PRESS RELEASE: AACI Celebrates Winners of Growing Up Asian in America Contest and Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Heroes in Our Community

PRESS RELEASE: AACI Celebrates Winners of Growing Up Asian in America Contest and Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Heroes in Our Community

May 3, 2021


AACI Celebrates Winners of Growing Up Asian in America Contest and Asian American & Pacific Islander Heritage Month Heroes in Our Community

AACI Contact: Sarah Guertin | Sarah.Marr-Guertin@aaci.org | (408) 975-2071| aaci.org

SAN JOSE, CA – AACI is excited to announce the student winners from the 26th annual Growing Up Asian in America contest and our Asian Pacific American Community Heroes as part of this year’s celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month.

Every year, AACI hosts the Growing Up Asian in America program in partnership with NBC Bay Area. The contest celebrates Asian Pacific American Heritage Month by giving voice to the varied experiences of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) youth throughout the Bay Area and encourage this next generation of leaders to take pride in their heritage through creative self-expression. The contest is generously supported by our sponsors and community partners Bank of America, Microsoft, Connie Young Yu, Raul Gorospe, Comcast, Asian Pacific Fund, Farrington Foundation, HomeLight, and Asian Art Museum.

“[Bank of America] is very proud to be supporting AACI’s annual Growing Up Asian in America art, essay, and video contest again this year,” Bank of America Asian Leadership Network co-chair Amy Mallo shared. “Many of these entries highlighted the challenges that the Asian community is facing during the pandemic and offered a positive message of hope for recovery and resilience.” See her full remarks here.

This year’s theme, “This is My Time,” brought in over 600 entries from K-12th grade Bay Area students of all backgrounds and ethnicities. Students submitted art, essays and videos sharing the challenges they and their family and community have faced over the last year and their dreams for a post-pandemic future. This year’s best in class and honorable mention winners include remarkable students of Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese, Taiwanese and other ethnic backgrounds. Each Best in Class winner shared their thoughts, and inspirations about their winning entry below.

Bay Area students receiving the Lance Lew Grand Prize, Best in Class and Honorable Mention awards for art, writing and video and their winning entries can be found at http://www.aaci.org/guaa.

Their names and their video responses about what inspired their work can be found below:

Lance Lew Grand Prize:

  • Yanni Zhong – Grand Prize Winner (and Best in Class Winner for 9-12 Art)

Best in Class Winners:

Honorable Mention Winners:

“This year has been a difficult year for our communities. Through the Growing Up Asian in America contest, we celebrate the hope and vision for the future that these young artists represent,” said NBC Bay Area’s Lance Lew, co-founder of the contest. “Since I first founded this contest 26 years ago, the contest has provided a platform to amplify the voices of Asian American youth and that continues to be incredibly needed and important today.”

Also to be honored are four Asian Pacific American Community Heroes. These honorees represent the impact and dedication that our diverse API communities bring to the Bay Area local community.

This year, the Asian Pacific American Heritage Month honorees are:

Dr. Connie Wun

Co-Founder and Executive Director of AAPI Women Lead

Dr. Wun’s work is a reflection of her lifelong commitment to ending racial and gender-based violence. Her areas of expertise include community-driven research, violence against women and girls of color, school discipline and punishment. Dr. Wun is the Director of Transformative Research – a research, program evaluation, and training institute that works in partnership with community-based organizations to end racial and gender disparities. Dr. Wun’s video response can be found here.

Dr. Wun’s message to the next generation of API leaders:

“Our communities have been survivors of racial violence, gender-based violence, colonial wars for generations and here in the United States and across its territories. We are still surviving a lot of violence.  I am hopeful now because that there is more attention around the violence and around our histories of resistance and I am even more hopeful that we will be doing this work with other communities of color to create a different world in which our communities are relying on each other and taking care of one another so that harm is not possible and if it is enacted we will hold each other accountable and do better.  I trust our next generation is already doing it, our job is to take care of them.”

