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Where EAST meets the Northwest

SURVIVOR & HELPER. The 2018 Portland Rose Festival princess representing David Douglas High School is Alanesia "Ally" Vang. A cancer survivor, Vang is looking forward to visiting the Randall Childrenís Hospital as part of the Rose Festival Court. In the top photo, princess Ally (far left) is seen with her parents and siblings (L-R): father Xe holding Aeddan, Aezayden, mother Arum, Averyella, and Arihianna. In the bottom photo, Vang (front row, fifth from left) poses for a photo with her entrepreneurship class. The Portland Rose Festivalís Queenís Coronation takes place Saturday, June 9 at Portlandís Veterans Memorial Coliseum. (Photos courtesy of Alanesia Vang)

From The Asian Reporter, V28, #9 (May 7, 2018), page 8.

David Douglas princess is devoted to helping young cancer survivors

By Maileen Hamto

The Asian Reporter

Working with children who have battled and survived cancer has been a passion for Alanesia "Ally" Vang, the 2018 Rose Festival Court princess representing David Douglas High School.

Ally was only two years old when she was diagnosed with Hodgkin lymphoma (cancer of the lymph nodes). Living with cancer at such an early age meant she spent a lot of time in the hospital receiving treatments she needed to survive. "My parents are my heroes. Their mental strength and support reinforced my will to live and survive the disease," she said.

Through Camp Journey, Ally found community among other young cancer survivors. For one week during the summer, Camp Journey brings together children between five and 17 years old who have been diagnosed with cancer to an extraordinary outdoor experience at Ross Point Camp in Point Falls, Idaho. The camp is staffed by volunteer counsellors and pediatric oncology specialists.

"They helped us to have hope" and find a "place where we belong," Ally explained. "Together, we talked about whatís happening to us, what weíve accomplished. Even though we were physically weak, weíre mentally strong."

Surviving cancer has inspired Ally to give back by aspiring to become a pediatric oncologist. Experiencing first-hand the impact of cancer on her entire family, she is committed to making a difference. Ally plans to attend the University of Washington and major in biochemistry.

"Without the experience of surviving cancer, I wouldnít be the same person. I understand the magnitude cancer had on my life. Seeing other children my age, still fighting for their life, unleashed a sense of maturation and wisdom," she said.

As part of the Rose Festival Court, the princesses will have a chance to visit Randall Childrenís Hospital. Itís no surprise the hospital tour is on top of Allyís list.

"I love-hate hospitals. I love them for what theyíre doing for the children, but itís also painful to see these kids there," she said. "Iím passionate about children and their healing."

Developing mental strength throughout a childhood punctuated by cancer has helped Ally harness emotional intelligence to adapt to new challenges. Originally from Missoula, Montana, she has attended three different high schools. She spent her freshman year in high school in Missoula, then moved to Jakarta, Indonesia during her sophomore year. She is slated to graduate from David Douglas in June.

Being part Hmong and Indonesian, Ally was eager to experience part of her culture. In Montana, her family was close to the Hmong community that settled in the area. Wanting to "broaden her scope" by experiencing both sides of her heritage, she decided to live with relatives in Jakarta. Adjusting to her new environment was challenging, so she focused her attention on learning local customs and making new friends.

"I only knew the American culture, and it was a big culture shock," she said. "Thatís when I really took my education into my own hands. I started to learn the language and basics of the culture. But what really helped me cope was making friends at my school. They really helped me get the inside scoop on Indonesian culture."

Fresh from the immersive experience in Jakarta, Ally relocated to Portland with her family during her junior year. At David Douglas, she worked hard to make new friends and contribute to her new community through volunteering.

Undoubtedly, being named to the Rose Festival Court is a highlight of her senior year.

"The Rose Festival is significant to me because I feel Iím able to represent the diversity of my school. Being half Indonesian and half Hmong, I have a lot of culture to bring to the world, and I can signify that to the Rose Festival and my school in a positive way," she said.

Still relatively new to Portland, Ally continues to learn about her new home. While she has made connections through school clubs, community activities, and volunteer events, she keeps looking for ways to deepen her connection to the City of Roses.

"It was super hard at first, moving from Missoula to Portland. Being involved has allowed me to make friends and to create memories in every school," she said.

"Iím grateful to see new perspectives. Living in different places made me grow as a person to receive those new experiences."

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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 Portlandís Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, June 9 from 8:30am to 9:30am. To learn more, call (503) 227-2681 or visit <www.rosefestival.org>.

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