STF Announces Recipients of Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee Scholarship

For as long as he can remember, prominent sports agent Don Yee had an “intense” interest in journalism.

“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.”

Charlie Lapastora

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.

Daniel Tran

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.”

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Sports Task Force has named Jackson Safon the inaugural winner of its ESPN internship.

Safon is graduating with a degree from the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. 

“The process to find one that was most worthy of this ESPN/AAJA Sports Task Force internship wasn’t easy, with so many strong candidates,” said Howard Chen, STF’s chairman. “Special thanks to our judging panel for going through all the entries and selecting USC’s Jackson Safon, our inaugural winner of this incredible opportunity. Think about it: this is a paid internship with furnished housing covered! Thank you to ESPN and Disney for continuing to champion diversity with this internship.”

There were over 43 applicants for the ESPN/ AAJA Sports Task Force internship, but Jackson distinguished himself with his grades and his extensive work as in digital and broadcast media.

Don Yee provides second STF Scholarship to 2017 AAJA Convention in Philadelphia

Josh Tolentino weighed his options for the summer of 2016.

Full-time, paid internship as a page designer at a small newspaper in Illinois. Or an unpaid sports internship at the Chicago Sun-Times.

He followed his passion, sports.

His 90-minute commute downtown, consisting of buses and trains, ate in his savings, and he worried that he wouldn’t be able to attend the seminal event of his summer: the Asian American Journalists Convention in Las Vegas. He had attended the previous year, meeting the Asian broadcasters, anchors, editors and sportswriters he admired. And as he prepared for his senior year, he felt it essential to attend again.

But the cost was prohibitive.

Then he discovered that respected agent Don Yee was offering, in honor of his parents, a scholarship to the convention through the Sports Task Force.

Tolentino applied… and he was the inaugural winner of the Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship, which provided a college student up to $1,000 in travel-related expenses and accommodations for the convention in Las Vegas.

“I was overwhelmed,” Tolentino said. “I had been telling myself that I would make it happen. But, deep down, if I didn’t get that scholarship from Don, I wouldn’t have been able to go.”

In Las Vegas, in a hotel lobby, Tolentino was introduced to Yee by STF mentor and leader Ohm Youngmisuk. Tolentino reached into his bag and pulled out a copy of the Sun-Times, featuring one of his stories on the back cover.

 

“It was a real honor to meet Josh,” Yee said. “He is an impressive guy… and he has a bright future. I hope I can help him and others any way I can.”

To that end, Yee is offering two scholarships for travel to this year’s convention in Philadelphia, one for a current college student and a second for someone who has graduated within the last three years.

“I wanted to add a second scholarship because I want to help as many people as I can and because what journalists do is so important,” Yee said. “The industry is undergoing so much change, and it’s difficult for journalists to get support — so I want to do what I can.”

STF chair Howard Chen said he’s “amazed” by Yee’s willingness to help aspiring sports journalists.

“Both college students and fresh college graduates usually go through a financial struggle in order to pursue their dreams,” said Chen, ESPN’s international producer overseeing NBA video content for China. “The fact that Don is helping both groups speaks to who he is as a person and, on behalf of the Sports Task Force, we are so thankful for Don’s support!”

Yee’s parents have influenced his desire to help STF and other organizations.

Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee immigrated to the U.S. when China fell under Communist rule, and they settled in Sacramento. They endured many hardships as they created a new life for themselves and their family. But Jimmie and Suey Fong instilled in their children the importance of kindness.

A founder and partner of Yee & Dubin Sports, Yee’s clients include New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, among many others. He’s also a notable speaker and writer.

Yee said his family has been very supportive of the scholarship.

“All of us know how encouraging our parents were to us,” he said, “and we’re just glad to be able to help however we can.”

Yee was thrilled to be able to meet Tolentino and many others at last year’s AAJA convention. 

“I always leave feeling inspired,” he said. “There is so much talent there — I come from outside the journalism industry so perhaps I have a more objective view, but the level of talent, drive and smarts is impressive.”

As Tolentino approaches graduation from Illinois State, he said he’s thankful for Yee and STF’s continued support.

“Don’t think twice: Apply,” Tolentino said. “You never know the chances you have. Don and the organization have been so helpful and instrumental, not just with the scholarship.

