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2014 Miriam Dinerman Shanni Laing
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2014 Miriam Dinerman Scholarship Award Winner

 Shanni Liang, Silberman School of Social Work at Hunter College

 

I started being politically involved at an early age. I learn that there is lacking political representation in the Chinese community and because of that I strive to be a strong advocate for my community. I am passionate about providing equal access of resources to underserved local low income communities.
 
Since high school I was politically involved by volunteering in Senator Marty Golden’s office. I helped with canvassing, phone calls, and voter registration to help city councilman Pat Russo get elected because he stand by my community. I continue working as an interpreter during Election Day to help my community with voting. I think it is so valuable to exercise the right to vote and I don’t think it is fair to let language be a barrier.
 
  Through the Public Service Scholar Program at Hunter College, They showed me a new perspective of the world and introduced me to the field of Social Work. I completed my internship with the Permanent Citizen Advisory Committee to the MTA (PCAC). I was given a rewarding opportunity to write an intensive research report about the subway conditions and subway service diversion signage mistranslations in underserved and underrepresented Chinese communities with the lack of resources and specific transportation needs. The issue of mistranslated English to Chinese signage in subways, which I advocated for, was so prominent that AM NY newspaper interviewed and featured me in one of their articles.
It once started as a desire to give back to the Chinese Community that provided Chinese Sunday classes, summer employment, and Chinese nonprofit organizations that offered services to help Chinese people translate documents and apply for food stamps and Medicaid. I slowly realized that I’ve developed a passion to better the Chinese immigrant youth population in NYC.
 
As Maya Angelou once said “Diversity makes for a rich tapestry. We must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value, no matter their colour; equal in importance no matter their texture.” I think embracing diversity is important in social work. I believe I have the skills and qualities to be a social worker because I have an innate desire to talk to people and make them happy. I love listening to people’s stories because I think everybody’s life is very different and similar and I can learn and be inspired from it. I am interested in communities, culture and languages. I am also bicultural. Because of my background as an immigrant, woman and minority I have the advantage to relate and understand my clients better. I am also bilingual in Chinese and English.
 
There is need for social workers to participate not just in the individual level but also in the policy level especially as a Chinese Social Worker. There is unfairness in the social welfare system and changes to be done so public assistance should can be seen as institutional instead of residual. it is so necessary that we be involved in speaking for our clients’ needs and participate in the policy making process especially our social welfare system.
 
I continue to have political activism in an individual level as a clinical social worker at my first year placement. I am placed at Bishop Boardman Apartments (independent living facility for low income seniors in Brooklyn, NY) for my social work internship. This 200 unit apartment building is funded by HUD. I became a strong and persistent advocate to help clients apply for and obtain benefits for which they are eligible. I am learning how the social welfare system works and have successfully been able to restore benefits when they have been erroneously terminated.
 
I would say I am an intelligent, sensitive and compassionate person who deeply cares about the quality of life that my client lives. I want to dedicate my life in serving and strengthening the Chinese community that I serve. My personal experiences as a young, first generation immigrant provides with a keen understanding of issues facing low income community members of all ages and backgrounds. I believe I will be a strong candidate for NASW PACE Scholarship 2014.

 

 There, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life serving the Chinese youth population. I am working towards my Master’s degree in social work in Silberman Hunter School of Social Work at Hunter. I hope to one day start a non-profit organization called Asian American Youth Council Center (AAYCC). My mission statement would be to empower Chinese American teenagers and other minority teenagers with low income families by building their practical knowledge and confidence. There would be active involvement in the students' academic career through speakers, free classes, workshops, deep consulting called concerted cultivation, discussion groups, mentorship, internships, deep involvement in environmental issues, and community work.
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