AAJA’s Sports Task Force Presents Free Career Zoom Session with ESPN Anchor Kevin Negandhi

The Asian American Journalists Association’s Sports Task Force (AAJA STF) is introducing an interactive professional development series called Career Café, a one-hour Zoom Q&A with journalism leaders to foster a more diverse and inclusive industry. Career Café offers the rare opportunity for attendees to directly interact with industry thought leaders in an intimate setting.

The inaugural installment features groundbreaking ESPN anchor Kevin Negandhi, the first Indian American to ever anchor at a national sports network. Negandhi will discuss wide-ranging topics, from his journey from Temple University to award-winning SportsCenter host, to overcoming obstacles and becoming a South Asian journalism pioneer. Career Café’s casual vibe invites interaction and participants are encouraged to ask questions.

When: Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, 1-2pm ET.
Cost: FREE (AAJA membership is encouraged) 

Link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86355248900#success

The event is open to all supporters of diversity and inclusion. While free of charge, future engagement with the AAJA Sports Task Force, including AAJA membership, is encouraged.

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About AAJA STF:
AAJA Sports Task Force promotes diversity in the sports media industry through mentorships, scholarships and outreach programs. AAJA STF is proud of its work with other multicultural organizations to champion diversity.

For more information, contact the STF: Twitter: @AAJASports
Instagram: @aaja_stf
Facebook: Asian American Sports Journalists Web: sportstaskforce.com

Roshan Fernandez wins 2020 Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

By Josh Tolentino

Roshan Fernandez

The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force is proud to announce Roshan Fernandez as the 2020 winner of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship. 

Fernandez, a magazine, newspaper and digital journalism major at Syracuse, is the fifth overall – and first freshman – recipient of the award. 

“Roshan’s accomplishments, dedication and passion as a sports journalist, at such a young age, caught my eye immediately,” said Young, an executive member of AAJA’s Sports Task Force. “I was extremely impressed by his skillset as a writer, interviewer and editor – traits usually found in seasoned journalists and honed over time.” 

“Roshan’s an all-star,” said AAJA Sports Task Force co-chair Michael Huang. “Sports Task Force sees a tremendous future for this young man. The Asian American sports journalism community needs to continue to foster young talent such as Roshan to ensure AAPIs are represented in all newsrooms.” 

Fernandez grew up in Northern California and first became involved with sports reporter as a junior in high school. He worked as a visuals editor at his school newspaper before becoming editor in chief during his senior year. It was then he noticed his interest in sports journalism didn’t match those of his friends. 

“Everyone said they wanted to be a bio major or work at Apple or Google,” Fernandez said. “I was never really interested in those types of things.” 

While working at his high school paper, El Estoque, Fernandez developed a passion in interviewing subjects across the school, specifically in sports. His favorites were soccer and baseball and he felt like he was able to relate easily to many of the athletes. 

“I found it interesting because I sort of knew what they were going through as a student athlete and I wanted to tell their stories,” Fernandez said. “I learned soccer wasn’t going to be my future, and I realized journalism was actually what I wanted to do.” 

Heading into his senior year, Fernandez landed a spot at Northwestern’s Medill Cherubs program, a five-week summer journalism institute intended for rising seniors seeking the inside scoop on professional journalism and looking to connect with peers who are just as passionate about pursuing the same career. 

Fernandez outside the Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University

After enrolling at Syracuse, Fernandez joined the campus newspaper, the Daily Orange, where he currently serves as a digital editor. Although his spring semester courses on campus were derailed by COVID-19 concerns, Fernandez is still attending online courses from his home in Cupertino, Calif. Upon completion of the spring semester, he is set to intern with the Chatam Anglers of the Cape Cod Baseball League. Fernandez aspires to be a professional baseball beat reporter. 

“Baseball has it’s 5-tool player, but I think we’ve found our own freshman phenom,” Young said. 

When Fernandez was recently informed he was recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship, he spoke with Young over the phone.

The Al Young Scholarship is dedicated to Young, the first Asian American sports writer to work for a metro daily newspaper. Young worked for several outlets, including the New York Daily News, Boston Globe and USA TODAY before retiring in 2012.   