“I can never stop saying thank you to them enough.”

 

Nader Issa Wins STF’s Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Sports Task Force has named Nader Issa as the second recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship.

Issa is a senior journalism and sports management major at Loyola University in Chicago. The managing editor of the student newspaper, the Loyola Phoenix, Issa broke a national story in spring 2016 about Sheryl Swoopes, one of the greatest women’s basketball players. Issa’s reporting revealed mistreatment allegations of players by Swoopes, the head coach of the women’s basketball team.

“This was a very close judging process. We had a tremendous pool of applicants who we feel all have bright futures,” said Howard Chen, the Sports Task Force chairman. “Nader is committed to sports journalism, and he demonstrated his potential in breaking the Swoopes story that landed him national interviews, including Outside the Lines.”

Currently a student member of AAJA, Issa attended the AAJA Convention last summer in Las Vegas.

“It was good to know that there are people supporting me, the way everyone at the Sports Task Force has since I joined AAJA,” Issa said. “It’s reaffirming to know my hard work is paying off.”

While wrapping up his studies at Loyola, Issa will soon start a Metro internship at the Chicago Sun-Times.

“Nader’s tenacity, commitment and desire to succeed as a sports journalist makes him a worthy winner,” said Al Young. “His Sheryl Swoopes investigative piece that became a national story is testimony that he’s on the right track. I’m delighted that this scholarship will help him move forward.”

The Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship is named after an award-winning journalist whose career spanned more than four decades. Young was the nation’s first Asian American sportswriter at a metro daily. He was a writer and editor at various publications including the Boston Globe, USA Today and the New York Daily News before he retired in 2012.

Josh Tolentino of Illinois State wins Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee Scholarship

Josh Tolentino, a senior at Illinois State University, is the inaugural winner of the The Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship.

Don Yee
Don Yee

Don Yee, a founder and partner of Yee & Dubin Sports, created the scholarship to honor his parents and encourage a current college student to attend the 2016 AAJA convention in Las Vegas in August by helping to cover travel expenses.

“My parents really emphasized helping others,” Yee said in announcing the scholarship in March. ” The other inspiration is what journalists do every day in trying to communicate stories of importance – it’s important to me that we have good and strong journalists in society.

“I support the AAJA Sports Task Force because there are a lot of good people I’ve met who’ve overcome a lot to get where they are and because those same people are enthusiastic about telling a wider range of stories.”

Tolentino, the sports editor at his university’s newspaper, is now a sports intern at the Chicago Sun-Times. When informed of his selection by Justin Seiter of AAJA, Tolentino said he was encouraged and overjoyed.

I would also like to thank the selection committee for their consideration and vote of confidence in me. I promise to carry out and promote our mission to journalists around the country. I am deeply committed to my education and sports journalism career, and am one step closer to my goal with this scholarship.

I was nervous when I attended my first AAJA convention last year in San Francisco. Looking back, I laugh at how hesitant I was before the convention. I met so many motivational professionals and students alike at AAJA.

I appreciate the endless support of my many mentors and the AAJA Sports Task Force as I continue my studies at Illinois State University and my journey as an aspiring journalist. Carolyn Hong, Michael Huang, Sean Jensen, Leighton Ginn, Cary Chow and Howard Chen are just few of the many inspiring professionals who have helped me reach this point. I’m blessed to not only call them my mentors but also very good friends.

While writing a recent story on White Sox 2B Brett Lawrie, I discovered he had a very close relationship with his sister, Danielle, who is a softball analyst for PAC-12 Network and ESPN. I was able to use Hong as a resource in securing an interview with Danielle. Hong connected me with Danielle’s ESPN publicist, mentioning our AAJA relationship and I was able to successfully interview Lawrie.

Jensen has also been an awesome mentor and teacher. I was lucky enough to cover parts of the 2016 NFL Draft through my connection with Jensen, who put in a good word for me with NFL media relations. In Chicago, I conducted interviews with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and the second overall pick, Carson Wentz. My attendance at the draft along with Jensen’s promotion of my stories helped boost my readership and brand.

