“I really think it’s journalists who are able and best positioned to tell the stories of people who are striving to overcome challenges,” Yee says, “and they’re also best positioned to expose to the world the stories of the most vulnerable.
“So I think the media, in general, is a significant institution and we have to do what we can to encourage good media and good journalists.”
In honor of his parents, Yee has upped his investment in the AAJA Sports Task Force by providing two scholarships to college students and recent graduates interested in sports journalism to help cover expenses related to travel and accommodations for the 2017 AAJA convention in Philadelphia in July. The two recipients for the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship are Charlie Lapastora and Daniel Tran.
“We had several highly-qualified applicants this year,” says Sports Task Force chairman Howard Chen. “Both (Lapastora and Tran) showed a passion for sports journalism and both have strong resumes.
“It’s never financially easy for those who are beginning their pursuit of a career in journalism,” Chen adds. “Don’s contribution makes it possible for two people to help do what they can to take that next step in their careers at this year’s AAJA convention.”
Representing many clients, including Tom Brady, Yee has developed into one of the NFL’s most-respected agents. He says he was very impressed with Tran and Lapastora.
“The one thing that stood out is the passion that they both have for the profession and for sports,” Yee says of Tran and Lapastora. “It’s always great to see passion and dedication, and I’m really happy that they’re this year’s recipients.”
Lapastora says his family’s story is quite similar to Yee’s. His grandparents moved to Detroit with $500 to make a better life for their family.
“Throughout each step of my journey,” Lapastora says, “there’s been so many trials and obstacles, but each time I chose to overcome them.
“But it’s not about me,” adds Lapastora, a graduate of Oakland University. “It’s about those whose lives are affected, whose story I’m telling.”
Like Lapastora, Tran can also relate to Yee’s story and is greatly encouraged to win this scholarship.
“He knows the struggle of people underestimating his abilities, and overcoming those challenges to become the best in his profession,” says Tran, who has a masters degree from the University of Southern California.
At last year’s convention, Yee had a chance to meet the inaugural winner of the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship, Josh Tolentino of Illinois State.
“I was really honored to meet Josh Tolentino and hear about his path and his hopes and dreams, and aspirations,” Yee says. “Josh is a terrific young writer and just to see the growth in his career and have a minor hand in it is really gratifying.”
But Yee has a message for Tran, Lapastora, Tolentino and other aspiring Asian American journalists.
“The one thing I’d like to share and for people to understand, all of you have to overcome very significant, built-in institutional hurdles,” Yee says. “Not just from a general perception of who you are by larger society but also a general perception of who you are by even those within the industry. So if there’s anything I can do to help to get as many people to understand the context within you are trying to operate, I think it’s educational but it also gives people a greater understanding of the odds and challenges Asian American journalists face.”