Honoring Tzu Chi USA Scholarship Recipients in the Midwest

Midwest  | September 28, 2020
On July 18, the Tzu Chi USA Midwest Region chapter held a virtual meeting to honor the students receiving Tzu Chi USA Scholarships this year. Photo: Yue Ma.

Written by Yue Ma
Translated by Karen Chen
Edited by Ida Eva Zielinska

Because of the pandemic, the Tzu Chi USA Midwest Region chapter couldn’t hold an in-person award ceremony for the recipients of this year’s Tzu Chi USA Scholarships. Instead, for the first time, volunteers organized a virtual meeting attended by scholarship winners from all over the Midwest.

Scholarship recipient Marissa Gerstner, a Milwaukee student. Photo: Provided by Marissa Gerstner.

Although volunteers and students couldn’t meet face-to-face, the gathering’s online nature didn’t minimize the warmth they felt in their hearts. The purpose of the virtual meeting was to bless the 16 graduates receiving scholarships as they transitioned from being high schoolers to college students.

Scholarship recipient Lou Vang, a Minneapolis student. Photo: Yue Ma
Scholarship recipient Lily Janson, a Columbus student. Photo: Yue Ma.
Scholarship recipient Jedi Casas, a Minneapolis student. Photo: Yue Ma.
Scholarship recipient Darden J. Davis, a Detroit student. Photo: Yue Ma.

Before the ceremony, volunteers from the Tzu Chi USA Midwest Region office had mailed a few things to the students’ homes. They included the scholarship check, a certificate of award, and a package containing a Jing Si aphorisms book, a bamboo bank, a bag of Jing Si Instant Rice, ten face masks, and other inspirational items selected with care, and for a reason.

The items in the package sent to the scholarship recipients prior to the virtual award ceremony.
After receiving the package, Detroit student, Anupam Gatta, happily took the items out and took a picture of them with his parents.

Scholarship recipient Joy Ayinde shared that she had gained even more than the financial award itself, by joining Tzu Ching (Tzu Chi Collegiate Association). She discovered the association while applying for scholarships and choosing the university she wanted to attend: “When I was thinking about my goal in life, I found out about how amazing Tzu Ching is! It gave me a chance to emphasize both schoolwork and doing good deeds. It really is an organization that suits someone like me!”

Hearing about Tzu Chi Collegiate Association motivated Joy Ayinde, currently a college student, to join.

During the virtual ceremony, the volunteers introduced all the items in the package students received and shared the story behind Tzu Chi’s bamboo banks. Hearing about the origins of the bamboo bank moved Hanna Dworkin very much.

To know that the scholarship money came from donations in the form of coins, I can’t imagine how much it took to accumulate into our awards.

Hanna Dworkin Tzu Chi Scholarship Recipient
Tzu Chi Volunteer Annie Chow introduces the items in the package students received; everything sent had a deep meaning attached. Photo: Yue Ma.

For this ceremony to go smoothly, the volunteers had to put in a lot of effort. Even the application procedure this year was more complicated as they had to conduct the qualification process and interviews through online meetings to overcome the stay-at-home order.

The volunteers in charge of the scholarship program and coordinating the event expressed their hope that the pandemic doesn’t impede the scholarship recipients’ dreams for the future. And they were grateful that thanks to modern technology, they could host the scholarship award ceremony online.

During the ceremony, Tzu Chi volunteers lead the attendees in sincere prayer, hoping for the pandemic to go away.
Chong Hsieh, Executive Director of Tzu Chi USA’s Midwest Region, shares his wish that the students will do good deeds and keep on being good people.

Each volunteer had a role in helping make the virtual event a success. Huey Shann Sue was delighted because they were able to show the attendees Tzu Chi USA’s beautiful Chicago office through video. Dennis Lee focused very intently on who was speaking to spotlight them so everyone could see who was talking. And Annie Chow led the sign language dance; even though everyone stayed in their own homes, their hearts connected as one.

Even if the award ceremony was online, I could still feel the love and warmth from everyone; I was very touched.

Annie Chow Tzu Chi Volunteer

Amid these extraordinary circumstances this year, a special ceremony still took place. Everyone took the opportunity to join together in prayer for the pandemic to be over quickly and to generate blessings for these incoming college students so they can use their unique skills to help society and the Earth.

COVID-19 is having a severe impact on America. And yet, we must persevere and have faith in the future: This is especially important for students across the nation, as they may be feeling greatly discouraged about what lies ahead. Thus, Tzu Chi USA’s missions are continuing through these tough times, supporting education among them. 

Please join hands with us as we provide aid nationwide, on several fronts, including direct COVID-19 related assistance such as donations of personal protective equipment to healthcare facilities, distributions of food for those in need, and more. We’re all in this together, so please add your love to help support our Together While Apart efforts.

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