Mr. Ginn continues to put forth immeasurable efforts in promoting all AAJA Sports Task Force members stories. Because of Ginn, many of my stories receive an increased amount of clicks and views from all over the world. I don’t think Ginn gets nearly the amount of recognition he deserves.

Huang’s relationship with me dates back to several months before my first AAJA convention. Until now, Huang and I maintain one of the best relationships I have with AAJA. Most recently, as I have begun my internship at the Sun-Times, Huang was promoted to become a lead editor for ESPN’s production in China. Huang, Chow and Chen have racked up many air flight miles throughout the past month covering the NBA playoffs. Despite his busy schedule, Huang has been able to still give me helpful tips and pointers during my internship. Huang’s well-developed career began in Chicago where he still has many connections within the city’s media outlets.

Justin Seiter has also been one of the most helpful individuals at AAJA. Seiter is always keeping me in the loop about AAJA scholarships, grant opportunities and whereabouts.

Being awarded the Don Yee Scholarship couldn’t have come at a better time. This summer, I am working as an unpaid sports intern at the Sun-Times.

Before the summer began, I had a competing internship offer, which was a full-time paid position, though the position was in page design and not sports. I chose to follow my heart and stick with my passion for sports. The experience has been invaluable and humbling but also a bit of a financial burden.

I am incredibly thankful for another opportunity to attend AAJA this August in Las Vegas, where I hope to build new networks and continue to develop the strong relationships I already have within AAJA.

In addition to working at the Sun-Times, I also serve as sports editor for The Vidette, ISU’s student-run newspaper. My involvement with The Vidette, Sun-Times and AAJA has all helped me become who I am today. My educational and professional pursuits would not be possible without generous support from individuals like Don Yee and the AAJA Sports Task Force.

As I enter my senior year, it is exciting knowing I’ll be able to attend another AAJA convention the week before school begins. I look to make the most of every opportunity and am proud to be a member of the AAJA Sports Task Force.

Sports Task Force chair Carolyn Hong of ESPN noted that Tolentino was among an “impressive pool of applicants.”

“The Sports Task Force is very pleased to offer Josh this opportunity,” Hong said. His drive and passion for sports journalism made him stand out.

“Thanks to Don Yee’s generosity, the STF is able to offer Josh this fantastic experience. I hope more students take advantage of the programs and networking that AAJA and the STF can offer to help them build a career in journalism.”

Prominent agent Don Yee provides STF scholarship

Don Yee is not one to boast of his impact and influence in sports.

A founder and partner of Yee & Dubin Sports, Yee’s clients include New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, among many others. He’s also a notable speaker and writer.

Yee Brady
Don Yee (right) with his client Tom Brady

But he’s stepped forward to establish a special AAJA Sports Task Force scholarship.

“It is very humbling to even be in a position to honor my parents,” Yee told STF. “I was very lucky to be their son. I want to express how I feel about them and the values they imparted, and I hope to continue to do more.”

The Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship provides up to $1,000 to a current college student interested in sports journalism help in covering expenses related to travel and accommodations for the 2016 AAJA convention in Las Vegas in August.

“We’re so honored that Mr. Yee chose the STF to present this wonderful opportunity,” said STF chair Carolyn Hong, a coordinating producer at ESPN. “With this generous gift, Mr. Yee shows how committed he is to paying it forward to the Asian American community.”

The AAJA convention provides students an opportunity to learn, network and grow but cost can be prohibitive.

carolyn-headshot
STF chair Carolyn Hong

“Every penny counts to most students,” Hong said, “and they’re beyond excited about this opportunity to perhaps attend the AAJA national conference for the first time! Many say they’re spreading the word about this opportunity and about the Sports Task Force.”

Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee immigrated to the U.S. when China fell under Communist rule, and they settled in Sacramento. They endured many hardships as they created a new life for themselves and their family.

But Jimmie and Suey Fong instilled in their children the importance of kindness.

That was one of the two key motivations for Don Yee in founding this scholarship.

“My parents really emphasized helping others,” Yee said. ” The other inspiration is what journalists do every day in trying to communicate stories of importance – it’s important to me that we have good and strong journalists in society.

“I support the AAJA Sports Task Force because there are a lot of good people I’ve met who’ve overcome a lot to get where they are and because those same people are enthusiastic about telling a wider range of stories.”

