2012 Award Winners

Anthony Almazan

Mira Loma High School, Sacramento

Anthony may call Sacramento, California, home, but he has left his heart in the Philippines. The child of first-generation immigrants, Anthony visited his parents’ hometown of Iriga City for the first time in 2007. Upon being introduced to the Ilian Tribal Settlements, located on the outskirts of Iriga City, he was struck not only by the level of poverty in the area, but by the incidence of water-borne illnesses among the residents. When he returned home, he and a group of students started the Ilian Water Project. Together, they raised money for 300 water pasteurization indicators, enough for almost every family in the tribal settlement. As a result of this project, and the latrines built by volunteer engineers, the incidence of water-borne disease in the tribal settlement is now half of what it was in 2007. Anthony plans to pursue a career working to aid communities like the Ilian tribe through public health policy, engineering, or medicine, continuing the development of proper sanitation and civic infrastructure.

Cara He

Skyline High School, Oakland

Cara serves as a peer educator in the HEART program, Helping Everyone Achieve Respect Today. In that capacity, she mediates conversations between teens and adults who may be uncomfortable talking about sexual health topics, helps women in her community express the problems they face with domestic violence, and reaches out to Asian women who are having difficulties speaking out about their abusive experiences. The HEART program has made Cara aware of the domestic violence that occurs behind the scenes in many Asian families. She helps others talk about sensitive subjects and provides support to others by listening to their problems and helping them overcome them. Cara plans to earn a degree in Sociology, with an Education minor. With insight and knowledge about abusive relationships, she wishes to educate others about this sensitive issue.

Allen Khai

Galileo Academy of Science and Technology, San Francisco

Allen devotes his time to serving and improving his community. One of the seediest parts of San Francisco, the Tenderloin can be an intimidating area for pedestrians of any age. At 13, Allen joined Keystone, a leadership program where teenagers volunteer to help the less fortunate and improve the community. As part of that work, Allen participates in Safe Passage, walking youth home from the Boys and Girls Club every night. In collaboration with the Tenderloin Police Station and the Chinatown Community Development Center, Allen and others painted yellow brick murals on the sidewalk to guide youth safely through the streets. He serves as an inspiring role model not only for the Tenderloin Boys and Girls Club, but for the Tenderloin community. Allen will attend the California Polytechnic State University, and plans to pursue a career in dentistry, to open a dental practice in the Tenderloin and become a Safe Passage for Dental Care, continuing to support those in need within his community.

Benjamin Lee

Modesto High School, Modesto

Benjamin lives in a community plagued with poverty, crime, gangs and drugs. Having lost childhood friends to the streets, Benjamin turned to The Bridge, a grant-funded community center that supports Southeast Asians in the Central Valley. Benjamin believes that it is important to reach out to the younger population. When he noticed that the center lacked a focus on youth, he collaborated with his peers to establish a youth council called The Bridge Youth Builders. As a leader within The Bridge Youth Builders, Benjamin has been a key motivator for the children and youth at the Bridge Community Center. This council focuses on early intervention through community service, with an eye to keeping youth away from crime, gangs and drugs. In collaboration with other youth councils, Benjamin and his peers have brought increased attention to and support for the Southeast Asian community in west Modesto. Benjamin plans to pursue a career as a family physician, bringing underprivileged families the most rewarding gift of all: a healthy lifestyle.

Pranita Rai

Oakland International High School, Oakland

Pranita knows firsthand what it’s like to live in a refugee camp. Until her early teens, this was the only life she knew: a leaky roof without running water or electricity. When her new life in the United States proved to be less than perfect, with language and cultural barriers, Pranita kept her mother’s words in mind: “Keep hope alive and never give up.” Learning to successfully balance her family and school activities, Pranita was soon recognized by Refugee Transition, who nominated her to be a Youth Refugee Leader. Pranita translates for new Nepalese immigrants and guides new students in school to help them adjust to their new community. She now serves as vice president of the Oakland International High School Leadership Club, which facilitates building a positive community by organizing cultural activities and community service. Upon graduating from university, Pranita plans to return to the refugee camps to help others change their life circumstances.

Zeenat Yahya

Concord High School, Concord

Zeenat jumped at the chance to accompany her father on a trip to India during the summer after her junior year in high school. Before she left, she raised funds and supplies to sponsor the education of two teenage girls in her parents’ home town of Baroda. Volunteering at an all-girls school in Baroda, Zeenat saw first-hand how poverty and hardship prevented many girls from completing their educations. So, when she got home to Concord, California, she founded Little Girl, Big Dreams, her own non-profit organization. Since then, she has been actively promoting and raising funds for her organization. By this summer, she hopes to have raised enough money to finish sponsoring the two girls she selected last summer, and also to sponsor two more girls. Zeenat’s dream is to one day see chapters of her organization throughout the United States, reaching out to other countries where young girls are suppressed, changing the lives of young women all around the world.