Meet Our 2017 ATG Scholarship Winners

The ATG Scholarship Committee is proud to announce our 2017 Scholarship Winners. Scored based on strength of GPA, leadership/community involvement, portfolio/video submission, essays, letters of recommendation and a final phone interview, we chose ten students who are brilliant, shining examples of what it means to go Against The Grain. We are truly proud of this exceptional group and look forward to all that we know they will accomplish for their vocation and for the Asian American community in the future.

And the winners are:

ATG Artistic Scholarship

  • Yasmeen Anand
  • Mai-Phuong Bui
  • Maia Schmidt
  • Lauren Huynh
  • Inaara Muhammad

Bruce & Pat McRae Artistic Scholarship

  • Serena Shen

#LiveLikeLyly Memorial Scholarship

  • Uyen Truong
  • Alyssa Domenico

Groundbreaker Leadership Scholarship

  • Nataly Keomoungkhoun

Lily Pabilona Emerging Entrepreneur Scholarship

  • Jessica Lee


Yasmeen Anand | 17 years old | GPA: 4.4 | University of Southern California; Theatre | Indian/Pakistani

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

To go against the grain is to take the road less traveled. It may not be straightforward or easy and it may be bumpy at some points, but it is clear that it is the right path.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

When my grandmother grew up in Pakistan, she longed to sing and dance, but her father would not allow her to, because he didn’t think it was appropriate for a young Muslim girl. My grandmother spent her whole life longing to do what I have the privilege to study and do everyday of my life. I ‘Go Against The Grain’ by defying cultural norms and embracing my passion for theatre each and every day.”


Mai-Phuong Bui | 20 years old | GPA: 3.9 | Virginia Commonwealth University; Graphic Design | Vietnamese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

‘Going Against The Grain’ means to have the courage, readiness and ultimately enthusiasm to improve and excel. It’s a process that is both internal and external, both personal and communal or global. As I understand it, it is learning to be a better version of yourself, even if it exposes you to the discomfort of recognition harmful ideology you have internalized; or striving to help the community and those in need, even if that means confronting obstacles. To ‘Go Against The Grain’ is to step out of your comfort zone and challenge the norm, the stereotype and the systematic hate. As much as it is fighting the hateful voice inside your head, and outside your head, ‘Going Against The Grain’ is also embracing who you are and what you could be, uncensored and unashamed, especially within a current society that discourages self-love if you fail to adhere to the ‘standard.’ ‘Going Against the Grain’ does not seem to be the easiest adventure, and not everyone has the privilege to safely do so. That is why those who can shall have the bravery to come together and create the changes that the world needs and wants to see.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

Decolonizing my thoughts is my current top priority as I ‘Go Against The Grain.’ I’ve found myself to have internalized a lot of harmful ideologies that sprout from my upraising in a toxic society – some of them being internalized transphobia and anti-blackness – thus, divorcing myself from them becomes the first step to better myself. Having discussions and getting educated on those matters are what I try to do regularly. Otherwise, my design practice seeks to explore and embrace Vietnamese culture, aspects that are overlooked by America as they hyperfocus on their guilt about the Vietnam War and nothing else – to preserve the culture for me, as well as the Vietnamese American community and normalize our existence in America, specifically within the American design scene.”

Maia Schmidt | 18 years old | GPA: 3.96 | Manhattan School of Music; Violin Performance | Chinese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“‘Going Against The Grain’ is challenging what society deems “normal.” It is the act of stepping outside one’s comfort zone to be authentically unique and not be afraid to show the world who you really are. Those who are ‘Going Against The Grain’ push boundaries and overcome adversity to be agents of change and lead others to make a real difference in our world.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

I am able to ‘Go Against The Grain’ through sharing my love for music. Throughout high school, I shared my love of music with the next generation. I taught at-risk inner-city children to not only learn an instrument but to also appreciate a piece of classical music and understand that music making is more than just playing the right notes – it’s about expressing your emotions and becoming vulnerable. Music has always provided a place where differences vanish and everyone speaks the same language. 

Now, as I embark on my freshman year of college, I am discovering new ways of ‘Going Against The Grain.’ In addition to spending hours in the practice room, I have joined the student council and the mental health committee, which has a partnership with an organization called the JED Foundation, in the hopes of improving life not just on campus but also in the community.

I look forward to getting new opportunities to share my music. Later this year, I hope to perform at community hospitals, senior centers and public schools, and perhaps as an upperclassman, even teach again as a full teacher. I know that I will never stop trying to share my love of music with others and this is how I can go beyond just being a musical performer.”

