2017 AANAPISI Scholar Profiles


Jordyn Paa
APIASF/Hilton Worldwide AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Haiku, HI
Institution: University of Hawaii, Manoa
Major: Tourism and Travel Services Management

Aloha mai kākou! Before I begin, I'd like to thank everyone who always had a negative connotation towards my current school and tried to persuade me to leave the islands. Because of you, you have motivated me to make a name for myself in my home state, and have become apart of my essays that have allowed me to become an APIASF scholar.

My name is Jordyn Paa, and I am a recent alumni of Maui High School. I am currently a full-time student at UH Manoa, balancing 5 classes with 2 jobs. So why do I put myself through so much stress during my freshman year you ask? That's because I've noticed the struggle that my parents have been going through for 18 years at numerous jobs to fulfill their dream, their dream of sending their twins to college at the same time. Fortunately for them, they fulfilled such dream, as my twin brother and I both attend UH Manoa together. However, now that I'm the legal age of what is considered to be an adult, I thought it was about time I repay the favor, and fulfill my dream of relieving them from the financial burden that they've faced within the past year.

Enrolling into a Division I college is quite an accomplishment not just for myself, but for my family as well. College wasn't necessarily a popular topic amongst the women in my family; all of my female cousins had become teen moms right out of high school. This only encouraged me to pave a different path for myself, and now, I'm currently pursuing a career in the TIM (Travel Industry Management) field.

With that being said, I'd like to thank you for bestowing me with the APIASF/Hilton Scholarship. You've blessed me with an award that encourages me to excel in my academia and pursue a dream that was deemed impossible for the women within my family. This scholarship was awarded to me at the right time, when finals had been weighing me down and sucking the life out of me for the past two weeks. The good news renewed my purpose as to why I chose to major in TIM in the first place. With this scholarship, I plan to pursue my bachelor's degree at the School of Travel Industry Management at UH Manoa. Once complete with my bachelor's degree, I hope to develop an interactive app that ties culture in with tourism 5-10 years down the road. But as of now, I'm proud that I've done the impossible, and I hope that my studious work has inspired not only my family, but local girls as well; I hope this shows them that you don't have to 'get off the rock' to become successful in life.


Vu Van
APIASF/Wells Fargo AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: San Jose, CA
Institution: San Jose State University
Major: Accounting

I'm an immigrant, a strong-willed one.

I come from Vietnam, and English is not my mother tongue. The greatest hurdle that I've ever faced and overcome was language barrier. I arrived in the US three years ago when I was 21. I trembled when I had to initiate a conversation with a native speaker, as I lacked vocabulary and topics to create interesting interactions with Americans or to maintain a high-quality conversation with them. Lots of effort has been spent so that I could improve myself in such a short time. Now, I can communicate fluently with the native, but I still have a long way to completely overcome the barrier.

I am currently a junior student majoring in Accounting at San Jose State University. I transferred from De Anza College in August 2017 where I majored in Business Administration.

To catapult my success in Accounting, I worked as an accounting tutor to have a solid foundation, since I believed the best way to learn and to enhance my knowledge base is to teach other people. To be able to help those students, I must reinforce my proficiency in accounting by re-reading, organizing, and connecting all concepts in the books which gradually sharpens my problem-solving skill and concretes my accounting base. Not only tutoring accounting, statistics is one of my subjects. I have been a statistics tutor for more than two years. In such a time, I earned a great deal of experience.

On the path to my academic and career goals, the APIASF/Wells Fargo Scholarship has helped me ease out the financial difficulty. I would like to give my appreciation to APIASF for everything.


