(Photo courtesy of the Portland Rose Festival Foundation)
(Photo courtesy of the Vo family)
COMMUNITY & CULTURE. Stephanie Vo (top photo) is seen with
her family on a trip to Disneyland (bottom photo, L-R) — Stephanie, Mai,
Heidi, Steven, and Sonya. Vo is representing David Douglas High School as
her school’s 2016 Rose Festival princess. The Portland Rose Festival’s
Queen’s Coronation takes place Saturday, June 11 at Portland’s Veterans
From The Asian Reporter, V26, #11 (June 6, 2016), page 11.
Rose Festival princess delights in celebrating achievement, culture
By Maileen Hamto
The Asian Reporter
Stephanie Vo, David Douglas High School’s 2016 Rose Festival
princess, won’t hesitate to let you know that she loves Disneyland. In fact,
she highlighted this bit of personal trivia in her judged pageant speech
that secured the win.
Throughout her academic life, a primary motivation for Vo to
bring home all As is a family vacation to Disneyland. "My mom knew this
little kingdom renowned to be ‘the happiest place on earth’ and a little
girl who desperately wants to go every year. By looking forward to
Disneyland, I had something to remind me to pull through even when finals
were sneaking in and all I wanted was a bag of chips and a TV remote
control," she said.
And Vo has demonstrated that she is motivated to achieve
more than straight As. At David Douglas, she served on student council
during her freshman, sophomore, and senior years. "This community has given
me the same love and support my family has, so I truly do recognize my peers
and teachers as my second family and the school, my second home."
Giving back to the David Douglas community is important for Vo, who is a
lifelong resident of increasingly diverse East Portland. She sees David
Douglas as "a small-scale representation of East Portland," in terms of the
growing population of residents of color from various ethnic backgrounds.
"When we [students] look at each other, we acknowledge that
behind every person is a past, a story that could likely involve a hard
transition from another country or another struggle of some sort. While we
are all different, we are all the same," she said.
She lauds her school’s commitment to honoring and valuing difference. "I’m
so proud of my school’s strong advocacy toward anti-bullying, supporting a
community that does not tear each other down but brings each other up," she
Strong ties to her own culture surely helped Vo develop a sense of
awareness, humility, and respect for peers who come from various backgrounds
and lived experiences. She speaks fondly of being Vietnamese American and
takes pride in being among the first generation in her family to be born and
raised in Portland.
"In my house, my mom makes sure we’re exposed to a daily dose of our
Vietnamese roots whenever possible. She won’t even respond back to me if I
speak English to her. That only strengthens my Vietnamese tongue," she said.
She also delights in the Asian culture’s emphasis on celebrating
accomplishments. In line with the Disneyland family trips to reward good
grades, her entire family gathered to celebrate her crowning as a Rose
Festival princess in the best possible way: a feast.
"My family took me out to eat at the oh-so-trending Fujiyama
Sushi Bar & Grill, which is also my uncle’s restaurant!" she said. "I
devoured copious amounts of my favorite: the vegetable roll."
Surrounded by family and community, Vo is proud to be well-versed in
Vietnamese music and movies, as well as traditional food, customs, beliefs,
"In Vietnamese culture, we respect our elders, eat in the name of health for
proper aging, and wait for the happy day of ‘red envelope gifting.’" Said
Vo, lauding one of her favorite holidays: "Basically, money is given out
during Tet — the Vietnamese New Year — where we get rid of the old and
welcome the lucky days to come with a cleaned-up house."
Vo regrets not having a chance to visit her family’s ancestral home … yet.
But she already has a plan and strategy for when that milestone comes
around. "When I first step foot in Vietnam, I’ll be on a mission to sample
all the exotic fruits my mom raved about growing up!"
Being part of a close-knit and hardworking immigrant family, Vo has
developed a reflective and self-scrutinizing nature that allows her to look
back to the child she once was and see how far she has gone to achieve her
goals. "The younger me was much more shy, but that never stopped her from
dreaming big with high expectations."
As part of the 2016 Rose Festival Court, Vo has travelled around the state
representing David Douglas and East Portland in various community outreach
events. She considers her experiences as part of the Rose Festival Court
among the "most unforgettable" of her life.
"The places I’ve visited, people I’ve met, and opportunities given to me
were all rich experiences I wouldn’t have had otherwise if it weren’t for
the amazing Rose Festival Court program," she said.
"I’ve gained another family. I know for sure that we’ll all make an effort
to stay updated with each other, but for now, I’m honestly dreading the day
we say our goodbyes."
* * *
A Rose Festival princess represents her school and acts as
the "face of the Rose Festival" at many events in the community, including
parades, volunteer activities, luncheons with community and business
leaders, and more. The Portland Rose Festival Foundation awards each court
member a $3,500 scholarship, courtesy of The Randall Group.
To qualify for the Rose Festival Court, a candidate must be a full-time
junior or senior at a 4A, 5A, or 6A high school in Multnomah, Washington, or
Clackamas county and have a minimum cumulative
grade point average of 3.0. Potential princesses are evaluated on
citizenship, scholastic achievement, school activities, civic involvement,
volunteer projects, communication skills, and overall impression.
The Portland Rose Festival Queen is chosen from all of the court members at
Portland’s Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 11 from 8:30am to
9:30am. To learn more, call (503) 227-2681 or visit <www.rosefestival.org>.
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