BY Gerrye Wong     June 3, 2019

I am very proud to report that the Chi Am Circle, an Asian American women’s organization that 54 years ago, a group of 9 other women and I founded, is  still active, thriving and continues to serve the youth of today.  When we started the organization, it was to foster friendships in a new community in Santa Clara Valley that was seeing an influx of new Asian families moving into an area that heretofore had not seen many.  When I was growing up in San Jose, I never attended a school with other Chinese students, and the old Chinatown was dwindling. Moving back to the area in the 1960s, I saw there were few Chinese families in my new Sunnyvale community, so all of us founders wanted our children to retain some semblance of their Chinese roots. Through the years, the Chi Am Circle sponsored a Chi-Teen Club for all Asian American youth, supported a Chinese language school, and instigated a scholarship awards program.

2019 Chi Am Circle Scholarship Award Winners

Half a century later, the Chi Am Circle, made up of over predominantly 100 Asian American women, continues the scholarship program in a very active fashion.  On May, 31 high school seniors of Santa Clara County were honored at a dinner attended by the members, their families and peers.  Upon receiving their honorarium grants, they spoke of their goals, immediate college plans, their appreciation of family in helping guide them towards their futures, and acknowledged their gratefulness for the individual sponsors and the Chi Am Circle Scholarship Fund for their awards.

Co Presidents Sylvia Eng and Carol Yiu together with Scholarship Selection co chair Verna Wong, shared that over 100 applications had been received, and the Chi Am Circle members were proud of all so it was a difficult task to award only the 31 grants that evening.  Sponsorship Chair Teddy Sue announced that the majority of the $85,000 in awards was donated by individual sponsors and members who have supported this annual event for more than the past 20 years.

Kelly Matsuura, Gerrye Wong, Kim DeLevett and Daisy Chu with student awardee Vivian Tsang

Chi Am Scholarship recipients for 2019 were Dean Jones, Morgan Kan, Valerie Hu, Hannah Warner, Khue Vo, Thuy Duong, Julie Hoang, Jade Bautista, Justin Quan, Joshua Chinn, Vivian Tsang, Rebecca Mak, Daniel Ong, Thomas Ngo, Karly Hou, Rachel Huynh, Janet Fang, Ryan Ma, Jimmy Nguyen, Alyssa Gee, Sean Cheng, Brandon Diep, Mrunali Manjrekar, Savanna Vu, Jessica Li, Amber Fu,Kristine Do, Annie Kieu, Taylor Chung, Darice Wong and Hillary Phan.

Chi Am Circle Co Chair Gerrye Wong welcomes Keynote Speaker Kim DeLevett and Daisy Chu, representing Assemblyman Kansen Chu

An inspirational speech to the students was given by Keynote Speaker Kim DeLevett, Southwest Airlines Community Affairs & Grassroots Regional Leader, who told of her personal journey coming to America from Vietnam, separated from her family as a very young girl.  The audience was moved by her story of a lonely troubled youth, and I am sure the students were inspired by her words of encouragement to them to follow their dreams and work hard to achieve them.

Arthur Jue, CoFounder and CEO of Live Freely Today, spoke of receiving a scholarship from Chi Am when he was a high school graduate many years ago, and how that encouragement inspired him to continue his education plans into a marketing career.  His parting lines, I know, will be remembered by all who heard him say, “The meaning of life is to discover your gift; the purpose of life Is to give it away.”

Pat and Jim Hing presented the Callison Foundation grant in memory of  husband and father Gerry Hing.

Chairing the Scholarship Dinner for Chi Am Circle was a privilege for me and Co Chair Ginger Lai to welcome the students, their families, hear of their personal stories, and help Chi Am Circle send them on their way to college with scholarship grants.  Take a bow, Chi Am Circle members and sponsors!



At HISTORY SAN JOSE PARK, more students were heralded and acknowledged with the 2019 Lillian Gong-Guy Memorial Scholarships recently. CHINESE HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL PROJECT Presidents Bozena Teo ad David Yick welcomed the visitors on a stormy day but all came to recognize young people who had served the community and earned high honors.

CHCP Co Presidents Bozena Teo and Dave Yick welcome guests

CHCP Co Chairs Debbie Gong-Guy and Allan Low awarded the 2019 Lillian Gong-Guy Memorial Grants to Claire Dong of Adrian Wilcox High School,  Carly Feng and Karly Hou of Henry Gunn High School, Justin Nicholas Quan of Los Gatos High School, Vivian Tsang of Milpitas High School, and Darice Wong of Dr. TJ Owens Gilroy Early College Academy.