Hung Do
APIASF/Coca-Cola Foundation AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Seattle, WA
Institution: South Seattle College
Major: Electrical Engineering

I lived in a rural area of Vietnam where lacking basic technology. My dream was to become an Electrical Engineering to bring electrical power to rural and remote areas. After high school, my dream was put on hold when my father lost his job. I took on partly responsibility of providing for my family by becoming a scooter taxi driver. Everyday felt hopeless as I wanted more for myself. In 2015, my family arrived and settled in New York, which was expensive. Ultimately, my parents chose to go back to Vietnam since we couldn't afford for all of us to stay in America. They had my sister and I stay in America to go to school. My parents' sacrifice reinvigorated my determination to pursue my childhood dream. In 2016, I moved to Seattle and began taking ESL courses at Seattle Goodwill. As other immigrants, my English skills were rudimentary. Most of the time I just tried to translate what I'm thinking from Vietnamese into English using limited vocabularies which was the biggest language barrier. I always have to force myself to interact with English speakers, especially when I found a job at Intercruises working for two big cruise ships. Shortly afterward, I transitioned to South Seattle College. As a first generation student going to college, I often felt lost and alone. In these moments, I always lift myself by the thought that no challenges can hinder my dream. My goal is to complete the Associate of Science at South, and then transfer to UW Seattle to major in Electrical Engineering, since I love breaking things as well as inventing useful tools.

Again, I would like to thank APIASF/Coca-Cola Foundation AANAPISI Scholarship for choosing me to be the recipient of this scholarship. I am very excited and honored to have been recognized by such a prestigious organization. This award brought me great joy and huge support. It lessens my worry in paying school tuition, my rental payment and other stuffs to be more focus on learning. More important, I can fulfill my responsible as a big brother to my little sister. Also, in the near future I can help other students who are in need, since life is a circulation of receiving help and giving back.


Kristine Joy Laurio
Hometown: Saipan, MP
Institution: Northern Marianas College
Major: Communications

I was born and raised on the island of Saipan, which is part of a chain of islands known as the Northern Mariana Islands. Throughout my life so far, my family has struggled financially. For many years my mom was the only one working and providing for my father, sister, and I. Even today our financial struggles still persist, but we continually work to overcome them. Because I am not able to receive financial support from family, my college plans were adjusted to accommodate this. Currently, I am a liberal arts major at the Northern Marianas College. After obtaining my Associate's Degree, I plan on transferring to a four-year institution with a major in communications.

Communications is a broad field in which much of my passions and interests fall under. But most importantly, a communications degree will better my ability to inform and challenge or influence viewpoints. This is important to me because I plan on working with nonprofit organizations and one day starting one of my own for LGBTQ+ youth.

Serving the community is important to me. Previously, I have served my community by tutoring kindergarten to fourth graders after school at my former elementary school, and even helped out in class during the school day. Over the course of a year, I completed over 700 hours of service.

I would like to thank APIASF/ETS AANAPISI Scholarship for supporting me on my academic journey. This investment will aid in my goals to further serve my local community and maybe others as well. For Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, I believe higher education should be pursued so that we can become leaders who others in our community can look up to. More representation for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders is important.

Once again, thank you so much APIASF/ETS AANAPISI Scholarship for your support! I am beyond grateful.


Ka Bao Lee
APIASF/Honda AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Minneapolis, MN
Institution: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Major: Nutrition

Hello, my name is Ka Bao Lee. Currently, I am a 5th year student majoring in Nutritional Studies at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. I am a proud Hmong woman, and was born and raised in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It's possible to say that I love my city, hence I chose to stay close to home and attend the University of Minnesota.

Throughout my time as a college student, I faced many challenges ranging from financial matters to family responsibilities, and also academic and career related issues. Not only am I a student, but I work a part-time job in between my classes on campus to support myself financially. While making sure I get enough work hours, I learned how to juggle schoolwork and remain organized. I have also struggled to participate in extracurricular activities that I would like to take part in because I commute from home and have an additional responsibility of grabbing my youngest brother from his school. With protective parents and everyone in the family working during the day, no one is available to pick up my youngest brother, so I have had to be flexible with organizing my class and my work schedule. In addition to these challenges, I was rejected from dental school during my third year of college, which caused my motivation in school to plummet. However, I found the will to overcome this set back by reflecting and finding what other options were out there for me, and I eventually found the answer.

