Dunham scholarship ceremony honors graduating women from Mercer Island, Rainier Beach High Schools

By Clare Meeker

Special to the Reporter

On May 20, the Stanley Ann Dunham Scholarship Fund held its 8th Annual Scholarship Award Ceremony at the Northwest African American Museum.

This year, the fund awarded $5,000 scholarships to Mercer Island High School graduating senior Christine Lee and, for the first time, to Rainier Beach High School senior, Emily Au. The other four finalists from Mercer Island High School included Rory Murphy, Claire Stein, Sidney Montague and Katerina Tiscornia. Each of these women were honored for their leadership, love of learning and passion for public service, values they share with President Barack Obama’s mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, who was a 1960 Mercer Island graduate.

Lee was born in Hawaii and is the daughter and granddaughter of Chinese immigrants from Indonesia, the same place where Dunham began her pioneering anthropological work in development and microfinance. In addition to being a top student, Lee helped establish a Reach Out and Read program at the Valley Pediatric Clinic in Renton, providing over 10,000 free books to pre-school age children from underserved families in South King County. She also started a baking business to help support and promote awareness of the local soup kitchen Teen Feed.

In her words, “every act of service I complete helps me appreciate how much I have and has helped me become a more empathic and compassionate person.” Lee will be attending the University of Washington in the fall and would like to major in public health and focus on the education and nutrition of children in impoverished countries.

Au was born in Seattle. Her parents immigrated from Vietnam and Cambodia after the war. An accomplished artist, International Baccalaureate student and athlete, Au’s community activism started with her own sense of injustice when she couldn’t qualify for an Orca card to get free bus transportation to and from Rainier Beach High School. The distance had to be at least 2.5 miles and she lived two miles away.

After three years of courage, persistence and persuasive tactic, including organizing town hall meetings and inviting the Seattle Mayor and a City Councilman to walk the two mile route with her, Au and her fellow students eventually got the Seattle School District to extend free Orca cards to all students who qualify for free or reduced lunch in the district.

In her essay connecting her life with Dr. Dunham, Au said, “The idea of social activism and fighting for equity reflects Stanley Ann’s life work. Her beliefs and values continue to spread through the minds of active empowered young women like myself.” Emily will also be attending the University of Washington this fall.

Guest speakers included immigration lawyer Tahmina Watson, Legal Voice Executive Director Lisa Stone and Seattle mayoral candidate Nikkita Oliver. The fund thanks its sponsors Homegrown, Island Books, Cascade Frames, Mercer Island Florist, the Law Offices of William D. Hochberg and the Wright Education Find for their support, and congratulates its 2017 scholars as they continue on their path to becoming leaders with important ideas to share with the world.

2017 Stanley Ann Dunham Scholars Christine Lee (right) and Emily Au. Photo courtesy of Clare Meeker

2017 Stanley Ann Dunham Scholars Christine Lee (right) and Emily Au. Photo courtesy of Clare Meeker