CHCP Scholarship grant Chair Debbie Gong-Guy and student winners

The Chinese Historical and Cultural Project’s main attraction is its Museum of Chinese American History which opened in 1991, a crowning jewel at History San Jose park and visited by hundreds of tourists, locals and children annually.  As 2019 Student Docent Chair Brenda Wong declared, the organization could not keep the museum open on the first and third Sundays of the month without the volunteer spirit of student docents. They lead visitors to the various exhibits on the last San Jose Chinatown, Heinlenville, show them the new touch screen timeline of history of China, US. And San Jose dating back to the 1860s, and lead them to the large gold gilded altar, which once stood in the Ng Shing Gung building dating back to the 1870s.

CHCP Board members Liz Chew, Anita Kwock  and Bozena Teo welcome honoree Nathan Tom

Volunteer student docents recognized for their service hours to CHCP museum tours were the following:  Two Year Service honors went to Vivian Tsang, Logan Koelbel, Kasey La, Bright Lui, Catherine  Navalta, Maggie Or. Isaac Sun, Lydia Wang and Joshua Zhang.  One Year Honor awards went to Stanley Dao, Ryan Dowlat, Thomas Li, Steven Luo, Toan Nguyen, Jessica Qu, Stephanie Shen, Emmalyn Walker and Sara Yen.


Lillian Gong-Guy Memorial Scholarship Co Chairs Allan Low and Debbie Gong-Guy with student winner Justin Quan.

Since 2014, the Chinese Historical and Cultural Project established the Lillian Gong-Guy Memorial Scholarship in tribute to the late founder as she helped to establish the Chinese American Historical Museum in History San Jose park. I was proud to be co-founder with Lillian back in 1987 when we formed the CHCP with the goal to build the museum and gift it to the City of San Jose.  The museum has been a wonderful legacy for both of us to be proud of in its 27th year of existence to share Chinese American history to all of its visitors.


 Helen Leong has been a long time supporter and hard worker for the non-profit organization, Achieve Kids, for many decades, so it was a privilege for me to join her at the group’s Reach for the Stars BBQ fundraiser at its Palo Alto school location.  As Helen shared with her family members  Stephanie and Tom Huffman, Victor Chinn, Violet Lee, Wil and Nancy Lee, AchieveKids schools provide individualized and multidisciplinary programs that deliver special education, mental health, and family support services for students ages 5-22 that have severe developmental, emotional and behavioral challenges.

Staunch supporter of ActiveKids Helen Leong, seated left, is supported by family members at fundraising BBQ.



After visiting the specialized classrooms where students attend in Palo Alto, I enjoyed hearing Executive Director Ryan Eisenberg explain AchieveKids vision that the students will achieve the maximum possible self-reliance and quality of life, and look to the future with confidence.  He said simply , “We take our kids where they are, where they need to go, and treat everyone with respect and dignity.”  This should be everyone’s mantra not only to their own family kids, but to all who deserve special attention, don’t you agree?


May proved to be the month where not only young people were honored, but seniors got their due too.  The Avenidas Lifetimes of Achievement Awards were given to two couples and three individuals spotlighted for their community involvement.  For the past 31 years Avenidas, a non-profit organization, has offered longevity and wellness services to the residents of Palo Alto and nine adjacent Peninsula cities.

Honoree Gloria Hom is congratulated by family members.

Among the honorees was Gloria Hom, a fourth generation Californian who has spent her life in pursuit of the best for her family and community. As a longtime close friend, I can personally attest that Gloria is a bundle of energy who is always thinking of ways and means to be active in her community.

Friends of Honoree Gloria Hom at Avenidas event.

A true Republican who has attended every Republican National Convention from 1980 through 2008, Gloria has served on the Boards of Avenidas, United Way, Leadership Palo Alto, Girl Scouts, AAUW, Chi Am Circle, Chinese Historical and Cultural Project, just to name a few of her affiliations.

Avenidas President Amy Andonian greets Gerrye Wong

Some of her wide circle friends and family who braved the rain and hail to  hail  her achievements at Avenidas headquarters were Margaret Gee, Mabel Lai, Helen Chew, Mary Ann Wong, Howard and Rosemarie Cheung, her daughter Patty and Leslie, and granddaughter Elizabeth Hoo, Vicky Ching, Lily Chang, and Madelene Schwabacher.


Margaret Gee is welcomed by Gloria Hom and daughter Leslie.

A gifted speaker and never at a loss for words, Gloria loved teaching students for 35 years as a professor in the Economics Department at Mission College. As a retiree, she indulges in traveling the world with her three daughters, five grandchildren and very large circle of friends.   To Avenidas, Kudos to honoring Gloria Hom, a true champion in our community.  For those needing services, Avenidas can help whether it is transporting one to a medical appointment or providing a gentle exercise class for better joint movement. Avenidas prides itself for its variety of programs for positive aging.  Info: www.avenidas.org.