Now, my biggest career goal is to become a registered dietician. Originally, coming into college I wanted to become a dental hygienist, but of course that didn't go as planned, and here I am pursuing nutrition. After I realized I enjoy learning about how foods help the body and how the body works with what one eats, I knew I wanted to take a leap of faith and go for nutrition. My goal is to graduate with my Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Studies, and work with Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) because I have a strong interest in women's health and working with minorities. After gaining some experience, I plan to return to school and get my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics. Becoming one of the few Hmong dieticians or nutritionists out there will be one of the greatest honors for me because I want to give back to my community by educating them about healthier alternatives when it comes to our cultural diet, and motivating everyone to become healthier.

Finally, I will like to thank my scholarship donor, APIASF/Honda AANAPISI Scholarship. Thank you for awarding me with this scholarship. This scholarship will surely help me in continuing to meet my long-term personal, educational and career goals of pursuing the field of Nutrition by going towards my college expenses. Thanks to you, I will be able to accomplish greater things, give back to my community in the near future, and educate people in healthy eating.


Mohammad Rumee
APIASF/Strada Education Network AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Milpitas, CA
Institution: Mission College
Major: Computer Science

My name is Mohammad Rumee and I am a first-year student at the Mission College, Santa Clara. I have been always passionate about being a computer scientist and make the world better through technology. So, I am currently doing a bachelor in Computer Science. Bangladesh, the country where I was born and raised, freedom of choice is not practiced widely. Thus, I had to always live in someone else's dream. But, coming to the United States has changed my life and I am able to follow my dream now.

As a first generation in college and with no financial support of family, I have had hard time to figure out how I would pay for my education. Financial aids and scholarships are huge opportunities for me. Education is the only option that can lead me to a better life. Mission College is a very diverse institution, so I have joined a few student organizations such as Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA), Extended Opportunity Program and Services (EOPS). I also look forward to being engaged in many ways in the future.

I always want to giving back to my community as much as possible. I have recently joined Reading Partners and been volunteering as a tutor. I am also planning to join AmeriCorps next year. In future, I want to start my own tech company and help the society through my work. I want to make the job available for underprivileged people in the community.

I want to thank APIASF/Strada Education Network AANAPISI Scholarship for helping me with my higher education through this scholarship. Financial aid is such help that I will always be grateful for I am beyond grateful for the APIASF/Strada Education Network AANAPISI Scholarship. When I found out that I was a recipient of the APIASF/Strada Education Network AANAPISI Scholarship, I was truly honored. So, thank you Strada Education Network AANAPISI Scholarship for your tremendous support.

It is important for Asian American and Pacific Islander students to pursue higher education because we have seen how hard our parents worked and how little they could do because of a higher education. We deserve the same opportunities as others. After immigrating to a new country and a whole new culture, we should be able to lead a better life through higher education and to be a part of the community as well as good citizen.


Kaelia Lynn Saniatan
The Walt Disney Company/APIASF AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Mountain View, HI
Institution: University of Nevada, Las Vegas
Major: Biochemistry

Higher education has always been a goal of mine, especially because that would make me a first generation student. My family has always supported me and pushed me to go to college, only because they wanted to the best for me. My biggest motivator would be my mother. She is a single parent of two and raised my sister and

I to the best of her ability. Growing up was hard, but it was manageable. We didn't have the most money or the nicest things, but we made while with what we had. Being said, college was a topic of difficulty because although my mother wanted me to go, she wouldn't know how we would make it financially. This became my motivation to excel in my academics.

I attended a private, college preparatory, middle and high school. In high school, I took numerous AP, honors, and college courses and was involved in the Interact Club to help me reach my goal of getting to college. Luckily for me, all of my hard work paid off and I was able to graduate from high school with Honors and a 3.98 GPA, and now am a freshman at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. I am currently majoring in Biochemistry in hopes to go to a professional pharmacy school.

Science and math have always been my topic of interest because I enjoy seeing an instant reaction. Also because with science it's applied knowledge, where we can physically do the problem and measure the results. I want to become a pharmacist because I enjoy helping others and seeing them improve! I want to make an impact in my community of Hawai'i

Although I was working hard for my future, the main reason I wanted to succeed is for my Mother. I want her to look back and be proud of me once I have completed reaching my goals. By awarding me with this scholarship, you are helping me on my journey of giving back to my family and my community. Thank you so much to you, The Walt Disney Company, and the APIASF, for giving me the opportunity to pursue my degree. Like I've said before, finances were always one of my family biggest struggles, but with your generosity, I am able to continue forward on my path to success!


