By Zan Gao| Photos by Simon Li and Kevin Ren
Chinese American Association of Minnesota (CAAM) is the oldest and largest Chinese American community organization in Minnesota. On June 5, 2022, the CAAM held its 2021-2022 Stanley Chong Scholarship Award Ceremony at Central Park in Roseville City, Minnesota. This was the first time since the COVID-19 outbreak that the CAAM held a major event in the relatively safe outdoors.
The event was held at the Jaycees Pavilion in Lakeside Central Park with lush green grass and trees. Around five o'clock, approximately 100 Chinese compatriots from the Twin Cities area, the CAAM current and past board members and presidents, Chinese Dance Theater (CDT) and Twin Cities Chinese Language School (TCCLS) leaders, and award-winning students and their families had flocked to the ceremony. The atmosphere was lively and warm as new and old friends got together, and the dinner party at the awards ceremony was also special. Under the careful arrangement of the CAAM board, the SUMO Grill & Buffet restaurant served a large amount of exquisite Chinese food, including but were not limited to: Salt and Pepper Shrimp, Seafood Platter, Curry Chicken, Fried Chicken Wings, Beef and Broccoli, Shrimp Chow Mein, Seasonal Beans with Oil, and other delicacies, together with pastries and watermelon prepared by the CAAM board, making the party just like a dinner feast combining East and West (Figure 1).
Figure 1: A sumptuous dinner
One of the highlights of the event was the birthday celebration prepared by the CAAM board quietly upon learning that the special guest, the former president KaiMay Yeun Terry, who has made significant contributions to the development of the CAAM, had just turned 82 years old on June 4. Ms. Yeun was overjoyed by the greeting cards signed by the eight CAAM board members, the birthday cake, the flower arrangement and the "Happy Birthday" song sung by the whole audience (Figures 2 and 3).
Figure 3: Traditionally, the first cut of the cake must be made by the birthday lady.
After the meal, President Ping Wang warmly welcomed the guests and friends on behalf of the CAAM, and introduced this year's CAAM board members, including Vice President Guoqin Li, Secretary General Zan Gao, Treasurer Lin Shu, board members Yanhua Wu, Gang Ji, Qiang Fang, Shi Peng, and Li Tang, who was unable to attend this year due to an absence (Figure 4).
After that, he briefly introduced the history of the CAAM and its branches, China Dance Theater and Twin Cities Chinese Language School, using two rhetorical questions. President Wang said that the CAAM’s mission is to provide cultural, educational, recreational, and other programs to promote the cultural heritage and enhance the quality of life of Chinese Americans in Minnesota. In the past few years, CAAM has organized many cultural exchange activities (e.g., online seminars, etc.) and has joined with other local Chinese community organizations in hosting large events such as Chinese New Year and Mid-Autumn Festival celebrations in various ways. Although the CAAM has not participated in the Minnesota Festival of Nations for three years due to the pandemic, it has continued to provide a free pre-Thanksgiving lunch to about 300 homeless people in the St. Paul area every year. In addition, the CAAM provides the CAAM-Stanley Chong scholarships to Chinese high school seniors in Minnesota each year.
Afterwards, President Wang invited Yanhua Wu and Gang Ji, the representatives of the two branches of the Chinese Dance Theater and the Twin Cities Chinese Language School on the CAAM Board, as well as Beatrice Rothweiler and Fangqian Lin, the leader of each branch and their teams (teachers), to speak on stage and introduced their respective organizations (Figure 5 & 6).
Then, President Wang introduced several veterans who had served as the President of the CAAM in this celebration: Mr. Ken Lau (1975), Ms. KaiMay Yeun Terry (1999-2000) and Mr. Bingwen Yan (2016-2018). Mr. Ken Lau recalled his early years in the Fellowship and the influence of Mr. Stanley Chong on him. He recognized the excellent work of the current Board of Directors and sent his best wishes (Figure 7).
Ms. KaiMay Yuan Terry, former President of CAAM (1999), also gave a very informative presentation on Mr. Stanley Chong and his will to establish the scholarship (Figure 8).
Figure 8: KaiMay Yeun Terry introduced the initial decision of Mr. Stanley Chong to establish the scholarship.
It should be noted that three other CAAM past presidents, Charles Lee (1982) and Stone Yu (1992), Mingjen Chen (2005-2006, 2009-2015), as well as Stanley Chong Foundation President Thomas Ratelle, who were unable to attend the ceremony in person, also sent their best wishes for the ceremony.
Mr. Ping Wang and Mr. Zan Gao, Secretary General, officiated the award ceremony of this year's Stanley Chong Scholarship. After a rigorous selection process, a total of 10 outstanding seniors from eight high schools in Minnesota who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement, leadership and community service received the scholarships this year. During the awarding process, President Wang, as always, played his warm and humorous character and introduced the respective achievements and characteristics of the winners one by one, which greatly enlivened the atmosphere (Figure 9).
