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Nikhil Desai Asian-American Experience Scholarship

Funded by
1 winner$1,000
Application Deadline
Apr 1, 2021
Winners Announced
May 8, 2021
Education Level
Recent scholarship winners
Eligibility Requirements

The Minority-American experience is one that is filled with challenges. 

As an Indian-American, I was culturally, emotionally, and socially confused for most of my life.

At school, I enjoyed playing basketball and listening to the latest hip hop album that dropped. However, at home, I watched Bollywood movies with my mom and enjoyed Indian street food like Pani Puri.

I felt as if I had two separate identities for different moments in my life. Unfortunately, I believe this is an experience that many other Asian American students can resonate with.

This scholarship will support an Asian-American student whose multicultural experiences have strongly influenced their current perspective.

All Asian-American (including Middle Eastern) students who are juniors in high school or older are eligible to apply. First-generation applicants will be preferred.

Selection Criteria:
Impact, Essay
Published October 2, 2020
Essay Topic

Describe your experience growing up as an Asian-American. What conflicts did you face, and how have those experiences influenced your current perception?

500–1000 words

Winning Application

Alice Li
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignPeoria, IL
“多喝牛奶,” my dad would tell me. “Drink more milk.” I hate milk. The texture is watery, the aftertaste is sour, and there is a bitterness to it that I can’t seem to explain. Growing up, my dad forced me to drink milk every morning. I would plug my nose, chug, and try not to gag as the vile taste of it spread throughout my tongue. “I don’t care if it tastes bad, it’s good for you,” he would tell me. You see, my parents are short. Hoping for their four kids to surpass their genetically unlucky heights, they put their hopes and dreams into that milk. In a sense, my family was like cereal: small, golden, and surrounded by white. My parents put everything into that white. My earliest school memories were those of confusion. I was terrible at math yet I was met with disappointed looks from my teachers rather than adequate help. I always wondered why the cafeteria ladies laughed and made faces at my dad’s pronunciation of “gravy” during parent day. I saw my parents at every musical performance, show, school event, and volunteering opportunity yet something always seemed off. My mom signed me up for dance, tumbling, swimming, and ballet, ANYTHING that the other girls were doing, but instead of rehearsing with the other students, my sister and I were instructed to sit on the side. I vividly remember the day I quit dance; we arrived at the studio to learn that the rest of the class had learned a dance at practices that we never knew about. As my sister and I sat on the floor, my teammates stared at us and listened as my mom yelled at the instructor outside of the rehearsal room. “Why didn’t they let us dance?” I asked while we were walking to the car. Exhausted, she replied: “We’ll find something else. I promise.” My parents simply wanted to give us a normal childhood, and my younger-self did not come to realize what being Asian-American truly meant; my parents had put everything into the surrounding white. Trusting the words of my dad, I continued to drink milk even though it tasted bitter. In middle school, I stopped drinking milk. I was sick of my parents doing things for me that always hurt in the end. I was sick of having to drink such a vile beverage that seemed to me like a cold, white lie. I was Chinese, and I grew hostile to being anything else. I studied for the competition math team, placed in chess tournaments, worked hard to be a starter and all-around player on the volleyball team, excelled in school, and established a solid friend group not for myself, but for the hostility I felt. I trained relentlessly on and off the volleyball court for the people who made fun of my hand-me-down shoes and shorts. I studied to improve my math skills for the people who undermined my accomplishments because of my race. I found a group of Asian-American friends for the classmates that made fun of my lunches and squinted their eyes at me. I became full of hate. The once-golden piece of cereal had become soggy, pale, and colorless. Even without the white, it remained that way. “Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” This quote from MLK junior, although cheesy, is such a great embodiment of my experiences as an Asian-American. I now realize that although I was young and naive, my parents did everything that they did out of love. Like many of my other Asian-American peers, I’ve oftentimes felt too Chinese in one place and too American in another. However, it is when we only attach one of these mere labels to ourselves that we get hurt. During freshman year, I began to do things for the sole sake of bettering myself. While being Asian and being American were important parts of my lifestyle and culture, I no longer let the two govern every single aspect of my life. I worked hard to place in math competitions not because I was Asian, but because I truly had a passion for mathematics. I pushed myself during volleyball practice and trained in the gym every day not to make up for the things I was once made fun of for but because I knew I was strong enough to make the elite club team and to be an all-around starter. I no longer lived as a weird American or an oppressed Asian, but rather simply as Alice. Somebody who was slowly starting to gain color, perspective, and a life that no longer had to be governed by a label, somebody who realizes that she is more than a “model minority” or “white-washed” Asian, and somebody who loves herself for who she is. I still hate milk, but I’ve been able to keep off osteoporosis with my bearable consumption of almond and plant-based milk. Even though I’ve only grown a couple of inches in the past few years, “I’m still growing in spirit,” I tell my dad frequently. My experiences have greatly shaped who I am today, and no matter how many more bad days my labels may bring, I am ready to grow infinitely.


When is the scholarship application deadline?

The application deadline is Apr 1, 2021. Winners will be announced on May 8, 2021.

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