National Honors Gala – 2017

National Honors Gala | November 18th 2017

Congratulations to our 2017 People-to-People Award Honorees


Oseremhen Rachel Ehianeta Arheghan
Shaker Heights High School

Ose Arheghan, 17, is a senior at Shaker Heights High School in Shaker Heights, Ohio. She has been studying Mandarin for 6 years and is currently enrolled in Mandarin V in Shaker’s Confucius Classroom. She is the co-president of the high school’s Chinese club and has been awarded Excellence in Chinese essay writing awards for the past three years through Cleveland State University’s Confucius program. In addition to her achievements in Chinese language learning, in 2016 Arheghan was named the first place winner of the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s annual essay competition. This year Arheghan was named the Julie Adler Raskind Youth Champion by the nonprofit organization Voices for Ohio’s Children and became a finalist in Hiram College’s Emerging Nonfiction Writers Essay competition. After high school, Arheghan hopes to continue studying Mandarin and major in International Relations.

Rachel Clay
Augusta University

Rachel Clay is a French major at Augusta University in Augusta, Georgia. She will graduate in the Spring of 2018, receiving certifications in both Linguistics and Teaching English as a Second Language. In 2016, Rachel became certified in Intermediate American Sign Language. She is the president of the French club and a member of Alpha Mu Gamma, foreign language society. In her free time, Rachel enjoys playing guitar, traveling the world, and sharing her passion for language and culture with others. When she graduates, Rachel plans to teach English in Shanghai, China.

Victoria Sullivan
James Weldon Johnson Middle School / University of North Florida 

Victoria Sullivan is an 8th grade student at James Weldon Johnson College Prep Middle School in Jacksonville, Florida. She has been studying Chinese language and culture for two years. Victoria has also played basketball for Why Not Me, Inc (a local nonprofit organization) and participated in safety patrol, girl scouts, teachers of tomorrow, youth line dancing, Cathedral arts, Tech team, Math club, Chinese club, and has volunteered for 2 local businesses, PTA & SAC. She is a 2-time honoree of Duke Tip’s talent search and a current candidate for the National Junior Honor Society. Her current focus is on continuing to enroll in advanced courses to earn college credits before she graduates from high school.

Eric Einspruch
Portland State University 

Eric Einspruch is an independent researcher and program evaluator who conducts a wide variety of studies to inform policy development and program improvement. Much of his work has been in the areas of education, social services, and emergency preparedness. He is also an Adjunct Professor who teaches graduate, undergraduate, and certificate courses at Portland State University, and he holds leadership roles in volunteer community service organizations. Eric is keenly interested in Chinese language and culture, and aspires to develop relationships that benefit the people of our two countries.

Iman Dancy
William Enloe High School / North Carolina State University

Iman Dancy is currently a junior at William G. Enloe High School in Raleigh, North Carolina. This will be her third year studying Chinese, under the guidance of her instructor, Mr. Qiang Chen. Aside from studying Chinese, Iman is also involved in a criminal justice reform student organization at her school, community theater, studies the cello, and acts as both the President and Founder of a civil rights preservation initiative. She aspires to one-day work in constitutional law or pursue a political career, focusing on the defense of marginalized peoples.

Jessica Nunn
ASMSA University of Central Arkansas 

Jessica Nunn, a native of Conway, Arkansas, is a high school senior at the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts located in Hot Springs, AR. She has studied Mandarin through her local Confucius Institute since elementary school, and has successfully competed in Mandarin competitions throughout high school. Jessica is currently undecided as to where she will attend college, but plans to pursue studies in epidemiology, public health, and Chinese. Though she has not yet had the opportunity to travel to a Mandarin-speaking country, Jessica hopes to use her knowledge of Chinese language and culture to study abroad, in her future career, and to interact with others.

Isabelle Szczerbinski
College of William & Mary 

Isabelle Szczerbinski (Bao Ling) is a profoundly-gifted twelve-year-old homeschooler from Midlothian, VA who has been studying Chinese for 6 years.  She just returned from her first trip to China, visiting 4 cities over 3 weeks.  An actor, Isabelle recently appeared in the film, “Permanent” and has been in several television programs and commercials.  An accomplished French speaker, Isabelle won 4th place in the US in Le Grand Concours, the National French Contest.  Isabelle also speaks Polish and some Russian.  Isabelle joined the JNCL-NCLIS ( in 2017 to lobby her senators and congressional representative for more funding for language learning in public schools.

Michael Flores
Texas Southern University 

Michael Flores (夫乐)is a senior at Texas Southern University, a proud Historically Black College and University (HBCU). He originally learned Mandarin in high school at Bellaire Homeschool located in Houston Texas. He is currently 23 years old majoring in history with a minor in Chinese studies. He has been a Confucius Institute student for almost a year and has enjoyed every minute of his experience. Michael hopes to pursue a law degree with an emphasis on international law and aspires to become a U.S Diplomat in China. Read Michael’s story here. 

Amelia AiYan Engstrom
University Preparatory School / San Francisco State University

Amelia Engstrom is an 8th grade scholar-athlete from University Preparatory School in Redding, California. She has studied Mandarin for 9 years and is also taking Latin and Spanish. She has played guard for her undefeated basketball team for 2 seasons. She also plays lacrosse and tennis. Amelia is on the UPrep youth leadership team and leads youth worship at her church. Amelia has participated in 4 community restoration trips to Middletown, CA, San Diego, CA and Oaxaca, Mexico. Amelia is interested in design theory and hopes to use her creativity and love of the arts to carve out a career as a designer.

Howard Schaefer
University of Massachusetts Boston

Howard Schaefer is a language learner, player of Tai Chi and Yoga, and caring community contributor. Howard first started learning to speak Mandarin Chinese in his teens, while studying Tai Chi. The core principles learned in Tai Chi, of doing your best, and knowing yourself, resonated in Howard’s college education and he excelled in courses ranging from Modern Physics and Organic Chemistry to Visual Arts Figure Studies and Modern Dance. Currently, Howard enjoys performing analytical work, as well as helping individuals to overcome obstacles and experience better outcomes, predominately working in the employee benefits industry. Last summer, Howard revisited learning to speak Mandarin in anticipation of experiencing personal conversations with the Chinese people he hoped to meet during a trip to China, where he had accompanied his spouse in her teaching assignment at Shaanxi Normal University in Xi’an, China. On his return from China, Howard continued studying conversational Chinese with the excellent teachers at the Confucius Institute of UMass Boston. The learning experience propelled Howard to become conversant in Spanish and Hebrew as well. Howard resides in Foxborough, MA, and hopes to use his language skills for the betterment of the community and the world.