 3rd place. After the medal was being placed around my neck, an epiphany struck: I want to become a Physical Therapist. The next step in my journey was attending Elgin Community College. Admittedly, ECC was not my first choice; however it became the right one. It became the right one because my family could not afford the costs of tuition at a University. Above all, ECC became the right choice because it has molded me into the character I am now. As a first generation college student, I joined a club called ASPIRE: a 1G College Student Organization. Due to this organization, it has helped expose me to many opportunities, resources, and experiences. More importantly, this organization had given me a new sense of motivation and work ethic that I applied to myself academically. I resonated with this organization and became the Vice President of ASPIRE and a New Student Orientation Leader. With my involvement, I discovered my passion in helping others. To follow through with my newly discovered passion, I organized a community service opportunity with Illinois Park Elementary and United Way called Reading Buddies. I helped raised over $15000 towards United Way of Elgin and was recognized and awarded the Jack Shales Community Service Award. Finally, I have helped create, plan, and execute events beneficial towards students such as Career Exploration Expo and Mock Interviews. It was a struggle to balance academics, family, work, and extracurricular activities. Nevertheless, it taught me the importance of time management, multi-tasking, and organization. As a result, the awards and accomplishment far exceeded the struggle. I walked through the doors of ECC with many doubts, but I left the institution with clarity, certainty, and confidence. ECC has prepared me with the necessary tools to survive my next challenge: University of Illinois at Chicago. With these newly acquired skills, I plan to enhance, apply, and innovate those skills as I continue down my path to Physical Therapy. My role as a leader will not be hindered, my passion to help others will not be ceased, and my motivation to succeed will not falter. Education is the key to know where I need to go, but what is learned outside the classroom becomes more critical to get to where I need to be.


Van Le
APIASF/Honda AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Institution: De Anza College
Major: Business/Finance

Studying is not about grades; it is what you can learn to improve yourself. Therefore, I have a study plan for myself of which classes I would take and when I would take them, based on what skills I needed to improve and how can the classes support each other. By studying, I do not intend taking the requirement courses to transfer and get a degree as soon as possible, but I care more about what I can learn and how the courses interact with each other to apply in real life situations as well as to develop my knowledge. In my first quarter at De Anza College, Public Speaking was not a priority for my current goal of transferring to San Jose State University, but I took it because I knew my weakness, and I wanted to improve myself. It was hard for me, as a non-native English speaker, not just speaking fluently but also behaving in front of many people. However, I got my chance to experience and overcome nervousness and anxiousness. The more I practiced, the more confident I was. Moreover, I could get feedback from my professor and classmates on what I needed to practice. Besides, I also observed my classmates to learn the good sides from them. My professor was not an easy grader, and I got a B for the first GPA course. However, I was proud of my grade B because that was certainly a proof of my improvement after such a hard work. After taking Public Speaking class, I am more confident and ready for other classes. This class also improved my communication skills, which helped me succeed in being a tutor. During the time pursuing my education at De Anza College, I realized that I should not limit myself with only one University goal, but I would apply for many others, including UC Berkeley, one of the best Universities in the United States. In addition, I plan to get higher education after a four-year degree. For many people, a higher education may define a better job, but to me, it is more than a job, a salary, or a good life for me. Therefore, I keep pushing myself to achieve higher goals because it makes me feel stronger when I have something to fight for in my life. Finally, if achievement is my purpose, knowledge is definitely my interest. I am interested in learning knowledge because I can apply the knowledge on real life circumstances. Moreover, I love experiencing how to connect everything I learn from school with the real world, and vice versa, how I can use my real life experience to support my study, so I can deeply understand and make my knowledge useful.


Mary Rose Mitra
APIASF/Guam Community College AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Yigo, GU
Institution: Guam Community College
Major: ESL Education

I am very thankful to be one of the recipients of the APIASF/Guam Community College AANAPISI Scholarship. Words cannot express how thankful I am to receive this scholarship. Growing up in a less privileged family has not only offered financial and academic challenges, but has also helped me realize the value of a college education. I am currently a full-time student at the Guam Community College fulfilling my Associate degree in Education. In the summer of 2016, I will be taking classes at the University of Guam to finish my Bachelor's degree in English and Secondary Education. I hope to teach English to a foreign country when I graduate college in 2018. It has always been my passion to make a difference in my community and in other communities. I hope to make even a small change in a student's life to see the smile and laughter in their faces. So receiving this scholarship is truly a blessing to my education. It will impact not only my financial need, but it will also help me take extra classes along the way, and fulfill my dreams and ambitions. Although life has been a struggle at times, I always tell myself to look at the bright side of every obstacle because each story can make a big difference.

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