SWAG on 6: Student Calls For Change Through Debate

When Anh-thu Le delivers her interpretive speeches, people don't just listen, she captures on audience and doesn't let go.

"I am just a lapdog under a bamboo ceiling," she says, launching into one of her signature pieces at the Broward County Public School debate showcase luncheon in Fort Lauderdale.

The audience of school board members, educators, debate coaches and one former United States Senator seemed stunned by the passion they were watching. They gave Anh-thu a raucous standing ovation when she finished.

It's obvious she's nobody's lapdog. Amy, as everyone knows her at Everglades High School in Miramar, is a star in debate circles, one of only a handful of kids chosen to deliver pieces at the luncheon.

Amy says joining the debate team after prompting from a teacher changed her life.

"I''m a lot more confident now, I'm a lot better at communicating and expressing myself," Amy explained.

This high school junior is one of those straight A kids with a loaded schedule. Amy is in the demanding Cambridge Program, taking AP and dual enrollment classes, hoping to land in the Ivy League for college. Basically, she says she fits the stereotype of the Asian-American academic star student she talks about in her monologue, the model minority.

Part of it goes like this, with Amy delivering her lines like a spoken-word poet, "So while the model minority myth portrays the Asian-American community to be intelligent and hard working it also perpetuates the image that Asian-Americans are meek."

"She's really introverted when she's in school" said Amy's classmate, Mia Miranda. "But when she gets into debate, when she does her performances, it's like she's a completely different person."

Her friends will tell you that Amy is a force, the person who's always pushing them to go beyond where they think they can go.

"She did, she encouraged me to do debate, she really inspired me," said Genesis Bernardin, another classmate.

A daughter of Vietnamese immigrants, Amy is now in the process of starting an Asian-American student union on campus.

"And the purpose behind that is because I'm so passionate about getting Asian-American youth to be more active, more involved to step out of their comfort zones," Amy explained.

Teachers notice students like Amy. How can they not?

"She is driven, she is compassionate, she is tenacious, and she is motivated," said economics teacher Monica Wozniak. "I love that she is focusing on her community and integrating them into the greater school community."

Amy is using the debate platform to push for change among her Asian-American peers, and in the way society views the contributions of the Asian-American community.

"Let me tell you about a society that projects us as nothing but the secondary role and never the leading man," Amy thunders in one especially intense section of her performance.

She's an advocate who wants to become an advocate. Amy sees law school in her future.

"I mean I'm average just like every other student but because I have those passions it gives me a drive to do, to accomplish, other things," Amy said.

No ceiling, glass or bamboo, is going to hold this young woman back.

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