Figure 9: President Ping Wang (left) and Secretary General Mr. Zan Gao (right) co-chairing the award ceremony
After the award ceremony, Xiaoxin Zeng, last year's scholarship winner from Harvard University, delivered a speech first, introducing her one-year study and living experience at Harvard, which was well received by everyone (Figure 10).
Figure 10: Xiaoxin Zeng speaking
This year's winners, Zhou Benson from Minnetonka High School, Kevin Dai from Wayzata High School and Chris Yan from Mounds View High School, spoke on behalf of the winners and expressed their gratitude and ambition (Figures 11-13).
Figure 11: Zhou Benson, who was adopted by American parents from Guangxi at the age of two and a half, speaking
Figure 12: Kevin Dai speaking
Figure 13: Chris Yan is speaking
The highlight of the celebration was the talent show by the volunteers and award winners! Steven Yang, a favorite student of Twin Cities soprano Ms. Xu Qian, began the show with a melodic rendition of My Way (Frank Sinatra) that drew much applause for his majestic voice and calm, atmospheric singing (Figure 14-15).
Figure 14: The guest young singer, Steven Yang, is singing
Figure 15: Audience applauding
Next up was a solo dance by this year's winner, Julianna Mason, entitled "CiZen Ram". She was seen dancing lightly and floating up and down like a butterfly in a flower bush, ending her performance in a relaxed and joyful atmosphere (Figure 16).
Figure 16: Julianna Mason performing dance
Figure 17: CDT teachers and leaders watching the performance
The last grand finale was the Erhu performance, and this year's winner, Kaelyn Chen, who was so generous, sat at the front of the stage and first played the famous song " A ditty from Henan", a bright, witty, lively and cheerful piece of music that resonated through the corner of the park like the sound of heaven. She then played the song "Horse Racing", which made the audience feel the scene and momentum of ten thousand horses galloping on the prairie. The beautiful and cheerful melody made everyone feel as if they were there, and even after listening to it, they felt the aftertaste and long aftertaste (Figure 18).
Figure 18: Kaelyn Chen playing Erhu
After the performance, Mr. Gao Zan, Secretary General of the CAAM, gave a closing speech on behalf of the CAAM Board, thanking the Stanley Chong Foundation and the attendees for their generous support of the celebration, and sending good wishes to the scholarship recipients.
Figure 19: Happy scholarship recipients and parents
How time flied! It was already 8:00 p.m. until everyone realized it. Simon Li, the invited photographer, rushed to take a group photo of the scholarship recipients and the large group. As they left, smiles were on everyone's face.
Figure 20: Group photo of 2021-2022 CAMM - Stanley Chong Scholarship Awardees, from the left to the right: Ava Chen, Anna Wang, Zhou Benson, Julianne Mason, Kaelyn Chen, William Walker, Chris Yan, Kevin Dai, Charlie Chen, and Shi-Wei Kong.
Figure 21: Grand group photo
CAAM provides CAAM-Stanley Chong scholarships for undergraduate study and life for senior Chinese high school students (US citizens or green card holders) in Minnesota, USA. The foundation established in the name of the second chairman of the CAAM, Mingzhou famous Chinese entrepreneur Mr. Stanley Chong and his wife Marvel Chong has always been the most generous main supporter of this scholarship. According to Chairman Wang Ping, since 2018, the CAAM has provided more than $240,000 in scholarships to more than 70 Mingzhou Chinese students. This move has been widely supported and praised by the Mingzhou Chinese community. This scholarship pays special attention to applicants and their parents participating in various activities organized by the CAAM (such as the Festival of Nations) and community volunteer services, as well as applicants attending CAAM CDT (Chinese Dance Theater Chinese Dance School) and CAAM Experience of CLS (Chinese Language School, Shuangcheng Chinese School).
In the past four years, the review committee has been following open and transparent application procedures and policies to ensure fair and impartial review among all applicants, and the requirements for completeness and compliance of application materials have become increasingly stringent (https://www. caam.org/scholarships/). This year the scholarship review committee finally selected the following 10 outstanding winners:
Julianne Mason, Cretin-Derham Hall High School
Charlie Chen, Roseville Area High School
Kaelyn Chen, Mahtomedi Senior High School
Ava Chen, Minnetonka High School
Kevin Dai, Wayzata High School
Shi-Wei Kong, Maple Grove Senior High School
Chris Yan, Mounds View High School
Zhou Benson, Minnetonka High School
Anna Wang, Edina High School
William Walker, Minnetonka High School