Mendoza and Santos win API Heritage Month Essay Contest

Posted on May 27 2022

Photo shows, from left, high school winner Aleia Hofschneider Santos, middle school winner Mikaehla Paige Reyes Mendoza, and Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan. Congressman Sablan presented the winners with congressional commendations and prints of their essays as published in the Congressional Record. (Contributed Photo)

Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) announced yesterday that 8th grade student Mikaehla Paige Reyes Mendoza and senior Aleia Hofschneider Santos, both from Mount Carmel School, were the winners of the 2022 Northern Marianas Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Essay Contest.

A group of volunteer judges chose Mendoza and Santos’s work from among 10 essays submitted by middle school students and 12 entries submitted by high school students in the Marianas.

“Congratulations to Ms. Mendoza and Ms. Santos for winning the second annual Asian and Pacific Islander Heritage Month Essay Contest for Northern Marianas students,” said Sablan. “I commend each of the 22 students who participated in this year’s contest. This year’s essays highlighted Asian and Pacific American issues that are of particular importance to our youth, and the ideas that they have to inspire the community to take action,”

Mendoza wrote an essay titled “The Problem with ‘Linguistic Racism.’” Mendoza’s essay discusses the challenges that AAPI individuals face when English is not their first language.

“English is one of the main global languages spoken in many places,” Mendoza stated in her essay, “However, there are still people that struggle with English. AAPIs struggle with English because it may not be their first language. They are considered non-native English speakers. These speakers can find themselves being judged and even penalized for the way their English sounds.”

Mendoza calls for cultural awareness and respect to stop linguistic racism. She writes, “The best way to combat linguistic racism is to continue to stay in school, learn about different cultures, and to be a role model to others. We all speak different languages and it is important to embrace the diversity that we have in our islands. We can also be digitally responsible and respectful in speaking to others online.

Santos wrote an essay titled “Color,” where describes her encounters with racial discrimination and the issue of hate crimes against Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.

“Peach is the name of the crayon shade that my classmates always used in their portraits when I was in kindergarten at Chinook Elementary in Washington from 2008-2009. I was told that Tinian tanned skin was too dark to be using Peach, and that I should try using the dark brown crayon, called Chocolate,” Santos wrote.

“There are still many memories I cherish despite the challenges we faced during our stay in the U.S., but I will never forget the events of that fateful fall day, nor will my Mom or Dad. I will never forget the look on my parents’ faces as they were told to exit the vehicle, nor will I forget how scared I was when I saw them pointing guns at all of our faces. It was pure, unadulterated hatred that the Peach-colored man felt toward not my family, but the color of our skin that caused it to happen.”

In reflecting on how the community can take action against racial discrimination and acts of hate toward Asian and Pacific Islander Americans, Santos wrote, “I hope to inspire our community to take action against racial discrimination and acts of hate by taking three simple steps. First, I encourage all victims and witnesses of AAPI discrimination to not only speak out about what they’ve experienced, but against prejudice of any kind. In this pursuit, I implore others to speak loudly about the deeply damaging and disheartening effects of racial discrimination when they feel that they are ready to. Most importantly, I ask that we all try to speak proudly of one another and what we have accomplished despite all the obstacles. Imagining the power that our community could hold in taking those steps fills me with a deep sense of faith in a better future for all of our families- no matter the color of our skin.”

This is the second year that the Marianas congressional office has hosted the API Heritage Month Essay Contest.

Mendoza and Santos’s essays were published on the May 18, 2022 edition of the Congressional Record and can be read online at (PR)


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