Lauren Huynh | 18 years old | GPA: 4.0 | Texas Christian University; Dance | Vietnamese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain”?

When adding a grain of salt to a bland dish you are making a difference in the taste of your food. It may not be a noticeable difference, but the food is tastier than it had been originally. By adding several more grains of salt, your food is heightened when compared to the original taste. The same goes for individuals who decide that the same old, same old is just too bland. The people who decide to go against societal norms are the individuals who are capable of fully embracing who they are. These people are the people who make a difference, like grains of salt in food. To go “Against The Grain” is to be true to who you are and embrace what you believe in, even if that means going against the heavy social current of our society. These few “grains of salt” in our society are the people who have the ability to make a difference in this world.

How do you go “Against The Grain”?

I have decided to go “Against The Grain” and pursue an art form that has the ability to move others and teach the world about our shared humanity. It is an art form that most don’t see as a career, and is one that takes up a lot of time to pursue. I have gone “Against The Grain” to pursue something that I believe will make a difference in the world, despite what the critics are saying. In high school I could never do what most kids did at my high school. I was too busy rehearsing at the studio, but I’ve learned that that this hard work in return has given me so much more than what a party would. I have grown to love what I’m doing so much that I intend to spread it to the world, as an artist and hopefully later as a teacher. I went “Against The Grain” to pursue what I love, and now go “Against The Grain” to spread the rippling effects of what the arts can bring to society.

Inaara Muhammad | 18 years old | GPA: 3.98 | UC Berkeley; Pre-Business and Media Studies (Journalism) | Pakistani

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“To me, ‘Going Against The Grain’ means paving your own path, persevering through life’s unknowns and taking risks with a confident smile. While society sets a specific standard for behavior, ‘Going Against The Grain’ enables an individual to follow the norms that allow the him or her to shine and lead others, promoting them to also follow what they stand for. Though not always appreciated or even accepted, individuals who ‘Go Against the Grain’ follow their heart and let their goals drive their journey.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“A quote that’s always stuck with me is ‘If you can’t be the poet, be the poem.’ I always follow my heart with the decisions I make, and let my values guide me, even when others are doing something different. Moreover, my writing has become my avenue to raise my voice against overlooked injustices in society, representing those like me who stand for a change. In life, I went ‘Against the Grain’ when I left my life and routine in Texas to attend university in California, despite the financial responsibility and unfamiliarity it would bring upon me. People claim that there are sometimes severe prices to pay for dreams, but I believe that these so called ‘prices’ are what drive and shape dreams.”


Serena Shen | 18 years old | GPA: 3.9 | New York University; Art, Design, Psychology and Technology | Chinese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“‘Going Against The Grain is resistance; it is activism – refusing to give in to complacency in the face of calamity. ‘Going Against The Grain’ is pursuing what you believe in, even if you are the only one doing so. It is raising your voice, when you are told to be quiet, ‘I deserve to be up there as much as you do.'”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

“‘Going Against The Grain’ is the boiling in my blood that rouses the muscles in my arms and hands to press into paper, to stain clean white canvases with my brushstrokes, my opinions, my soul. I ‘Go Against The Grain’ by resisting the “model minority” myth that deceives so many of my Asian brothers and sisters, by educating myself and educating others through my work. I ‘Go Against The Grain’ by creating activist art; creating designs that raise awareness and hope that may someday be raised in protest.”


Uyen Truong | 19 years old | GPA: 3.96 | Fashion Institute of Technology, New York; Fashion Design | Vietnamese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

To me ‘Going Against the Grain’ means going against the pressure and stereotype that people already mold you into based on your background, ethnicity, age, gender, etc. It takes courage to step out of your comfort zone, to stand up for what you believe and do things that people (even yourself, sometimes) tell you that you cannot do. It is a ‘personal mission,’ a journey that motivates you to hold on tight to your dreams and believe in yourself. It means when no one believes in you or when life hit you with a thousand of obstacles, you still be able to smile and fight back for your own battle because that is how ‘Against The Grain’ truly is.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

To go ‘Against The Grain,’ I will first keep my career goal straight by pursuing a higher education in the creative field as I always wanted to pursue. From there I will work my way up with all my heart and soul to accomplish my biggest dream of becoming a fashion designer. I hope that one day, I will be able to use my own life story not only to motivate the youngsters to confidently pursue their passions but also to remold people narrowed ideal of what is success. I will continue spreading this message to the community because that is the simplest, yet most effective way that I can do to go ‘Against The Grain.'”