For details and the application, click here.

The deadline to apply is Sunday, May 15.

Photo credit: New York Daily News

Brady Wakayama wins inaugural AAJA Sports Task Force scholarship

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) Sports Task Force has named Brady Wakayama the first ever recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship.

Wakayama, a senior at Washington State University, is a communications major with an emphasis on broadcast journalism and a minor in sports management.  He is currently developing his skills as a member of the Edward R. Murrow College of Communication’s Murrow News 8 team, where he has done everything from reporting, writing and producing to anchoring newscasts.Brady Wakayama

“As the namesake of this award, I’m extremely delighted and proud to congratulate Brady on being the inaugural winner of the AAJA Sports Task Force Journalism Scholarship. This is not only a testament to the hard work and dedication he has already shown early on but, hopefully, this will be another stepping stone toward achieving his sports journalism career dreams,” said Al Young, a retired sports journalist and current advisor to the Quincy College (Mass.) student newspaper.

Currently a student member of AAJA, Wakayama has also shown his support in the Asian American community, volunteering since 2009 at Seattle’s Asian Counseling and Referral Service.

“Brady was among a number of strong applicants for our first scholarship,” said Sports Task Force chairperson Carolyn Hong.  “His passion, attitude and commitment to sports impressed all of us on the selection committee.  He is a great representative of the nation’s up-and-coming Asian American sports journalists, and we hope there are many more who will follow in his footsteps.”

Award-winning sports journalist Al Young

Wakayama is expected to graduate in May 2016.

“I certainly appreciate the ongoing support and mentorship (of the AAJA Sports Task Force) as I pursue a broadcast journalism career in the sports media industry,” Wakayama said. “The Al Young Sports Journalism scholarship is an unbelievable honor, and has further inspired and motivated me to do great things in this industry.”

The Al Young Sports Journalism scholarship is named after an award-winning journalist whose career spanned more than three decades.  Young was the nation’s first Asian American sportswriter at a metro daily.

He was a writer and editor at various publications including the Boston Globe, USA Today and the New York Daily News before he retired in 2014.

Reggie Ho humbly shares his inspiring story with Sports Task Force

By Alysha Tsuji

Reggie Ho inconspicuously walked into the tail-end of an AAJA Sports Task Force meeting to say a few words prior to a screening of an ESPN 30 for 30 documentary based off of his time as kicker for Notre Dame football.

I had watched the short film prior to the screening, so I knew what to expect from it: a riveting story about a man who fought his way onto a competitive football team while also studying to be a doctor — and who then succeeded at both.

Ho could have said a lot of things to us as he stood up. He could have harped on his personal accomplishments, or he could have given us a light preview of his documentary. Instead, he simply thanked the Sports Task Force for having him and sat down. The brevity surprised me, especially since it was revealed that he had cut his family’s Hawaiian vacation time short to be at the AAJA convention with us.

But after the screening, as ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi conducted a Q&A with Ho, I understood.

Every question Negandhi asked, Ho answered respectfully, with pure class and humility. Negandhi even joked about how, at one point, Ho provided a room full of journalists with the classic canned “It wasn’t me, it was the team” answer.

It quickly became evident that it wasn’t a canned answer. It was just Reggie Ho being Reggie Ho.

The hard work, the discipline, the humility — it propelled Ho to success. He’s now a cardiologist who will forever have his fond memories of kicking for Notre Dame football and winning a title in 1988.

A key moment that resonated with me was when Ho recalled how Coach Lou Holtz addressed the team after the championship win. Holtz told them — in the midst of a national championship victory — to remember there was more to life than football. Ho said he was touched that Holtz took a moment to acknowledge that football was just a sport, and that family, God and friends mattered more.

That perspective can speak to people in all walks of life, and it was inspiring to hear from Dr. Ho himself. Here are some social media highlights of the “Student/Athlete” screening and post-film interview:

With legendary Notre Dame kicker Dr. Reggie Ho and morning ESPN SportsCenter anchor Kevin Negandhi #AAJA15 #SportsTaskForce

A photo posted by Josh Canlas Tolentino (@jctsports) on