“He’s had an amazing career, it means a lot for someone to have high praise for a kid like me,” Fernandez said. “He’s been super helpful in terms of giving me advice and guiding me for my future.”

Fernandez hopes to attend his first AAJA convention soon and he plans to become more active within the Bay Area chapter. 

“I hope that,” Young said. “Winning this scholarship so early in his college career will continue to propel him to even greater heights down the road.”

Eric He wins 2019 Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

By Josh Tolentino 

The Asian American Journalists Association is proud to announce Eric He as the fourth recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship. 

Eric He, USC senior

“Eric was locked in on a sports journalism career at an early age, starting in high school with his launch of a local Bay Area sports website that drew 2.8 million hits its first year,” said Young, an executive member of AAJA’s Sports Task Force. “His commitment and dedication to that pursuit continued to grow as managing editor of Southern Cal’s Daily Trojan, along with prestigious internships at USA TODAY,  NBC Sports and MLB.com., covering all levels of sports.

“I’m delighted this scholarship will help him move a step closer to achieving  his lifelong dream.” 

He, a senior a Southern California, first became involved with sports reporting during his sophomore year of high school, when he created his own blog. He recalled not having a large audience, but he had aspirations of becoming a storyteller. He covered local sports teams close to home around the Bay Area. 

“No one really read it, just my parents,” He said. “I blogged everyday. Eventually, I got better at it and realized it was something I could see myself doing in the future. It set me on the right path.” 

By the end of his high school career, He was covering the San Jose Sharks for a local media outlet, SF Bay. He also covered local high school football. His passion for storytelling followed him to USC, where he is currently finishing his bachelors degree in journalism. 

“Like the athletes he covers, Eric has shown his early drive and passion for journalism,” said AAJA Sports Task Force co-chair Victoria Lim. “We’re honored he is part of the AAJA Sports Task Force, and we look forward to watching him turn pro.”

Upon graduation in May, He will intern at the Los Angeles Daily News, as part of this year’s Sports Journalism Institute. 

“Knowing who Al Young is and the role he played in paving the path for Asian American sports journalists, I’m very grateful,” He said. “There are people like him out there, who come back and contribute.”

He attended his first AAJA convention in 2017 in Philadelphia. Following the convention, he returned to USC for his junior year and became more involved with his local AAJA chapter.

“I’ve become a better journalist because of AAJA,” He said. “It’s a unique experience to not only be part of the organization but also lead our student chapter and watch it grow.” 

When He was informed he was recipient of the 2019 Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship, he spoke with Young over the phone. He said their conversation was inspiring, and he plans to meet Young for the first time at this year’s AAJA convention in Atlanta. 

Al Young

The Al Young Scholarship is dedicated to Young, the first Asian American sports writers to work for a metro daily newspaper. Young worked for several outlets, including the New York Daily News, Boston Globe and USA TODAY before retiring in 2012. 

“It was really empowering to speak with him and have him give me advice and confidence that I can continue down this path with things like the scholarship,” He said. “I know I’m on the right path.” 

STF Announces Recipients of 2018 Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee Scholarship

By Josh Tolentino

The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force is pleased to announce that Pablo Iglesias and Souichi Terada are this year’s recipients of the the 2018 Jimmie & Suey Fong Yee Scholarship, funded by prominent sports agent Don Yee.

The $1,000 scholarships will help cover expenses related to travel and accommodations for the 2018 AAJA convention in Houston.

“There were many applicants who proved to be qualified,” said Sports Task Force chairman Howard Chen. “So for Pablo and Souichi to stand out from that group means a lot. 

“AAJA Sports Task Force is so thankful for Don Yee’s support of diversity in sports journalism. His contribution will help Pablo and Souichi take further steps in accomplishing their dreams.”

Representing many clients, including Tom Brady and Jimmy Garappolo, Yee has developed into one of the NFL’s most-respected agents. He said he was very impressed with Iglesias and Terada.

“Both (Iglesias and Terada) have demonstrated drive and perseverance – they have an inner passion, and that is a big key to any success,” Yee said. “All of us will experience ups and downs in our journey, and perseverance is an important trait to have.”

