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