Award Assembly, then and now

Baby Val

When my family arrived to the U.S. in 1992, our whole lives were upended. The only thing, ya girl Val, could hold onto for some stability was school. At Fair Oaks Elementary in Concord, CA, the monthly (?) awards assembly was always a treat for me. I always waited with bated breath to see if I would get an award.

Would it be student of the month? I was super helpful and polite and did all my homework this month!

Would it be excellence in language arts? I barely got anything wrong on my spelling tests!

Would it me excellence in mathematics? I did try my best to show my work on all of my equations!

Some months I’d get none, some I’d get one award, other months I’d get two (weird flex).

But the best part of the awards assembly was taking my award home to Nanay and Mama. They’d be so proud of me.

I can almost see Nanay Reme’s face as I pulled out my paper certificate with the purple ornate framing around the cursive lettering and at the center, my name. “Good job, Val,” was what she’d say and it made all the hard work during the month and the anxiety sitting through the awards assembly worth it. Amidst all of the changes in our family’s lives, I felt like this was the one thing I could control and contribute to my family’s well-being.

Fast forward to today: if it wasn’t for the global pandemic we are going through at the moment, today, I’d be at another awards ceremony. This year, at what would’ve been theAssociation for Asian American Studies (AAAS) annual conference in Washington D.C., I would’ve accepted the Early Career Award which recognizes scholars who:

has made valuable contributions to the field in the early stage of their career (no more than seven years from the date the PhD was awarded). Nominees should show outstanding and innovative research in Asian American and Pacific Islander Studies. Preference will be given to those who also exemplify excellence in teaching and demonstrate a commitment to campus, community, and/or professional service.

On top of that, I would’ve accepted an Honorable Mention in the Social Sciences Category for Best Book Award for The Labor of Care. I am in good company of friends and colleagues who won AAAS book awards: Jan Padios’ A Nation on the Line and Kawika Guillermo’s Stampedamong other brilliant scholars.

The AAAS is the premiere academic professional organization in Asian American Studies. Its conferences has always been a source of great insight, political inspiration, and importantly, a community of scholars that have encouraged me, lifted me up and made space for the work that I felt was important to me. That my peers in this organization deemed me worthy enough of not one but two types of recognition is deeply humbling. I am overwhelmed by what it means and, most importantly, I am deeply grateful.

Its often said that scholars that come from underrepresented and marginalized communities don’t celebrate their victories enough. So today, I’ll be raising a glass up to AAAS, the honors bestowed on me by the organization, my hard work and to Nanay Reme and Mama Irma, whom I know are still so proud of me.


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