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64th Annual Merit Scholarship Awards

Updated: Nov 8, 2022

by Donna Chan Chu

We held our very first virtual get together for our 64th Annual Merit Scholarship Awards on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Life as we know it has changed and so has the way we honor and celebrate our scholarship winners, especially keeping in mind social distancing.

Over 50 people were able to either join us on ZOOM or watched live stream on Wa Sung’s Facebook. Download a replay HERE. We were quite surprised so many members joined in whom we haven’t seen in a long time.

The event started as I shared a brief history of Wa Sung. It all began in the early 1920’s with a social club of young Oakland Chinese men and boys. In 1953 this organization of men became the Wa Sung Service Club, whose purpose was to perform service for the Chinese community and to promote goodwill, understanding and friendship among everyone. And now 67 years later Wa Sung Community Service Club has over 200 members-men and women which also includes our Junior League.

A brief history of the Merit Scholarships was shared next. In 1962 the scholarships Wa Sung gave out were $50 each. It increased a few times over the years. In 2018 until now the scholarships Wa Sung provides are $1,500. This year we awarded 6 scholarships - 5 are $1,500 each and a special community service scholarship of $2,500.

45 applications were received this year-which quite amazed me with the pandemic state we are in now. These bright and knowledgeable young people were able to get everything needed to complete the extensive application packet that was required. Even with their schools closed they managed to get their transcripts, test scores and a recommendation letter just to name a few of the requirements. The Merit Scholarship Committee members- Adrienne Fong, Deborah Pan, Donna Chan Chu, Karen Dea, Peggy Woon and the essay readers- Annis Skousen, Audrey Huie, Becky Wong, Cyndee Lim, Karen Dea, Linyi Yu, and Peggy Woon spent quality time going over each application packet and essay and selected 6 amazing young people. Each applicant submitted an essay on the topic “What one person of Asian heritage living or not, would you want to meet? Why and what would you tell or ask this person?” Each award winner was given a chance to talk a little bit about their essay topic person they chose.

Every year we are able to award scholarships by our perpetual scholarship fund and our fundraising. We are thankful to those have supported our scholarship program by participating in fundraisers and in giving donations.

A special thank you was given to Esther Fong-Maynard who made a generous donation for a scholarship in memory of her husband, Sidney Fong.

Our Perpetual Scholarship Fund began in 1983 when Wa Sung received a generous gift with no strings attached. Other generous donations have received over the years to honor a cause or a loved one, whether living or departed. These endowment funds are created with a $10,000 or more outright gift or through a will or a trust. Currently we have 16 Perpetual Scholarships and next year, in 2021 we are excited to announce there will be four new perpetual scholarships. We are extremely thankful for all our generous donors who help make our Perpetual Scholarships possible each year.

President Deborah Pan spoke some encouraging words to the youth while quoting President Obama.

Last year’s Community Service Perpetual Scholarship winner and Junior League Representative

Lim Sung spoke about the benefits of being a Junior League member and encouraged them to join.

Here are our 6 scholarship recipients:

1. Eliza Huang received a $1,500 Wa Sung Merit Scholarship. A senior at American Indian College Prep HS, she will be attending UCLA majoring in Political Science. Her GPA is 4.33 and her SAT score is 1480. She is the President of AYSC-Asian Youth Services Committee, and a WS JL member. As a member of AYSC and WS JL plus being involved with Interact and Key Club at her school she has volunteered in many community events. Here is a quote from her AP English Instructor, “Eliza has already done a great deal as a high school student, and she has, time-and-time again, demonstrated a passion and drive to continuously move forward—no matter what challenges she might be faced with along the way—while still maintaining a careful balance between her many interests, her academics, and her family and friends.”

2. Tong Xin Yu also known as Emily Yu received a $1,500 Wa Sung Merit Scholarship. A senior at Oakland Technical HS, she will be attending UC Berkeley, majoring in pre Haas Business Administration. Her GPA is 4.21 and her SAT score is 1280. She is treasurer of AYSC and a WS JL member. As a member of AYSC and WS JL plus Tech’s Key Club she has volunteered in many community events. Here is a quote from her Student Support Specialist from the Race, Policy and Law Academy, “As an oldest sibling in a first generation immigrant household, Emily has had to navigate a lot of systems on her own. Emily happily takes on these challenges and excels with little to no help. The way she is able to stay so organized while looking out for her family is admirable. Emily is a leader not only at home as a mentor for her younger sister but also in school and in any program she is a part of. She never fails to amaze me with the direct, yet compassionate way she carries herself through the world.”