Alyssa Domenico | 18 years old | GPA: 3.93 | Pratt Institute; Fashion Design | Chinese

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

“I think that ‘Going Against The Grain’ means that you are steadfast in your ideas and beliefs, regardless of the conventional wisdom of the moment. What is in vogue today is important as a starting point and as a means of comparison as to how my own ideas will be perceived. Yet ideas that are in vogue today will be passé tomorrow. New ideas will take their place and go against the grain by pushing past existing standards. ‘Going Against The Grain’ is about standing out and utilizing individualism to promote what is important. The key is to understand that new ideas are not fighting the norms or stereotypes in society, but bringing to light something exciting which can move those norms in a fresh direction. As someone who wants to work in an artistic industry with a million other creative minds, it is important to maintain your own vision and not just focus on the mainstream.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

I ‘Go Against The Grain’ by creating pieces of work that truly represents myself irrespective of the expectations of the moment. By this I mean that new and exciting ideas are born, not by conforming to a preconceived notion of doing things, but by letting artistic abilities flow out into creations. There is a fine line here. One cannot simply rebel and create styles purely for the purpose of being outlandish. There is more to art than simply continuing to get more and more radical to the point of something being gimmicky. Due to the resistant nature of the general public, there are some changes that need to happen slowly. For example, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “China: Through the Looking Glass” exhibit is a perfect example of how Asian influence is slowly, but increasingly, affecting the fashion world. As a Chinese American, it’s interesting to see how much western and eastern culture has combined with each other to make fresh and interesting designs. As someone who wishes to go into an industry that carries a lot of weight in popular culture, I hope to continue to use Asian influences in my designs. I also wish to introduce even more diverse models into the industry in regards to size, height, ethnicity and just generally less mainstream looking people. I want to be part of a change that advances fashion as well as social norms.


Nataly Keomoungkhoun | 22 years old | GPA: 3.796 | University of Southern California; Journalism | Laotian

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

When I was an undergrad, I learned about the power of conformity. Conformity is the idea that people will do certain things because others are doing it. It’s an easy thing to do, especially as a young and impressionable kid. But just because something is easy doesn’t make it right, and it doesn’t always represent who you are. To conform is to go ‘with the grain.’ Going ‘Against The Grain’ is a different story. It’s harder to go ‘Against The Grain’ because it forces you to be vulnerable. It’s saying ‘no’ when everyone around you is saying ‘yes.’ It’s asking questions in class because you’re not afraid to admit that you don’t understand a thing. It’s about thinking your own thoughts rather than allowing others to do the thinking for you. ‘Going Against The Grain’ doesn’t mean you have to speak out about everything; it’s about being yourself. ‘Going Against The Grain’ is finding comfort in your individuality, being passionate about what you believe in and spreading your influence to others.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

I want to be a journalist. Journalism isn’t an easy profession; writing is hard to do, and it’s even harder when faced with the criticism of today’s world. However, journalism has the power to hold people accountable and gives a voice to those who can’t be heard – I hold those aspects of journalism close to me. I’m ‘Going Against The Grain,’ because being a journalist in today’s world means standing up to people in power and risking it all for what you believe in. My goal is to bring light to the truth during the darkest of times, and I will defend the pillars of journalism because it’s what I love to do.”


Jessica Lee | 18 years old | GPA: 3.64 | University of California, Los Angeles | Chinese (Cantonese from Hong Kong)

What does it mean to go “Against The Grain?”

To ‘Go Against The Grain’ means to pursue your dreams, no matter what obstacles that may discourage you from following your heart. It means to go against the norm and to not be afraid of failure.”

How do you go “Against The Grain?”

I ‘Go Against The Grain’ because I believe in myself and what I can accomplish! Despite growing up as an Asian American in an environment focused on studies and conventional achievement, I focused on my personal goals and took risk.

As a freshman in high school, I dreamed of becoming a college gymnast, but after serious injury, I was forced to retire. I decided to start my own clothing store and donate its profits to cancer relief, a concept unheard of four years ago. Although it was difficult to get started, I never gave up because I hoped to inspire others to make a difference in the world. ‘Going Against The Grain’ is an unconscious thing; it’s the struggle against the odds in order to accomplish something genuine that you are passionate about.”

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