Quyen N. Vuong

Co-founder and Executive Director of International Children Assistance Network (ICAN)

Quyen Vuong immigrated to the United States as an unaccompanied minor refugee coming from Vietnam.  That experience shaped Quyen’s path to go into nonprofit work and giving back to the community. She founded ICAN because she wanted children to have strong cultural roots and address their struggles growing up in America and especially helping them to answer the question, “who am I?”.  She serves on the Board of Directors and Advisors of many organizations, including Healthier Kids Foundation, San Jose Children’s Discovery Museum, Mission College AANAPISI Committee.   In 2012, Ms. Vuong was appointed by President Obama to serve on the Board of Trustees of the Vietnam Education Foundation, a US federal nonprofit agency with the mission to improve bilateral relationship between the two countries through educational exchange in STEM fields. Quyen’s video response can be found here.

Quyen’s message to the next generation of API leaders:

“Know who you are and be proud of who you are. Do not brush it aside.  Embrace your own cultural roots early on, that will only make you a richer person.”

Felwina Opiso-Mondina

Executive Committee Member, Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants (PAWIS)

After living in the Philippines for 38 years, where she worked as a Court Attorney in the Phil. Court of Appeals-Mindanao, Felwina migrated to the U.S. and began to study and work in the legal system here. She finished her Masters of Law at Santa Clara University in 2016, passed the California Bar and was admitted to the State Bar of California. Currently a member of the Pilipino Association of Workers and Immigrants (PAWIS), Felwina works with Filipinos, particularly caregivers working in Residential Care Facilities for the Elderly (RCFEs) and nursing/assisted living facilities who have wage theft and immigration issues. In addition, she participates in the Employment Law Clinic of the Katharine and George Alexander Law Center and is part of the Santa Clara County OLSE Advice Line. She speaks fluent Tagalog and Visayan. Felwina’s video response can be found here.

Felwina’s message to the API community:

“We deserve to be here in this country, we have every right to live, to work safely, to work with dignity and to breathe in this country.  We should stand strong.  We also need to study about racism and understand and be self-reflective about how we perceive blackness and break the colonial mentality.”

Nguyen Pham

Advocate for the unhoused community

Nguyen immigrated to the United States as a young person with his parents.  He wanted to give back and started by helping monolingual Vietnamese seniors.  Nguyen was eventually introduced to the unhoused community.  He wanted to help, he started using his own funds to feed the community, helping connect folks to jobs and also assisting unhoused individuals with claiming their stimulus funds.  In November 2020 Nguyen was one of five volunteers at Grace Baptist Church to be stabbed by a homeless man he was helping. Just one week after the incident he started coming back to serve homeless individuals again.  Currently, Nguyen is an Analyst for the City of San Jose and is helping to lead the effort to vaccinate the unhoused community and recently hosted an event, in partnership with AACI, to vaccinate 540+ individuals against COVID-19. Nguyen’s video response can be found here.

Nguyen’s message to the API community:

“When you see a person who is homeless, who is struggling, it is often our mentality to ask ourselves ‘How did you get here?  Why did you let yourself become this way?’  Let’s change the narrative a little bit and instead ask ‘How do I help you to go from here?’  Let’s change our mindset.”

“Our API honorees this year have shown amazing leadership, with helping our community through the pandemic and being bold against racism and anti-Asian hate,” said AACI President and CEO, Sarita Kohli. Full remarks can be found here.

About AACI 
Founded in 1973, AACI is one of the largest community-based organizations advocating for and serving the marginalized and vulnerable ethnic communities who face barriers to accessing health and wellness services in Santa Clara County. Our many programs address the health and well-being of the individual and advances our belief in providing care that goes beyond just health, but also provides people a sense of hope and new possibilities. Current programs include behavioral and primary health services, substance abuse prevention and treatment, center for survivors of torture, shelter and services for survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, senior wellness, youth programs, and community advocacy.