2004 Taiwanese American Outstanding Youth Awards

Greater Washington D.C. Metropolitan Area

Andrew Johannes Lai         Loa Iwhaam

Taiwanese-American: a word with deep meaning and emotional significance. It’s not merely a simple phrase to describe my ethnicity, but rather, an expression that brings back memories of an Asian culture that I have had the privilege of experiencing my entire life.


My Taiwanese-American heritage is something that I have never taken for granted. Growing up with Taiwanese as my first language, I studied "Taioaan bunsuhoad", Modern Literal Taiwanese, for five years at the Washington D.C. Taiwanese School. . My memories of Taiwanese School and the annual celebration of the Lunar New Year, Taiwan Night, are rich and varied. I still recall my first performance in Taiwan Night as a first-grader: dressed in green with a shell strapped on my back, I played the part of the tortoise in the play “Kw kab Peqthox? the “Tortoise and the Hare.?Now that I am older, I no longer sing and act out fairy tales, but Taiwan Night is a gala event that I still attend every year. For the 2002 Taiwan Night, I stepped out of my role as an audience member to serve as the Master of Ceremonies for the Taiwanese Youth Arts Foundation.


In addition to striving for academic excellence, extracurricular activities contribute to a significant part of my life. Having played the violin for ten years, I am currently a member of the American Youth Philharmonic. With the orchestra, I was given the privilege to perform in the World’s Largest Concert broadcasted across the globe. At school, I serve as the concertmaster for the Symphonic Orchestra. This year, my peers elected me as the president of the Westfield Symphonic Orchestra. Aside from violin, tennis has played an important role in my life. Since freshman year, I have played on the school varsity tennis team, which placed 2nd in districts in 2002. Furthermore, I have competed in the United States Tennis Association high school division tournament for the past three years.


My Asian heritage and cultural experiences are not only limited to Taiwan, but encompass Japan as well. I have studied the Japanese language for twelve years. In elementary school, I participated in the Japanese Partial-Immersion program, in which I learned math and science from a Japanese teacher. My experience with Japanese culture culminated in the summer of 2003, when I was granted a full scholarship to travel Japan for three weeks as an exchange student. Without a doubt, the US High School Diplomats International Friendship Program was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was among 26 students who were selected across the nation to participate in the cultural exchange program. The privileges of touring Japan, living with a host family, and residing with a Japanese roommate were priceless.


I feel extremely fortunate to have been given all these wonderful opportunities in my life which have shaped me into the person I am today. My only hope is that I will be able to give back to the world what I have gained and to enable others to experience the same privileges that I have been afforded. 


Andrew Lai is the son of Mr. Koklioong Loa and Mrs. Liutyn Cviuo.



Elaine Chang      

Every summer vacation, I look forward to my grandparents coming to visit my family.  My grandmother makes bahzaxng and bafnth0o, and my grandfather teaches me Japanese.  But what I’m most grateful for is that they speak Taiwanese with me.  If it weren’t for their yearly visits, I might have become a monolingual English speaker by now.  I would no longer have access to a crucial piece of my identity and self-image


Understanding the importance of the elderly has put new meaning into my extracurricular activities.  Last year, I started a group at my high school that visits a nursing home once a week.  Simply talking to the senior citizens there, I have learned how important it is to live such a finite life to the fullest.  It is an opportunity to get away from the fast-paced and highly successful society of TJ, where I am reminded of the responsibility I have to the less fortunate - physically, intellectually and socio-economically. 


Sometimes I play piano or violin at the nursing home. Now, I realize how fortunate I am to have been given the chance to learn music.  Playing piano for 12 years and violin for 8 has taught me discipline, self-motivation, and how to love classical music.  Music has also been a way for me to meet new people and to enjoy living in the present moment, rather than dwelling in the past or planning the future.


My grandparents have infused a love for Japanese culture in me.  Growing up during the Japanese occupation of Taiwan, they were taught Japanese in school. They brought Japanese food and language into my life.  I am taking Japanese 5 in school right now, and last summer, I received a scholarship to go on a trip to Japan.  This experience was possibly the most worthwhile four weeks of my life.  It was an incredibly unique opportunity - I doubt that there are any other similar programs for high school students. I will especially remember my stay Hiroshima.  I became friends with a Hiroshima survivor, held a ceremony in honor of high schoolers that were killed by the bomb (in which I read a speech in Japanese), and discuss foreign policy with other students. I became acutely aware of the interconnectedness of the world - what happens on one side of the globe often affects the people on the other side.  Realizing that this trend of globalization and shrinking distance between countries is unavoidable, I have become committed to doing my part to promote understanding and communication between peoples and cultures.  My roots in both Taiwanese and American culture have provided me a priceless ability to see things from different points of view, and will enable me to contribute to the world in unique ways in the future.


Elaine Chang is the daughter of Ms. Wanda Chang (杜香苑 女士) and Mr. Jeng-Hsien Chang (張正憲 先生).



Mayline Wu    

My name is Mayline Wu, and I am currently a senior at Langley High School.  I take pride in my love for music and my Taiwanese heritage because both have had such a strong impact on my life.  Without these two factors, I would most likely be a different person because both make up the majority of my time.

I have played the bassoon for almost 4 years, after I started in 8th grade.  Because of my participation in band all throughout high school, I have been involved in color guard and school competitions. I have become vice president of my school’s division of Tri-M National Music Honor society and I have even played at Carnegie Hall with my school band.  This year my band has been invited to play at the prestigious National Music Educators Convention in Minnesota.  Being the top chair also gives me the opportunity to play with the school orchestra when winds are required. 

Outside of school I have participated in different organizations and have competed in state-sponsored competitions.  Last year I ranked 2nd chair from 8 schools for All District Band and qualified for states.  This year I have been fortunate enough to rank 2nd chair from 24 schools for Senior Regional Orchestra.  The bassoon is needed for both concert band and full orchestra so I’m offered many opportunities.  Playing with the American Youth Philharmonic for the past 3 years has been a great experience.  It allows me to play Beethoven and Elgar while the school band plays contemporary pieces by Ticheli and Whitaker.  I’m able to enjoy both genres without having preference, all while expanding my repertoire.

As far as I can remember, my father has been an active member in the Taiwanese community, so I’m naturally concerned about learning my heritage.  I attended the Washington Metropolitan Area Chinese School summer camp for multiple years, as well as the east coast Taiwanese American Conference and Taiwanese American Foundation (TAF).  At these camps I learn culture and leadership skills, all while meeting like-peers who can relate to my sense of cultural ambiguity.  TAF gave me the initiative to start the Asian Awareness club at my school to try to organize the large Asian population.  Through Asian Awareness I have participated in my school’s yearly International Talent Show in such acts as traditional dance and martial arts.  

When I enter college I will continue to participate in Asian-American activities in any way I can.  I know that I am representative, as an Asian-American, and I hope to break stereotypes as I grow up.  We may only be the “model minority? but in truth there is so much more.

Mayline Wu is the daughter of Mr. John C Wu and Mrs. Sulane Wu. (吳啟忠, 楊素蓮 夫婦)