Evan Low Field Representative Kath Tran, right, congratulates Chi Am Circle members .

California Assemblyman Evan Low of AD 28 celebrated Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month with a celebration honoring three Asian American individuals and organizations.  Held at the newly opened Cupertino Hyatt House Hotel, the reception welcomed many of Low’s loyal following as well as those of the honorees.

Community honorees at event sponsored by Assemblyman Evan Low AD 28

CHI AM CIRCLE, the Asian American women’s organization, was honored for its long standing community service and was represented by Co Presidents Sylvia Eng and Carol Yiu, Board Member Teddy Sue, and myself, Gerrye Wong, co-founder of this 54 year organization.

Honorees Gordon Chang and Connie Young Yu were greeted by friends Liz Chew and Susan & Jeff Lee

Also honored by Assemblyman Low that evening was Foothill Community College President Thuy Thi Nguyen, who received the proclamation from Field Representative Kathy Tran.  Due to late night discussions in Sacramento by the Assembly, Evan Low was unable to return to award the honorees personally.

Channel 4 newscaster Wil Tran and his children congratulate Chi Am Circle officers.

Third honorees were Professor Gordon Chang and local historian Connie Young Yu for their work on recognition of the Chinese railroad workers of the 1860s .  Chang, who teaches at Stanford University, has authored two books on the subject, and Yu recently was the speaker representing the Chinese at the Promontory , Utah celebration of the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental railroad.

Mike Honda is surprised by birthday cake and friends at Evan Low reception.

Former Congressman Mike Honda was called on stage and surprised with a birthday cake, which uniquely had a photo of his face on the cake top.  He spoke of the importance of the recognition of the contributions Asian and Pacific Islanders had made to both California and the nation’s history that has evolved since the Legislature declared May as Asian Pacific Islander American Heritage Month.  Since then Senate Concurrent Resolution 92 has recognized the 5.5 million Asian and Pacific Islander Americans in California for their participation the state’s economic success, rural growth and urban development.   Hurray for that recognition and it was wonderful to see Asian Pacific Islander events happening throughout the state this May.


There is no better and more enjoyable way to raise funding for good causes than a glitzy fun fashion show with celebrity and local community models. The Arthritis Foundation has a long history of successful fashion show benefits, and as Executive Director Loren Behr said on stage, those who support this event by their attendance make a real difference in the lives of people living with arthritis. The extra funding with their donations empowers people to live better, with higher quality of life and less pain while expanding the care to drive the best possible patient outcomes.

Dr Tzielan Lee spoke at Arthritis event.

Showing their fashions were JEFFREY of Stanford Shopping Center of Palo Alto and GeneHiller.com, a book-by-appointment retailer of men’s and women’s clothing. Junior League models paraded on the runway. However the most moving part of the event was when Dr. Tzielan Lee,  Stanford Pediatric Radiologist, spoke of her work with 16 year old Noah Van Horne who had been diagnosed with juvenile arthritis when he was seven.  They spoke of his attending Camp Milagros, the Arthritis Society’s special camp for arthritis patients, which was started by this SF chapter. The young man spoke eloquently about his experiences there which provided a supportive community of kids with JA while enjoying the comraderie of kids facing the same physical difficulties as he was.



WakamatsuFest 150 – 1869-2019 will be a Japanese American Festival celebrating 150 years of Japanese American heritage arts and cuisine at Wakamatsu Farm in Coloma, CA June 6-9, 2019.  There will be food, art, performances, tours, demonstrations and children’s activities and parking available at Marshall Gold Discovery State Historic Park.  Tickets available online: ARConservancy.org/wakafest150.


SAN JOSE STAGE COMPANY promises a lighthearted time if you come to their international sensation, the ABBA smash hit musical MAMA MIA.  Playing until June 7, there’s still time to enjoy the combination of nostalgia of unforgettable ABBA tunes with friendship, feeling and feminism, according to Director Allison Rich. Situated in downtown San Jose, San Jose Stage is a small venue where every seat almost feels like you’re on stage with all of the action, and what fun that would be with the lively Mama Mia songs and dances. Thank you to Artistic Director Randall King and Executive Director Cathleen King for bringing lively theater to San Jose.   www.thestage.org will get you information to catch the how before it dances away June 7.


There were so many memorable moments at the conference celebrating the 150th anniversary of the completion of the Transcontinental railroad that I wanted to share added photos received after last month’s column.

Over 500 Chinese Americans gathered at Promontory Point this May  to herald Chinese railroad workers who were overlooked before in photos taken in 1869 and 1969. Photo by Corky Lee

Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chiao posed with Chinese Historical and Cultural Project members at conference.


Program on stage showed the role Chinese and Irish railroad workers played in completing the Transcontinental railroad.



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