3. Hillary Ma received a $1,500 Wa Sung Merit Scholarship. A senior at Encinal HS, she will be attending UC San Diego, majoring in Ethnic Studies and Cognitive Science with Specialization in Design & Interaction. Her GPA is 4.27 and SAT score is 1280. She is the corresponding secretary of AYSC and WS JL member. As a member of AYSC and WS JL she has volunteered in many community events. Through her high school’s service-oriented club she has worked on various service projects, and has learned more about leadership and flexibility. Here is a quote from her AP US History teacher, “Hillary always performs at a superior level. Her work ethic is definitely one of her strongest driving forces, and she augmented her already strong skills of responsibility and organization with her work in my class. Hillary has grown so much through her volunteering efforts, and has learned to go outside her comfort zone, meet many different people from all walks of life, and discover that helping others is an integral part of her identity.”

4. Josie Chen received a $1,500 Wa Sung Merit Scholarship. A senior at Oakland Technical HS, she will be attending Harvard majoring in History & Science. Her GPA is 4.4 and her SAT score is 1470. Josie is a student leader and volunteer at Gracepoint Church in their Element Youth Group. While in this youth group she visits the elderly in care homes, prepares meals for the church’s congregation and has gone on mission trips to Cambodia. Currently she is in charge of Oakland Homegroup, a safe and open space for Oakland youth to explore their spirituality and Christianity. Her instructor from the Oakland Tech Health Academy writes this, “Josie is reflective of her place in the world and has come to the conclusion that she, along with everyone else, is responsible for fixing what’s broken and improving society for everyone. Many young people feel this way, but very few, however are active in solutions, discussions and educating others. Whether it’s Red Cross Club fundraising, UCSF interning or mentoring her classmates, Josie is an altruistic and thoughtful person. She tackles issues and obstacles with optimism and humility. These are qualities that myself and many adults are learning to continuously do.”

5. Lisa Xie, received the $1,500 Sidney Fong Memorial Scholarship. A senior at American Indian Public HS, she will be attending UCLA and majoring in Sociology. Her GPA is 4.53 and her ACT score is 27. As an AYSC member she has volunteered at Wa Sung’s Easter Pancake Breakfast and Christmas Wrap It Up. She has volunteered at the Chabot Space and Science Center in the Galaxy Explorer Program and at a non-profit furniture store under the African People’s Education and Defense Fund. She was also a teacher assistant for the summer program at the Chinese Presbyterian Church of Oakland. Her College Advisor had this to say about Lisa, “Lisa is a hard worker who will access every avenue to better her education while remaining appreciative of all the help. She doesn’t want it only for herself, but others as well. Her warmth has kept many of her peers afloat and positive. Her consistent progression in the classroom and around campus helps inspire her classmates to not be placid in their learning or growth. Lisa is the epitome (UH-PI-TUH-MEE) of not only a great student, but an exceptional human being.”

Unfortunately Lisa was not unable to be of part of the celebration due to a family obligation. We missed the opportunity to meet her, but wish her the best.

6. Chun Huang received the $2,500 Wa Sung Community Service Perpetual Scholarship. A senior at Oakland Technical HS, he will be attending UC Berkeley majoring in Architecture. His GPA is 4.0 and his SAT score is 1260. Chun is vice president and former publicist of AYSC and is a WS JL member. As an AYSC member Chun has received recognition and acknowledgements from Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, former Oakland Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick and Oakland Police Department Lieutenant Alan Yu. As a member of both WS JL and AYSC Chun has volunteered in many events in the Chinatown community and in numerous fundraisers. His swim coach wrote this, “Chun is deserving and will be successful in anything and everything he pursues. He works hard, learns from his mistakes and failures, and always has a smile and great outlook. Chun will be the first in his family to complete high school, go to college and graduate.”

After introducing each scholarship recipient, a short video individually created by Karen Dea was played showcasing their essay topic person.

At the end of the event, all the winners were encouraged to come back, join the JL if they haven’t already and participate in Wa Sung’s community events.

Two Wa Sung members were given special recognition, Jennifer Gee and Karen Dea. Jennifer for all her help in setting up the ZOOM event, the live streaming on Facebook and everything associated with the awards event. Karen who thought of virtual event to honor our scholarship recipients and for the unique and creative videos she did for each recipient.

We even took a photo at the end. What is a Wa Sung event if we don’t take photos? This year it was a screen shot so everybody was asked to not leave the ZOOM meeting.

The event ending with me thanking everyone for joining us on ZOOM and Facebook and being a part of this historical virtual event. I asked that they be kind, be safe, stay well with hopes we will be able to see each other in person soon.

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