2007 TYAF Outstanding Youth Award


Mei-Jean Hsu 許美晴

When I was in preschool, a girl asked me, “Hi, are you Chinese or Japanese?” Honestly, I didn’t know how to answer this question because nobody had ever asked me about my cultural background before. Growing up in a predominantly Caucasian community in Fairfax County, I always knew that I was different from everyone else, but until then, I never realized what it meant to be Taiwanese. From then on, I developed a deep interest in my heritage, and participated in many activities to help myself learn more about it.

  Being Taiwanese has given me many memorable cultural experiences. For five years, I studied Taiwanese and Mandarin at the Washington D.C. Taiwanese Language School. Fascinated with my heritage, and dedicated myself to everything I did there, from learning Taiwanese aboriginal dance to teaching an audience how to make zui giao (dumplings) during a speech competition. Every year, our class put on a performance at Taiwan Night. I still remember standing on stage with a cooking pot and green outfit when I played the cooking dragon in our play, “Why the Pig Has No Hair.”

My family is the most important part of my life, and it is from them that I learned the most about my background. When I was young, my grandparents would tell me stories about their childhood experiences in Taiwan, and my parents would teach me traditional Taiwanese folk songs. My uncle was an expert at Taiwanese puppetry, and sometimes he would let me help him performbo de hi (puppet shows) during festivals.

In addition to teaching me about our culture, my family has instilled in me important values such as hard work and academic success. These values have led me to be successful in almost everything that I put my mind to, from academics to music and art. I have taken six years of piano, more than four years of dance, and won the Silver Key award in the 2004 Regional Scholastic Art Competition. Academically, I have shown success by excelling in a competitive magnet high school and finally gaining admission into the University of Virginia. After my successes and even my failures, I always strive to continually improve myself and develop the skills that I have.

My experience at Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology has opened many opportunities for me to explore different areas and share my Taiwanese culture with others. Although I made friends with other Taiwanese students, I was the only one who actually knew how to speak Taiwanese.  Some of my other friends didn’t even know that Taiwanese was a language! This made me even more determined to teach other people about my cultural background. I eventually became an officer in an Asian culture club and organized events at my school for Lunar New Year, International Night, and other celebrations. Through community service-oriented clubs at my school, I was able to share a bit of my Taiwanese background as I tutored elementary school students or talked with the elderly during my visits to nursing homes.

Since that day in preschool I have significantly grown in understanding my cultural background and how it has shaped my life. I am proud of my rich Taiwanese heritage and the unique experiences that it has given me. The values that it has taught me led me to achieve many things, and will continue to guide me in the future as I complete my first year at the University of Virginia and when I start my career. Now when someone asks me about my cultural background, I proudly say without hesitation, “Taiwanese”.

  “Mei-Jean Hsu is the daughter of Wen-Tsan and Chun-Chiao Hsu. (許文燦王春嬌夫婦)”


2007 TYAF Outstanding Youth Award


Kailin Hsu   徐愷琳



        I was born and raised in the United States, and know Taiwan only through my mother’s memories.  Even though I have never been there, I still feel connected to my parents’ homeland through the stories I have heard and the pictures I have seen.  My parents have always taught me to keep true to my heritage, to never lose sight of where we come from. 

        My Taiwanese background has endowed me with the diligence and perseverance needed to excel.  Ever since the beginning of high school, I have developed a strong interest in the sciences. During the summer of 2006, I had the privilege of interning at Northeastern University, where I developed different-sized ferrite nanoparticle samples for the study of their magnetic properties.  My internship culminated in my co-authorship of a paper in the 2007 publication of the Journal of Applied Physics.  I currently intern at the National Institutes of Health, where I analyze the gene expression of genetically engineered mice; over the summer, I studied bioluminescent imaging of T-cell migration in mice that express luciferase, a firefly bioluminescent gene.  Both of my internships have provided me with excellent laboratory experience, and have cultivated my interest in the evolving medical applications of nanotechnology and genetic engineering.

        Ballet has been a part of my life for the past nine years.  I reached the elementary professional level three years ago and hope to, one day, teach dance in my spare time.  At Chinese school, I have been studying Chinese folk dance for eight years and assisting the youth folk dance class for the past five years.  I lead warm-ups and exercises with my students, prepare them for recitals, and teach class when the instructor is unavailable.  This leadership role has allowed me to share my passion for dancing with the girls and to

instill, within them, a sense of cultural pride as they learn the Taiwanese dances.  Another way I involve myself in the Taiwanese community is by volunteering weekly at the Chinese American Parents and Students Association (CAPSA), a tutoring program for recent Taiwanese and Chinese immigrants.  I started out as a tutor four years ago and am now a lead coordinator for the lower elementary school group.  It is very rewarding to help children who are learning to adapt to the new culture.  A few decades ago, my parents were in the same situation.  Through this coordinator position, I have developed critical leadership and communication skills which will help me in my future endeavors. 

I would like to thank my parents for fostering my Taiwanese pride.  It is with this pride that I give back to the Taiwanese community, and seek to always excel in academics and extracurricular.

 “Kailin Hsu is the daughter of James and Jeng Hsu徐賢宗徐娟娟夫婦)