As May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, NBC Bay Area honors five unique and gifted Asian Pacific Americans that are making a difference in their community. From all different backgrounds and cultures, these individuals have worked tirelessly to make a difference in others’ lives.
Kathleen Blanchard is the mother of a Gunn High School student who died at the Caltrain tracks in Palo Alto on May 5, 2009. Kathleen is an attorney by profession and has become a leadership team member and parent survivor representative with Project Safety Net, a Palo Alto-based coordinated community action to promote youth well-being and present suicides in Palo Alto.
Andrew Jin is a senior from The Harker School in San Jose. In a contest considered the Nobel Prizes for the nation’s brightest high school students, Andrew won one of three top prizes and $150,000 in the prestigious Intel Science Talent Search. He was honored for his work in developing an algorithm that could help decipher the human genetic code. He says the heart of his work is his curiosity about evolution.
Christina M. Samala:
Samala is the 18 Million Rising’s Founding Director. 18 Million Rising, or 18MR.org, was launched in 2012 when there were approximately 18 million Asians and Pacific Islands in the United States, representing nearly 6% of the population and growing faster than any other racial group. 18MR.org is a group of activists, artists, organizations, and digital media influencers with a mission to promote AAPI civic engagement, influence, and movement by leveraging the power of technology and social media.
Ishan Sharma is a Cupertino High School student and a graduate of the Youth Leadership and Civic Engagement Program, now known as LEAD, a program of Asian Americans for Community Involvement. Last year, the father of Ishan’s best friend had an accident and became paralyzed. Ishan immediately set to work raising money to buy a wheelchair for his best friend’s father. He formed the M&M Project and proceeded to organize friends, family, and community members to help generate support. The M&M Project eventually raised more than $30,000 to buy a motorized wheelchair for Martin.
Loann Tran is a prominent community activist in the Bay Area Asian Pacific American community, particularly in the nail salon community. She has helped to voice workplace safety concerns for the nail salon community by working alongside California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative to advocate for better ventilation in salons and using nail products that are free of toxic chemicals. Loann’s dream is for nail salon workers and owners to fully understand that it is extremely important for their health and safety to use safer practices and products and for the nail salon community to speak up to the public and media about the issue.
We are proud to honor these amazing and tremendous individuals for their hard work to make others’ lives better. Their contributions to our local communities impact so many and they are greatly appreciated for their efforts.