Benjamin Tran
APIASF/Walmart Foundation AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: San Gabriel, CA
Institution: University of California, Irvine
Major: Political Science

"What do you speak, Mandarin or Cantonese?" is probably the most cookie cutter question I receive when I tell people of my Chinese ethnicity. I have practiced the reply to this question thousands of times, "Neither, I speak the Teochew dialect, from the Southeast region of China kind of close to Taiwan." I grew up learning and speaking my ancestral dialect of Teochew which I always found as a blessing and a curse. Knowing my dialect connected me a lot to my roots and my culture. However, as a language that is much less known in the United States there are a lack of resources to learn it. My parents were really the only reliable resource I had to learn the language. This limited my vocabulary to what they saw as important and relevant to teach me.

This already made it a struggle to pursue my studies in political science as well as a career in civics and government. Not only did my parents not see importance in my field, but I had no idea how to explain to them in our dialect what I was passionate about. This has got to be one of my hardest struggles, knowing that no matter how well I attempt to explain it, my parents might never fully understand the work that I do. Despite all this, my parents are the inspiration for why I want to pursue this path.

My father was a refugee of the Vietnam war and my mother an immigrant sponsored over by my father. I've grown with the understanding that my life, all the opportunities and joys that have come with it, was a privilege I was allowed. The people who supported refugee policies after the Vietnam War and further assisting families to immigrate to the United States fought for my future. I understand the power of policy and why I must continue to take on that fight to help future posterity have the same opportunities I did.

I would like to thank the APIASF/Walmart Foundation AANAPISI Scholarship for believing in me and other students like myself. As a student who has had to work every single quarter of college to help relieve the financial stresses of my family, it is empowering to know that there are resources to allow more to access a quality education and a better future. Using this scholarship, I want to finish my studies in political science and am looking to continue my work in civics and government. While I am not 100% certain on my path, I'm looking towards cities like Los Angeles, Sacramento, and Washington D.C. as my next destinations in life.


Marie Baluyot
APIASF/Wells Fargo Foundation Lunar New Year AANAPISI Scholarship
Hometown: Concord, CA
Institution: California State University, East Bay
Major: Human Development

My name is Marie Baluyot and I am a first generation, mixed-race student at California State University, East Bay. I am 23 years old and pursing a degree in human development with a biology minor.

I am the second child of a single mom. My parents divorced before I turned a year old. I lived with my mother in California and my sister lived with my father in the Philippines. Income was very limited. Participation in school activities and events was limited due to low income. I lived with food insecurities. My view of family was just my mother and I. I watched my mother work long hours, often times throughout the night, just to meet the basic necessities to survive living in the San Francisco Bay Area. At times my academics struggled because of absence of mentorship. My relationship with my father and older sister was poor because of lack of contact. I encountered a mixture of personal, financial and academic challenges. While in high school I developed positive relationships with my teachers and advisors. I was able to access more community resources, such as after school programs and spiritual youth groups, to help me connect to others for support and guidance. The more knowledge and experience I gained through each challenge, I learned that I can make a difference in the quality of my life, my future and others as well.

When I received the congratulatory email, I felt very surprised, yet very honored and proud. I have a chance to make a difference. I shared the news with my friends and family and received continued encouragement and support.

With the help of this scholarship I can focus my time less on work and focus on achieving those A grades I was never able to achieve due to my financial struggles. Upon completion of my bachelor's degree, I want to pursue a career in dentistry and apply for dental school.

I am so thankful for the APIASF/Wells Fargo Foundation Lunar New Year Scholarship. This scholarship will help me to better acclimate myself to my new school. I plan to become more involved in my school's community with clubs and events. Giving back to my community is also on my list after graduating as I want to become involved in the planning of city clean up days more than once a year. It is so important for the APIA students to pursue higher education, because we are often looked at as a minority, but together we can make a difference and tell them we did it!

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