2019 Trailblazer and Community Builder Recipients Recognized


Orlando, FL -- The East Coast Asian American Student Union is proud to announce the recipients of the 2019 ECAASU Trailblazer and Community Builder Award. The finalists and recipients were recognized at the 2019 ECAASU Conference at the Closing Ceremony, after a full day of workshops at the University of Central Florida.

The Trailblazer Award is given to an individual who has gone above and beyond in their dedication to inspire, educate, and empower Asian Americans and/or Pacific Islanders (AAPI) through their activism and advocacy in various AAPI spaces. The Community Builder Award is given to an organization, coalition, or campus that has brought together and uplifted their communities to support social justice, among and/or within an AAPI community.

All finalists and recipients reflect the strength and power of our community when we come together. Their accomplishments include creating space for critical dialogues, bringing visibility to pressing issues, and fiercely advocating for the greater community -- amongst all their other amazing contributions. “I definitely want to continue to recognize the progressive work our community works towards everyday and use Conference 2019 as a way to celebrate our accomplishments,” says Director of Outreach Hannah Song.

Without a doubt, these students inspire us to continue fighting for justice and uplifting our communities. Below is some information about the finalists and recipients.

Trailblazer Award

Lily Tang - Finalist

Lily Tang is a Sophomore at UMass Amherst where she studies Political Science and Asian American Studies. Lily is an Event Coordinator at the Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center and spearheaded UMass' very first 3 day Asian American Film Festival. Lily's passion for public service and AAPI activism was sparked by her work in Boston Chinatown, where she was actively involved with various Asian American- focused nonprofits. Her goal is to continue to empower fellow Asian Americans in recognizing their role in social justice and activism by increasing their political awareness.

Maria Gabriella Montoya - Finalist

Maria Gabriella Montoya is in her third year at the University of Central Florida (UCF), where she majors in Sociology on a Pre-Law track. She is the vice president of the Asian Student Association, the secretary for the Asian Pacific American Coalition and is part of the Public Relations team for Sparks Magazine at UCF. She is also the treasurer for the Pride Student Association and helped start QCF Magazine, the first queer publication at UCF. Gabby has also interned for Anna Eskamani and is the Outreach Director for the Orlando Queer and Trans Association. Raised in Melbourne, FL, Gabby is interested in pursuing Law, either in Criminal Defense or Immigration, with a focus on policy reform.

Luke Kertcher - 2019 ECAASU Trailblazer Recipient

Originally from Northeast Ohio, Luke Kertcher is a fourth year studying international relations, human rights, and Asian American studies at the University of Pennsylvania. At Penn, Luke serves as co-chair of the Asian American Studies Undergraduate Advisory Board, undergraduate representative on the University Council Committee on Diversity and Equity, and external vice president for the Penn Vietnamese Students’ Association. Luke’s academic work in Asian American studies and Vietnamese studies is award-winning, has been published in 3 undergraduate journals, and presented at multiple academic conferences. Luke is a proud multiracial Vietnamese American committed to advancing the Southeast Asian American refugee community. He is a civic engagement committee member for the Union of North American Vietnamese Student Associations and a dedicated activist for educational equity and against unjust detention and deportation policies.

Community Builder Award

Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center (YKCC) - Finalist

Lily Tang, Victoria Ung, and Chona Lauyan

The Yuri Kochiyama Cultural Center (YKCC) was established in 1989 with the mission of supporting the academic success and cultural competency of students identifying with the Asian Diaspora through innovative programs and services that encourage community building, self-empowerment, and advocacy for social inequities. This year the YKCC spearheaded a 3 day Asian American Film Festival. The goal of the film festival was to showcase three films in three days which are all created by Asian Pacific Islander American (APIA) filmmakers and to bring those filmmakers on campus in order to engage students in a discussion on how they use their platform to spread knowledge and awareness of different social and historical issues. This year they were able to invite filmmakers Ken Eng, Adele Pham and the Wong Fu Productions as their special guests and to speak about how they use film as a medium for social change.

Trinity College Asian American Student Association (AASA) - 2019 ECAASU Community Builder Recipient

Ethan Yang

The Trinity College Asian American Student Association (AASA) was started shortly after the coining of the term Asian American when AAPI students rallied in solidarity under the term. In the year 2000, Trinity AASA was given its own culture house after an Asian American student was a victim of an act of hatred. Since then, AASA has been putting on consistent programing and providing an inclusive space on campus. Some of their biggest events include their annual Lunar New Year celebrations and hosting North Korean refugee speakers. Recently Trinity AASA has been branching out into more ambitious projects, such as their annual Connecticut state conference, Campus Climate Panels, and an ECAASU Campus Summit. They routinely collaborate with other groups on campus from the broader multicultural community, to the LGBTQ community to Greek Life. Finally, AASA officers are known to be leaders not just in AAPI spaces but all throughout campus as well.