Iglesias, a graduate of Bradley University, said his family’s story was similar to Yee’s.

“I related to Don’s story in a similar way – there are challenges as minorities that we go through,” Iglesias said. We can’t be afraid of those challenges. I’ve tried to hold myself to those standards. That doesn’t mean you should fall down to them. You need to continue to challenge yourself.”

After graduating from Bradley in Spring 2017, Iglesias returned to his alma mater, Mount Carmel High School, to work in the athletic department as a multimedia marketing specialist. He also freelances for Eagle Broadcasting Corporation, a television based in the Philippines. He recently covered the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four in San Antonio.

Iglesias attended his first AAJA convention last year in Philadelphia. He said his involvement with AAJA has helped him immensely.

“Growing up, I was probably one of if not the only minority in any group, outside of my family,” he said. “Going to AAJA was a different type of experience. It was such a great experience. It gave me the empowering feeling as an Asian American that we could make it.

“The love and support – we all root for each other and share our stories. AAJA and the STF was a welcoming community.”

Terada, a rising senior at Michigan State University, said AAJA has helped pave a path for him in journalism.

Terada works on campus as a sports reporter for Michigan State’s student newspaper, The State News. He is interning this summer at the Tennessean, as part of the Sports Journalism Institute.

“I’m really excited to meet the AAJA family,” Terada said. “It’s cool knowing there is a group of like-minded professionals of the same color and background. AAJA’s mission really hits home.

“At Michigan State, I use diversity as a big platform to spread awareness.”

Don Yee

The 2018 AAJA convention marks the third consecutive year Yee is providing financial aid to the AAJA Sports Task Force. Former Jimmie and Suey Fong Yee Scholarship recipients include Josh Tolentino, Charlie Lapastora and Daniel Tran.

“My parents raised their children to understand that the best purpose in life is to lend a helping hand to others,” Yee said. “I’m just privileged to be in a position to help.  I actually feel lucky to get to know the next generation of talent and leaders.”

Yee stressed an important message to Iglesias, Terada and other aspiring Asian American journalists.

“Asian stories are just as important as any others,” Yee said. “A lot of us have grown up on Western media where we essentially are invisible, and this type of media diet can cause us to minimize our own existence. I hope Pablo and Souichi will keep this in mind as they pursue their careers.”

Tami Nguyen of Boston University Wins Coveted STF’s ESPN Internship

By Josh Tolentino

The Asian American Journalists Association Sports Task Force is proud to announce Tami Nguyen as the second winner of its ESPN internship.

Nguyen is graduating this month from Boston University. 

She was recently named winner of the 2018 Al Young Sports Journalist Scholarship. Nguyen is the first female recipient of both the scholarship and internship.

“I’m really proud of all that Tami has accomplished,” said Howard Chen, STF’s chairman. “There were many worthy applicants, and through a very thorough judging and vetting process. Tami was ultimately chosen as the best fit for this ESPN internship. We are extremely thankful to Disney and ESPN for helping to make this opportunity possible through AAJA’s Sports Task Force.”

Nguyen’s passion for journalism has grown through her current internship with the control room at TD Garden, home of the Boston Celtics and Bruins. She’s spent the past season covering various athletes, including Kyrie Irving, Jaylen Brown, Zdeno Chara and others.

She hopes to continue her sports journalism career after college in Boston and work in live sports coverage.

Nguyen joined AAJA in high school. However, she didn’t attend her first event until a few months ago when she decide to stop by an event hosted by AAJA New England, where she met Al Young and other Boston-based journalists.

She instantly found a home. 

“AAJA is very family oriented,” Nguyen said. “I’m beyond thankful both of these opportunities were given to me this year. I wasn’t involved much before, but AAJA and the Sports Task Force has helped open so many doors.”

When Nguyen found out she won the internship, she was quick to make a first request.

“I wanted to make sure I could attend AAJA in Houston,” she said.

Nguyen plans on attending her first AAJA national convention this summer in Houston, and increasing her involvement with the AAJA Sports Task Force.

“Winning this scholarship and internship has re-assured me I chose the right path,” Nguyen said. “The Sports Task Force has done so much and the success I enjoy is a direct benefit of the support I receive.”

Tami Nguyen Wins STF’s Al Young Sports Journalism Scholarship

By Mark Kim

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) is proud to announce Tami Nguyen as the third recipient of the Al Young Sports Journalist Scholarship. She is the first woman to receive this scholarship.

Tami Nguyen and Al Young

“I know the judges all worked very diligently during this process and am very happy that AAJA’s Sports Task Force can assist Tami in pursuing her career goals and also honoring the pioneer in the industry that Al Young is,” said Howard Chen, the chair of AAJA’s Sports Task Force.

Nguyen, a senior at Boston University, started college as a computer science major. But through a control room internship with TD Garden, the home of the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins, she found her passion for journalism.

Along with her duties with TD Garden, Nguyen also works for BUTV10, the campus TV station of Boston University, and freelances as a photographer.

“Her talents behind the camera and work ethic, along with her academic success during four years as a Film and Television major at BU, have proven to be top notch,” said Young. “I’m delighted that this award will help move her one step closer to achieving her goal of a sports journalism career.”

Nguyen’s goal is to stay in Boston and work in live sports coverage. While she joined AAJA in her high school years, she plans on increasing her involvement with the AAJA Sports Task Force.

“[Getting this scholarship] was really reassuring because I kind of fell into sports and it’s the best thing ever,” said Nguyen.

The Al Young Scholarship is dedicated to Al Young, one of the first Asian American sports writers to work for a metro daily. Young worked for publications such as USA Today and the Boston Globe before retiring in 2012.

Japanese-American Krissy Kobata Battles Odds and Time to Find Bone Marrow Donor

Prominent agent Don Yee, one of the Sports Task Force’s greatest supporters, has a young friend fighting for her life.

Krissy Kobata of Los Angeles was diagnosed in 2008 with myelodysplastic syndrome, or MDS, a disease that destroys the body’s ability to make new blood cells and often develops into acute leukemia. The possible cure is a bone marrow transplant but Krissy has a unique challenge: Her mixed-race heritage makes finding a donor harder.

As the daughter of a Japanese American father and Caucasian mother, as of a January 2012 story published by Glamour, none of the 9.5 million volunteers in the national bone marrow registry were a match.

“Caucasians have almost a 93 percent chance of finding the right match,” the Glamour story said, “but for someone like Krissy, the odds are shockingly low.”

Krissy’s brother Randy also wasn’t a match.

On June 30th, Krissy and her family received a troubling update after a bone marrow biopsy. Her levels are low, and she’s running out of time.

“She is now in the process of actively preparing for a bone marrow transplant, hopefully by sometime in the fall,” a post at TeamKrissy.com said.

So what can you do?

Spread the word and register for the match registry, especially if you are of mixed race. In the Glamour story, Dr. Willis Navarro of the National Marrow Donor Program said only 3 percent of the 9.5 million volunteers are of mixed race.

“We don’t break down mixed race further, but I can tell you that within that group, the number of Japanese Caucasian, or even Asian Caucasian, donors is tiny,” Dr Navarro said. “As this country becomes more diverse and marriages continue to cross racial and ethnic lines, finding a match for people of mixed race will be increasingly daunting. It’s a huge challenge, because while our program has aggressively recruited minority donors through community groups, there really aren’t enough ‘mixed-race’ organizations to help us target those individuals.”

Over the last few years, Krissy has been a champion of raising awareness, particularly among mixed-raced donors.

“My biggest wish right now is for anyone reading this — especially those of you who are mixed race — to realize that you could be that match, for me or for someone else,” Krissy told Glamour. “It’s so, so easy: You just take a Q-tip and swab your cheek, and you could literally save a life. I refuse to give up hope — now or ever. But you are the hope that someone like me clings to.”

She said those words 5 1/2 years ago, yet Krissy remains unwavering in her optimism.

“Krissy is staying positive and in good spirits,” the post at TeamKrissy.com said.

Click on the image or click here to learn how to register at Be The Match.

If interested in doing a story on Krissy, please contact Sean Jensen of the Sports Task Force at seanjensen@me.com. 

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.”